What the Heck is Fine Silver, Anyway?

Posted by Erin Bullock on

Fine silver - it's a term you see all over the internet, thrown around by big name jewelry stores. Does it actually mean anything?

It does have meaning, and not in relation to how the big guys use it. There is actually a difference between fine and sterling silvers. Fine silver is 99.9% silver with a little copper mixed in and is most usually found in precious metal clay pieces and the bezels used on handcrafted jewelry. It is softer and more malleable than sterling silver, which makes it ideal for surrounding a stone. Precious metal clay jewelry starts out in a clay form, is shaped, textured, formed, or sculpted in its wet state, allowed to dry, and then fired, either in a kiln or with a torch. Fine silver is a beautiful material. 

Music Note Necklace in Fine Silver - made from precious metal clay

Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. It is an alloy and much stronger in relation to fine silver. Most jewelers prefer to use sterling silver for the heavier construction portions of jewelry making. Ring bands, backplates for holding stones, chains, and decorative embellishments are often made of sterling silver because of its superior strength. Most of my jewelry uses sterling silver in the majority, but I use fine silver to set the stones. Fine silver is softer and easier to push over the edges of the stones, but it's still strong enough to hold the stones in place. 

Faceted obsidian necklace, sterling silver with fine silver bezel. 

I hope this helps clear up any confusion about the difference between fine and sterling silvers. Big companies like to use the term "fine silver" in relation to their jewelry, because it distinguishes between solid sterling silver and silver plated jewelry, to them. The truth is, there is actually a true difference between fine silver and sterling silver. I want people to be able to tell the difference between a handmade seller's description and hype produced by marketing companies. 

Enjoy being an informed consumer!

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