Sterling Silver Jewelry and Silverware
Over the past 90 years or so the use of Sterling Silver in Jewellery has increased whilst its use in
flatware, cutlery, tableware (Silverware) has decreased.
Sterling Silver Jewellery (jewelry):
As much as costume jewellery has proliferated since the 1920's and to a greater extent in the last 20 years
or so, Sterling Sterling jewellery has also grown in part due to influences of fashion and largely due to the
very high price of gold in recent times as a result of world turmoil with wars and economic disasters.
Silver prices on the world market have historically varied from 1/20th to 1/100th of the price of Gold, and
currently sits at about 1/65th in September 2014. These are the commodity market prices and Gold far more
so than siilver is highly regarded as a highly valued investment - it is not that these huge
disparities are mirrored in the price of the finished piece of jewellery however the price of gold
jewellery is linked to the price of gold so it has become very expensive and Sterling Silver jewellery is seen
as an affordable acceptable alternative and is often the choice for Mothers Day Gifts or other special occasion jewellery.
The early 20th Century saw not only a World War but also a societal shift due to the need for austerity that
resulted in a decline in the typical upper classes as then known. Many well to do families pre war now found
that they could less afford the finer things which included Sterling Silverware (cutlery, serving dishes,
trays, bowls etc). Additionally the advent of the invention of 'German Silver' (Nickel Silver), a nickel based
sterling silver look alike metal, saw most cutlery and silverware being made of this new material rather than
the more expensive sterling silver. Silver Service items became silver plated nickel silver items.
As a result in the decline of the use of sterling silver in the making of silverware the skills of
silversmiths over subsequent generations also declined.
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Jewelry and silverware are traditionally made from sterling silver (standard silver), an alloy of 92.5% silver with 7.5% copper. In the
US, only an alloy consisting of at least 90.0% fine silver can be marketed as "silver" (thus frequently
stamped 900). Sterling silver (stamped 925) is harder than pure silver, and has a lower melting point
(893 °C) than either pure silver or pure copper. Britannia silver is an alternative, hallmark-quality standard containing 95.8%
silver, often used to make silver tableware and wrought plate. With the addition of germanium, the patented modified alloy Argentium Sterling silver is formed,
with improved properties, including resistance to firescale.
Sterling silver jewelry is often plated with a thin coat of .999 fine silver to give the item a shiny
finish. This process is called "flashing". Silver jewelry can also be plated with rhodium (for a bright, shiny look) or gold (to produce
Silver is a constituent of almost all colored carat gold alloys and carat gold solders,
giving the alloys paler color and greater hardness.
White 9 carat gold contains 62.5% silver and 37.5% gold, while 22 carat gold contains a minimum
of 91.7% gold and 8.3% silver or copper or other metals.
Historically, the training and guild organization of goldsmiths included silversmiths, as well, and the two
crafts remain largely overlapping. Unlike blacksmiths, silversmiths do not shape the metal while
it is red-hot, but instead, work it at room temperature with gentle and carefully placed hammer blows. The
essence of silversmithing is to take a flat piece of metal and to transform it into a useful object using
different hammers, stakes and other simple tools.
While silversmiths specialize in, and principally work silver, they also work with other metals, such as gold, copper, steel, and brass. They make jewelry, silverware, armor, vases, and other artistic items. Because silver is such a
malleable metal, silversmiths have a large range of choices with how they prefer to work the metal.
Historically, silversmiths are mostly referred to as goldsmiths, which was usually the same guild. In the western Canadian silversmith tradition, guilds
do not exist; however, mentoring through colleagues becomes a method of professional learning within a
community of craftspeople.
Traditionally, silversmiths mostly made "silverware" (cutlery, tableware, bowls, candlesticks and such). Only in more
recent times has silversmithing become mainly work in jewelry, as much less solid silver tableware is now
Shallow silver bowl, Persian, 6th century BC (Achaemenid
). The deeper depressions reperesent
lotus buds, an Egyptian motif. Walters Art Museum