There are several different types of precious metals: gold, platinum, and silver are the most common. They are used for many different things including, of course, jewelry. Sterling silver is commonly used for both jewelry and things like serving dishes and silverware. Sterling silver is over 90% silver and contains other metals, usually copper. The reason it is mixed with copper is because fine silver is too soft to hold up to daily use and the copper adds strength to the mental. The term “Sterling Silver” has been around since 13th century. From this term stems the name of the “Pound Sterling” in the U.K. Although, the first mention of something like sterling silver comes from a few centuries prior in 1078 A.D. Other forms of silver that are commonly available include: Mexican Silver, which has a much higher pure silver content than sterling silver. Mexican silver contains 95% or more of pure silver and it is also mixed with copper for strength. Sterling silver or fine silver are often used in handmade jewelry because they are significantly less expensive than gold. Fine silver is used to describe silver in its finest form ( 99.99%).
Britannia Silver is also available and contains slightly more pure silver than either Mexican silver or Sterling silver. It was the common plate for Britain from 1697 and 1720. German Silver is the other more common form of silver that is available on the commercial market. It is used for many things, flatware, serving dishes, dog chains, and horse bits are some of the more common uses for German silver. Probably the most common use for silver in recent times has been for dinning. With more than 200 patterns available, from simple to lavishly decorative…silver dinnerware has been the standard since 1840 when it was considered a requirement for any house of standing. It was used to complement dinners that ranged from three courses to sometimes ten full courses, each with its own utensil(s). In the last several years, the use of sterling silver in jewelry ( handcrafted jewelry included) and fashion has skyrocketed. Quality silver jewelry is easy to take care of and lasts a life-time. To minimize damage your silver should always be stored in a jewelry box or soft cloth pouch. As soon as any tarnish becomes visible, you should clean your silver with one of the many polishes available in grocery stores, hardware stores, and specialty craft stores. You can even store your silver in a ziploc bag, and it will be tarnish free for a long time.
Gold is probably what most people think of when they think of precious metals. It is highly sought after and has been almost romanticized by a colorful history of events like the Alaskan and Californian gold rushes. Sometimes, people are said to be “bitten by the gold bug”. Gold comes in varying degrees of softness, the lighter the gold the more silver it contains and the stronger it is, since gold is softer than silver…the silver adds strength to the gold. Gold is used for many things, jewelry, coins, and dental fillings…just to name a few. Gold also backs currencies such as the British Pound and the Swiss Franc. Gold is measured in different weights called Karats. The higher the karat is in weight, the softer the gold, and also the more pure.
Do you have a preference of precious metal as far as jewelry is concerned. I wear a lot of silver jewelry but it doesn’t really matter. I tend to buy according to what I like.