Discovery: Silver was known to ancient civilisations, and evidence indicates that man learned to separate silver from lead in 3000BC.
Appearance: Silver has a brilliant white metallic lustre, with a characteristic sheen. It is a warm white, distinct from the cold white of platinum and harsh brightness of stainless steel
Source: Silver occurs native in ores such as argentite and horn silver, but the principal sources are lead, lead-zinc, copper, gold and copper-nickel ores. Canada and the USA are the main silver producers in the Western hemisphere. The metal is either recovered from the ore, or during the electrolytic refining of copper.
Uses: Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver, the remainder being copper or some other metal, and is used for jewellery and silverware where appearance is important. About 30% of silver produced is used in the photographic industry. Silver is used in dental alloys, solder and brazing alloys, electrical contacts and batteries. Silver paints are used for making printed circuits. The metal is used to make mirrors, as it is the best reflector of visible light known, although it does tarnish with time.
Silver is stable in water and oxygen but is attacked by sulphur compounds in air to form a black sulphide layer. This effect is becoming more noticeable as environments become more polluted. It is a little harder than gold and is extremely ductile and malleable. Pure silver has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals, and has the lowest contact resistance.
Silver in Jewellery
Silver is widely used in the manufacture of jewellery. It is relatively cheap, compared with gold or platinum, is hard wearing and apart from sulphur tarnishing, maintains its lustrous appearance. Most of our silver is Sterling silver which is 92.5% silver alloyed with 7.5% copper. We are using more and more fine silver in earrings inspired from ancient artefacts. There is no variation in colour as with gold but we do selectively colour silver using either electroplated gold or by exposing the silver to a variety of chemicals to produce a coloured surface. We also texture the surface to produce contrasts of colour and reflectivity to enhance the appearance of our silver earrings.
Hallmarking: British hallmarking was introduced over 600 years ago and was probably the first example of consumer protection law. When you're buying silver jewellery, make sure it has a hallmark. This is a quality control mark placed on gold, silver and platinum and provides a safeguard to purchasers. The hallmark on an article shows that it has been assayed (tested) by an independent body (the Assay Office) and guarantees that the metal conforms to one of the legal standards of purity. You know exactly what you are buying.
It is illegal for most articles of precious metal above a certain minimum weight to be described, or sold, as gold (1g), silver (7.78g) or platinum (0.5g), unless they carry an approved hallmark.
Care of Silver Jewellery
Unlike most other precious metals, in time silver will tarnish. The surface appearance of well maintained silver earrings is actually enhanced with age. It develops a deep, attractive, warm lustre when treated well.
1. Clean with a mild soap and water solution. Pat dry with a soft cloth. If dirt is more stubborn a silver cleaner is appropriate. Do not rub silver with anything other than a good quality polishing cloth. Do not use paper or paper towels as these will invariably scratch the surface. Be very careful with chemical cleaners if your earrings contain gems
2. It is not a good idea to wear any silver earrings at the beach or in a swimming pool. You might lose them for a start and the salt in the sea water and the chlorine in swimming pools may cause discoloration.
3. Store your silver earrings in a cool, dry, dark place. A tarnish preventative bag is a good idea, or wrapped individually in a soft piece of felt or cloth.
4. If you want your silver jewellery polished to a high shine then contact us and we will use our centrifugal disk polisher which produces a very high polish with very little metal removal. Check our store for details.