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Sterling silver definition


#1

published 1829.

The issue quoted below copyright 1991 by Grolier Inc., ISBN
0-7172-0122-8

Volume 24, pp 826:

" … sterling silver, which is the most familiar of the silver
alloys, is 925 fine - that is, it contains 92.5% silver; the other
7.5% is copper"

I don’t offer this as a legal definition, just a commonsense one -
I’m still chasing up advice about any possible legal definitions by
snail mail.

Al Heywood


#2
  sterling silver, which is the most familiar of the silver alloys,
is 925 fine - that is, it contains 92.5% silver; the other 7.5% is
copper" I don't offer this as a legal definition, just a
commonsense one - 

Hi Allan, The only part of this definition that really matters is the
92.5% silver content - the alloying metal can be anything at all -
aluminium, gold, platinum, copper - it doesn’t matter. All the
Sterling mark guarantees is that the piece contains AT LEAST 925
parts per thousand of pure silver. Of course, the only reason for
using a more expensive metal would be to achieve a particular colour
or physical properties (ductility, strength etc.) or if these were
present as impurities.

Best wishes,
Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield, UK


#3

The only part of this definition that really matters is the 92.5%
silver content - the alloying metal can be anything at all -
aluminium, gold, platinum, copper - it doesn’t matter.

I mentioned the word commonsense Richard. The alloying metal could
also be 7.5% 999 fine silver - the absurdity inherent in that case is
that 999 fine silver would then be Sterling silver. If the ''National
Gold and Silver Stamping Act of 1906 Sec. 296. - Standard of fineness
of silver articles; deviation ‘’ as written is the only law relating
to Sterling silver and silver composition then the Law is clearly an
ass. It offers no definitions, just exclusions. It doesn’t define
Sterling silver and since it doesn’t provide a definition it is
logically incorrect to make the jump of assuming that the 7.5%
balance can be any material at all. It is then necessary to look to
other authorities for a definition.

I say that the binary silver-copper alloy containing 92.5% pure
metallic silver and 7.5% pure metallic copper is and has been known
as Sterling silver for at least 400 years, and whenever an enameller
talks of Sterling silver that is the alloy they mean. A sweetheart
deal made by politicians and merchants for trade/economic reasons 97
years ago doesn’t alter the metallurgical and historical facts.

cheers
Allan Heywood


#4
also be 7.5% 999 fine silver - the absurdity inherent in that case
is that 999 fine silver would then be Sterling silver. If the
''National 

No…not that fine silver would become Sterling, but that a seller
would not be misrepresenting the silver content of an item (99.9%) by
declaring it at least 92.5% silver. That’s hardly an illogical
premise, or an absurd one, since outside of people who care about the
intrinsic properties of metal they’re trying to work with, the
average consumer probably doesn’t give a flip about whether the rest
of the material in the “silver” ring is copper or nickel or
palladium, not counting the folks who have nickel allergies and have
to be careful about that.

It would merely be absurd on the seller’s part to do so, since
that’d be undervaluing the precious metal content of the piece. And
since the point of that law isn’t to define the exact
chemical/physical formula for sterling but to ensure that consumers
aren’t getting tricked into buying less precious metal than they
think they are, that’s probably why the law is so vague on the issue
of exact makeup but is so intensely precise in terms of minimum
silver percentage and proper marking.

And by the way, a “binary” alloy simply means that it’s using two
elemental metals (or two kinds of atoms). Unary, Binary, Ternary.

–M. Osedo


#5

M. Osedo is absolutely correct. It is perfectly legal to stamp 18kt.
gold as 14kt., and what is added as alloy - even platinum, has no
bearing, only the amount of gold. Here’s a link to the actual text
of the National Stamping Act:
http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/15/294.notes.html sec. 294 is
general, sec. 295 is gold, sec. 296 is silver.


#6

I think the discusssion is getting needlessly complex.

Throughout history the rulers of countries have managed their
economies by regulating the amount of precious metal in a coin,
either by weight or by proportion.

The term “Sterling” refers to the minimum - note this “the minimum”

  • amount of silver by proportion that could be accepted and
    hallmarked by an assay office in England. Other countries had other
    standards - mainly because of Anglo-American influence this has
    become the international standard.

The recourse of a cheated buyer used to be to the Assay office and
through the distinguishing marks back to the maker of the article.
Law took over later and made this form of cheating illegal. But in
essence it is not lawful to knowingly sell an article as Sterling if
it contains less that 92.5% silver. In the UK the assay offices
ensure this by testing every hallmarked article, or in the case of
large batches of, say catches or pins, by random sampling.

When I make up my bars and wires therefore I always add a little
extra silver - I probably work in a 93% alloy - just to ensure that
even if I go rather heavy on the solder it will still pass an assay.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


#7

The 92.5% Ag - 7.5% Cu proportions of Sterling silver weren’t just
pulled out of the ether! That specific alloy evolved into the
silversmith and enameller’s alloy of choice because it proved over
hundreds of years and millions of items to have the best OVERALL
combination of properties of all the silver alloys. That is STILL
the case - not ONE of the new generations of low-oxidation ternary+
silver alloys can match Sterling silver’s suitability across the very
large range of uses to which the metal is put.


#8

Hi (1)I was at a World Gold Council symposium and I asked the CEO
of a large refining company in RSA–" If one had to powder fine gold
and sand… and mix them in 18ct proportions, could one theoretically
stamp the mixture 18ct ? He said yes… Hmmmm, so if I mixed three
quarter fine gold and one quarter water, I could sell the compound
saying that this mixture is guaranteed to become fine gold in time.(
just kidding! )… (2)On the subject of microalloying and 24c.t gold,
C.W.Corti writes an excellent paper on the subject.Called" Strong 24
carat golds: The metallurgy of microalloying".I found it at the
World Gold Council website. (3)Rene Lalique was arguably among one of
the finest designers/ goldsmiths in the previous century.BUT, does
anyone know if the man left any as to his techniques or
methods behind? Or did they go to his grave? Cheers,Hans Meevis

http://www.meevis.com
Hans Meevis
Designer African Jewellery
Tel.+267 6251011 Fax.+267 6250555
P.O Box 266, Kasane, Botswana.


#9

Hans, You ask…

 (3)Rene Lalique was arguably among one of the finest designers/
goldsmiths in the previous century.BUT, does anyone know if the man
left any as to his techniques or methods behind? Or did
they go to his grave? Cheers,Hans Meevis 

I have to tell you that I am a great fan of Lalique and have
hungrily devoured everything I can find about him (particularly his
jewelry work). I was thrilled to go to the "Lalique’s jewels"
exhibition at the Smithsonian a few years ago, and bought the
exhibition catalog. If you are a fan of Lalique’s jewelry, it’s a
must – the photos are exquisite, the articles are interesting and
insightful.

Sigrid Barten, writing in the article “Materials and Techniques in
the Jewelry of Rene Lalique” (an interesting article) says:

“The only known comments by Lalique himself on the techniques used
in creating his jewelry are the notes which accompanied his working
drawings. These instructions to his colleagues at the studio
contained details of the thickness of the gold foil and of how it was
to be worked, details of the precious and semiprecious stones and how
to cut them, and of the type of pearls to be used Here and there we
find the name of a client, a date, or even the name of an
outsidecraftsman. The frequently quoted history of French 19th
century jewelry by Henri Vever is useful as a secondary reference.”

The drawings and notebooks Barten refers to were, in part, displayed
at the exhibition and were at least as intriguing as the jewelry
itself. No work was produced from his studio without extensive
preparatory drawings, leading up to a full-scale rendering, usually
in color. Notes are scribbled all over the papers as to how many to
produce, what materials to use, whether to vary the motif, and
sometimes commenting on the “rhythm” of the pattern. I have NOT
found a published “Lalique’s Notebooks” – if any of you have, please
let me know!

The Exhibition catalog “The Jewels of Lalique” was published by
Flammarion, Paris ( http://www.flammarion.com ), 1998. It is likely
still available through the Smithsonian Institution’s bookstore in
Washington, D.C. or directly from the publisher.

Best,
Karen Goeller


#10

I’m not sure that Lalique was actually a smith , but rather a
designer.

Certainly the best European workers can make pieces like his. He
used, as far as I can see, no secret “methods.”

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040