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Article: Sterling silver

Sterling silver

History and Origins of Sterling Silver

  • Sterling silver is an alloy composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper.
  • The term 'sterling' may have originated from the Norman silver penny imprinted with a small star.
  • The Hanseatic League played a role in the origin and manufacture of sterling silver.
  • The Hanseatic League was active in London trade from 1266 to 1597.
  • The British numismatist Philip Grierson proposed an alternative etymology for 'sterling' based on the word 'ster' meaning strong or stout.
  • Norman silver pennies changed designs every three years.
  • A two-star design on a silver penny issued by William the Conqueror is a possible origin of the word 'sterling.'
  • A piece of sterling silver dating from Henry II's reign was used as a standard in the Trial of the Pyx.
  • The first legal definition of sterling silver appeared in 1275 during the reign of Edward I.
  • The standard specified that 12 troy ounces of silver for coinage should contain 11 ounces 2+14 pennyweights of silver and 17+34 pennyweights of alloy.

Use of Sterling Silver in Colonial America

  • Sterling silver was used for currency and general goods in Colonial America.
  • Between 1634 and 1776, around 500 silversmiths created items in the New World using sterling silver.
  • American silversmiths adhered to the standard set by the London Goldsmiths Company.
  • Colonial silversmiths used techniques developed in Europe, such as casting and forging.
  • Silversmiths would stamp their personal makers mark on each piece to guarantee quality and composition.

Paul Revere and the Decline of Silversmithing

  • Paul Revere, a renowned American silversmith, was regarded as one of the best during the Golden Age of American Silver.
  • Revere acquired and utilized a silver rolling mill from England, increasing his production rate.
  • He retired a wealthy artisan, primarily due to the success of his low-end goods produced by the mill.
  • With the onset of the first Industrial Revolution, silversmithing declined as an artistic occupation.
  • From 1840 to 1940, sterling silver cutlery became popular for setting a proper table.

Hallmarks and their Importance

  • Hallmarks were developed in some countries to indicate the purity of the silver alloy, identify the silversmith or company, and note the date and/or location of manufacture.
  • Hallmarks helped reduce the amount of counterfeit silver items.
  • Hallmarks were used to guarantee the quality and authenticity of sterling silver.
  • Hallmarking systems varied between countries.
  • The purpose of hallmarks was to provide information about the silver piece and ensure its value.

Other Uses and Facts about Sterling Silver

  • Sterling silver is used in serving pieces, cutlery sets, business items, boudoir items, and children's items.
  • Silver can tarnish and corrode when exposed to certain compounds and environmental factors.
  • Sterling silver is also used in surgical and medical instruments, some brasswind instruments, and jewelry.
  • There are other types of silver alloys, such as Britannia silver, Argentium sterling silver, coin silver, and weighted sterling.
  • Antique silver refers to silver items that are over a hundred years old and is valued for its craftsmanship and historical significance.

Sterling silver Data Sources

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