What is Silver?

September 21, 2023

Silver is a beautiful precious metal that has been used to create stunning jewelry for centuries. Cherished for its luminous white color, affordability, and versatility, silver is a jewelry box staple. Let's explore the glimmering world of silver jewelry.

What is Silver?

Silver is a precious metal valued for its luster and workability. Here are some key facts about this white metal:

  • Silvery-white color - Silver has the brightest, whitest color of all metals. Its reflective surface gives it a luminous, moon-like sheen.
  • Precious metal - Silver is considered a precious metal alongside gold and platinum and commands significant value.
  • Abundance - While precious, silver is more abundant than gold or platinum. Annual mine production is ~30,000 tons.
  • Affordability - Silver costs far less per ounce than gold. This makes silver jewelry more affordable for every budget.
  • Malleability - Pure silver is very soft and malleable. This allows it to be worked into delicate jewelry designs.
  • Alloys - Silver is alloyed with copper to increase its hardness and durability. Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.

The combination of its white brilliance, affordability, and workability make silver an exceptional jewelry metal.

History of Silver Jewelry

Silver has a rich, global history of jewelry use spanning millennia:

  • 8000 BCE - The first silver jewelry dates back to ancient Persia and Turkey. Silver beads, pendants, and bracelets adorned kings and queens.
  • 600 BCE - Etruscan artisans pioneered fine filigree and granulation silver techniques still used today.
  • Middle Ages - European royal classes coveted silver jewelry encrusted with gems and enameling. The Sword of Charlemagne featured silver and gold filigree.
  • 16th century - Spanish conquistadors discovered rich silver mines in Mexico and South America. Mexican silversmiths developed stunning silver jewelry designs.
  • Mid 1800s - The Victorian era saw ornate silver jewelry with lace motifs, flowers, and decorative stones in mainstream fashion.
  • 1920s - Art Deco silver jewelry became popular. Geometric lines, abstraction, and silent film glamor influenced silver designs.

Silver has an enduring, cross-cultural legacy as a jewelry metal treasured for its radiance and allure.

Why Silver Jewelry is So Popular

What accounts for silver's enduring popularity in jewelry? Here are some of the advantages:


Silver costs a fraction the price of gold or platinum. This makes beautiful silver jewelry accessible at all price points. For many shoppers, silver is the precious jewelry metal they can buy in quantity.


Silver's brilliant white luster complements all skin tones. Its moon-like sheen has an ethereal beauty. Silver also makes gemstone colors like blue, purple and green pop.


Pure silver is hypoallergenic and won't cause skin irritation or discoloration. This makes silver jewelry ideal for those with sensitive skin.

Range of Styles

From minimalist to ornate, silver can be worked into any jewelry style imaginable. It suits casual everyday wear as well as red carpet elegance.


Silver is appropriate for jewelry worn at any age. It works for babies, teens, young adults and grandparents alike. Silver suits both men's and women's jewelry.

Thanks to these advantages, silver stands alongside gold as the most popular metals for jewelry overall.

Types of Silver Jewelry

Silver lends itself to a diverse range of jewelry types. Here are some of the most popular:

Sterling Silver Jewelry

Sterling silver contains 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper alloy. The copper makes the silver harder while retaining its white color. Sterling silver is the most common type of silver for all types of jewelry from rings to bracelets.

Fine Silver Jewelry

Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver with no alloys added. Fine silver is very soft so it is less common in jewelry than sterling silver. It is sometimes used for chains, charms, and pendants.

Vermeil Jewelry

Vermeil involves a base of sterling silver plated with a layer of gold for added richness. It provides the look of gold for less cost. Most gold-plated silver jewelry is vermeil.

Oxidized Silver Jewelry

Oxidized or blackened silver has been treated with chemicals to darken the metal and give it an antique gray, black, or blueish look. Oxidation creates depth and contrast against set stones.

From everyday fashion baubles to elaborate heirlooms, silver is a metal fit for all jewelry.

Caring for Silver Jewelry

With proper care, silver jewelry will last for decades. Here are some tips for cleaning and storing silver:

  • Use a polishing cloth or silver cleaner to remove tarnish and restore shine. Clean routinely to prevent heavy tarnish buildup.
  • Wash silver periodically in warm water with a mild soap and soft toothbrush when needed for a deep clean. Dry thoroughly afterwards.
  • Store silver pieces in anti-tarnish bags or individually wrapped in acid-free soft cloth to minimize contact with air and sulfur.
  • Keep silver away from chlorine, bleach and harsh chemicals which can damage the finish. Apply clear nail polish to the underside of rings to prevent skin discoloration.
  • Remove silver jewelry before doing physical work, exercising or cleaning. Exposure to dirt, grime and perspiration can cause premature wear.

With proper care, your silver keeps its like-new brilliance for generations.

Silver Jewelry Gift Giving Guide

Silver jewelry also makes wonderful gifts. Here are some tips for selecting the perfect piece:

  • Match the gift to the recipient's style - Modern, vintage, whimsical, etc.
  • Consider which silver jewelry she already owns to complement her collection.
  • Look for silver native to certain regions like Mexican, Native American, or Hill Tribe silver.
  • Handcrafted or artisan silver has unique character.
  • Incorporate birthstones, initials or names for personalization.
  • Know ring sizes, necklace lengths and bracelet sizes when relevant.
  • Have engraving done to add a sentimental message.
  • Look for presentations like gift boxes or pouches for added luxury.
  • Save receipts and certificates of authenticity to include.

The right silver gift conveys thoughtfulness and becomes a treasured keepsake.

Silver Jewelry for Special Occasions

Silver jewelry is the perfect accessory for all of life's special moments. Here are some celebratory occasions that call for silver:


A small silver cross or charm bracelet makes a memorable baptism or christening gift that can become a family heirloom.


Birthstone silver rings, pendants and earrings in the recipient's birth month are thoughtful birthday gifts.

Sweet 16

A girl's 16th birthday deserves a special silver charm bracelet to mark the milestone.


Graduation is the perfect time to gift engraved silver hoop earrings or a necklace with the graduate's school colors.


An Art Deco-inspired silver and crystal bracelet or earnings make romantic engagement gifts.


Exchange promise rings, gift your bridesmaids jewelry, or consider silver wedding bands for an affordable alternative to gold.


Silver anniversary bands engraved with the couple's wedding date commemorate 25th and 50th anniversaries.


A sparkling snowflake silver pendant or enamel candy cane earrings make festive holiday gifts.

Mother's Day

Express gratitude with a "World's Best Mom" silver bangle or birthstone stud earrings.

Celebrate life's big and small moments with meaningful silver keepsakes.

Unique Silver Jewelry Styles and Trends

While silver is a classic, jewelry artisans are always innovating with new styles. Here are some cutting edge silver jewelry trends:

Statement Necklaces

Chunky linked silver collar necklaces and bib necklaces with colorful stones make bold fashion statements.

Men's Jewelry

Men sport masculine silver rings, neck chains, ID bracelets and leather wraps embellished with engraved silver accents.

Mixed Metals

Silver combined with rose or yellow gold adds dimension. Two-tone silver and gold chains are on-trend.

Vintage Looks

Antique and distressed silver with patinas, filigree, and engraving add old-world romance.


Streamlined silver bar necklaces, geometric studs, and slim stackable bangles embody the minimalist style.


Piling on multiple silver chains, pendant necklaces, chain bracelets, and rings create chic layered looks.


Monogrammed silver medallions and nameplate or initial charms and bracelets customize jewelry.

With innovative artistry, silver continues shining brightly as a beloved jewelry metal.

Silver Jewelry for Sensitive Skin

For those with metal allergies and skin sensitivities, silver makes an optimal jewelry choice. Here's why:

  • Pure silver is hypoallergenic, meaning it won't cause allergic skin reactions when worn.
  • Sterling silver's high silver content also minimizes the risk of irritation for most wearers.
  • Silver won't corrode and leach nickel or metal salts onto skin like other alloys.
  • Natural anti-microbial properties of silver inhibit bacterial growth.
  • Darkening of skin beneath rings and earrings is less likely with silver jewelry.
  • Silver is ideal for piercings, children's jewelry, and hospital medical alert ID bracelets.

Sensitive skin is safe with silver. Those who experience skin irritation from other metals can wear pure silver worry-free.

World Silver Jewelry Traditions

From Mexico to Mongolia, silversmiths across the globe shape silver into culturally meaningful designs. Here are some notable regional silver jewelry styles:

Mexican Silver Jewelry

Renowned for ornate filigree, vivid enamels, and hallmark stamping, Mexican silver jewelry reflects the country's rich folk art traditions.

Native American Silver Jewelry

First Nations artisans handcraft sterling silver jewelry with intricate hammering, stone settings, and silhouettes of animals and nature.

Hill Tribe Silver Jewelry

Thailand's Hill Tribe peoples create unique silver necklaces, bracelets and more with tiny silver beads.

Tibetan Silver Jewelry

Tibetan silver jewelry often features carved coral beads and turquoise paired with handworked silver motifs.

Balinese Silver Jewelry

Intricate Balinese filigree silver jewelry shows floral and natural designs. Sterling silver gives it affordability.

Middle Eastern Silver Jewelry

Silver's importance in the Middle East dates back millennia. Bold silver pieces with turquoise and coins are popular today.

Viking Silver Jewelry

Vikings crafted oval brooches, buckles and beads adorned with knotwork and animal patterns out of silver.

Silver jewelry represents global creative heritage while showcasing diverse local pride.

How To Buy Silver Jewelry

For shoppers investing in silver jewelry, here are some tips:

  • Inspect for a sterling stamp like .925 to verify purity. This guarantees valuable real silver.
  • Comparison shopsilver prices online and in jewelry stores. Spot price provides a baseline.
  • Know your style. Try on silver jewelry to ensure it suits your tastes and complements existing pieces.
  • Consider artisan silver for unique handmade craftsmanship and custom options like engraving.
  • Judge design, metal thickness, stone quality and workmanship. Precise, clean casting and settings add value.
  • Ask about cleaning methods to maintain silver jewelry's shine. Tarnish-resistant coatings can help.
  • Look for secure packaging, certificates and warranties that prove authenticity and origin.
  • Insure valuable silver jewelry appropriately to protect your investment.

Following these tips helps ensure you select high-quality silver jewelry pieces with lasting value.

Caring for Silver Jewelry

To retain silver's beautiful shine, proper care and cleaning are essential:

  • Store silver jewelry in anti-tarnish bags or soft cloth individually to prevent scratches and oxidation. Keep pieces dry.
  • Apply clear nail polish to the underside of rings and earring posts to prevent skin discoloration from contact.
  • Clean silver routinely with a designated polishing cloth removing darkening or tarnish. Do not let tarnish build up.
  • Use a mild soap solution with warm water and a soft brush to wash silver that needs heavier cleaning to remove dirt and grime.
  • Avoid bleach, household chemicals, chlorine pools and saltwater that can damage silver. Take off silver jewelry around these.
  • Use commercial silver cleaner, dip, or spray polish to restore shine for heavy tarnish. Rinse and dry completely afterwards.
  • Have silver jewelry professionally buffed and polished by a jeweler for deep cleaning and reconditioning as needed.

Proper silver care ensures your jewelry retains its luminous finish and mint condition.

Unique and Special Silver Jewelry

While silver is an everyday jewelry staple, silversmiths also produce spectacular one-of-a-kind treasures and custom pieces. Some examples include:

Crown Jewels

Many national crown jewels and royal regalia feature diamonds, sapphires and other gems set dramatically in heavily carved and worked silver.

Tiffany Silver

Legendary jeweler Tiffany & Co. introduced American audiences to fine silver jewelry in the mid-1800s, including their iconic Tiffany Setting solitaire diamond rings.

Georgian Silver

The Georgian period from 1714-1837 marked the zenith of English sterling silver. Georgian silver featured ornate Rococo motifs and innovative casting.

Artisan Silver

Contemporary artisan silversmiths hand fabricate personalized silver pendants, bracelets, rings and more using traditional techniques.

Ancient Silver Coins

Intricately engraved antique silver Greek, Roman, Biblical and Byzantine coins are collector's items and used in jewelry.

While prominently featured in fashion jewelry, silver frequently adorns rare showstopper pieces and custom designs as well.

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