Fine silver (99.9% pure), is relatively soft, very malleable, and easily damaged so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver.
Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% silver and 7.5% of copper. This gives it strength, while at the same time preserving the ductility, malleability, and beauty of the precious metal. Although any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling, centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be its best companion, improving the metal’s hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color. Sterling Silver pieces are stamped with either “sterling silver”, or the numbers 925. You may encounter other numbers, such as 850, an alloy that is often used to make flatware. The silver content of this alloy is 85%.
Although the origin of the word “sterling” is controversial, there is general agreement that the sterling alloy originated in continental Europe, and was being used for commerce as early as the 12th century in the area that is now northern Germany.
Over the years, most countries in the world have developed their own systems of hallmarking silver. The purpose of hallmark application is:
- To indicate the purity of the silver alloy used in the manufacture or hand-crafting of the piece.
- To identify the silversmith or company that made the piece.
- To note the date and/or location of the manufacture.
In the United States of America, if manufacturers put a quality mark on a precious metal item, they must, according to The National Gold and Silver Stamping Act, also put their own mark, and their mark must be trademarked. This is so that they can be held accountable for the precious metal content of the item.
The name KRISTIN® is a Registered Trademark. Kristin Anderson marks all her works with her trademark, the metal content mark, the year that the piece was made, and the copyright mark © as can be seen in the examples below.