Quick History on Silver
Most of us are used to wearing silver jewellery on a daily basis, but there is so much more to silver than just jewellery. Silver has been around for at least 6,000 years and man learned to separate it from lead around 3,000 BC. Silver is used in solar panels and heated rear windows as it is the best element which conducts heat. Major producers of silver are U.S, Mexico, Canada, Peru, Russia and Australia. Silver has incredible bactericidal properties; its salts chemically affect the cell membranes of bacteria causing it to die. The bacteria also cannot build up a resistance, as they do to many antibiotics.
Silver Jewellery – Hallmarking
Hallmarking silver jewellery was introduced as a way of proving that the jewellery contained the correct percentage of silver. Pure silver is quite soft and a percentage of copper is usually added in order to strengthen the silver. The normal ratio found on silver jewellery is 92.5% silver to 7.5% copper, hence sterling silver usually referred to as 925 silver. Hallmarking was introduced as a mark of quality and assurance, it is impossible to tell without analysis what the true silver content is.
Jewellery is hallmarked in the UK if the silver content of the piece exceeds 7.78 grams. If it is below this figure, it is exempt. The Assay Office is responsible for hallmarking silver jewellery. They test the item and the piece is hallmarked if it is to the desired standard and percentage.
There are various types of hallmark; a marker’s mark, assay office stamp, standard hallmark and a year of manufacture. In 1988 regulations changed and the UK had to be in line with the rest of Europe. Old hallmarks were withdrawn and standards were expressed as parts per thousand. So, now the hallmark for pure silver jewellery is 999 and sterling silver 925.
Cleaning Silver Jewellery
Always use a soft cotton or flannel cloth as synthetic cloths may cause scratching to a piece of silver jewellery. You can buy various cloths straight from your silver jewellery shop, which are specifically for the cleaning of silver which contain anti tarnishing chemicals. For the removal of a light tarnish, add a small amount of liquid detergent or soap and mix with half a cup of warm water. The jewellery can be cleaned with the cloth, rinsed in clean, lukewarm water and then dried with a cotton towel.
Always consult a jeweller before using a specialist paste or dip as they can damage precious gemstones which are on your jewellery. When working the paste, make sure that you apply this in a straight line motion as all pastes contain a slight abrasive and applying these in a circular motion can cause scratching to the silver. Once the paste is dry remove it with a clean cloth or alternatively rinse your silver jewellery in clean, warm water and then dry it. When using a dip, the silver is dipped into the solution, removed, rinsed and then dried.