Sterling silver is often described as pure silver, but in fact it is a silver alloy. Pure silver, also known as fine silver, is defined as 99.9% pure silver, but it is too soft for most uses. Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver, and the remaining 7.5% is another metal, the most common being copper. The addition of lower-cost metal-often called base metal-is used to harden the resulting alloy so that the metal can be cast into a shape that will remain unchanged during use.
The sterling silver has a stamp printed on the bottom. The shape of the stamp varies from country to country, and from manufacturer to manufacturer in the United States.
One of the most common uses of the pound is to make fine tableware. This usually includes cutlery-knives, forks and spoons-as well as coffee and tea sets with silver trays. A formal set of silverware may include several different types of forks that are only used in the table when the meal requires it-for example, a seafood fork is a type used for oysters, clams, and so on. The range of spoons can range from tiny spoons to soup spoons, and larger spoons complete the entire series.
Sterling silver loses its luster as long as it comes in contact with air. Pure silver, like gold, does not discolor or oxidize on the surface. It is an alloy metal that attracts corrosion. Rub a visibly shiny pound with your thumb. You may find dull smudges on your skin, which indicates that sterling silver is beginning to lose its luster.
Your sterling silver only needs to be polished regularly with a cotton cloth to keep it shiny. Sterling silver that has not been used for a period of time may form a layer of obvious rust and requires polishing paste. Before using the paste and elbow grease, try the following housekeeping tips.
Use tin foil to mark the bottom of the sink or dish, and then fill it with hot water. Add some salt and baking soda. The ratio is not important here, just put a few teaspoons in each. Next, put the silver into the water so that the silver flakes are in contact with each other and the tin foil. The rust will peel from the silver to the foil-if the rust is severe, you will be able to see it peeling off. Leave it for no more than five minutes, rinse and dry.