Fine Silver vs Sterling Silver

Fine Silver vs Sterling Silver

900, 925, 999, 9999 - most of you probably wonder what these numbers show and what they stand for. The really short answer is Silver purity. Need a full answer? - continue reading!

From ground to hand

Silver is a metal found in nature that is never pure, meaning that when extracted it is mixed in various ores, such as argentite and galena. To bring silver to the shape that we, as consumers or collectors, know it, the ores undergo a series of refining processes that separate only the silver from all other particles. The complexity of the refining actions defines the pureness (and value) of the metal. So, the first 4 numbers show the amount of pure silver in a specific item: for example, 900 is 90% silver, remaining 10% - other metals. The maximum that the current technology can reach is 9999 purity or 99,99%. However, the most common highest purity is 999 or 99,9 or 0.999 - all three equals, just with different notation. The with 99,9% purity is called fine silver, pure silver or actual silver. 9999 silver is famously known as ultra fine silver.
Accordingly, a silver that is less than 99,9% pure, is called sterling silver and usually it is 92,5% pure.

Why have less fine silver when you can have more or 925 vs 999?

Each has different purposes and qualities.

Sterling Silver

Silver in its original state is quite liquid. A 99,9% silver is just not “good” enough for jewelry, and even if trying to make a ring out of it, the silver will not keep its shape. So, when used in preparing jewelry, the silver needs to be mixed with other metals, usually copper, nickel or zinc. Such mixtures are called alloys and in this format, they are more durable and less soft. In the US, items with 92,5% silver and 7,5% copper, nickel or zinc are considered silver jewelry. In other countries, the limit might be lower, a 90% pure silver would be enough for marking it as a silver product in Russia. 

Fine Silver

99,9 silver is used for making silver bullions ingots or bars and bullion coins. Also, only .999 silver is tradable at trade markets, meaning people use it for investment purposes. Actually, silver bars and coins have been a popular investment choice for years already. Many consider silver more optimal than gold, because of limited resources, increasing demand and lower price if compared to gold. Get more information in our Guide for Investing in Silver. Or if you are a curious and keen for online transactions, check Bullion Exchanges Silver Spot Prices Chart and visit our page for getting the best quote for your silver items.

Unlike silver bullion bars, 999 silver coins have even more value than simply the silver quantity they contain. The value comes from the complexity of minting them and also value as collectibles. Every large mint has its own signature silver coin that is minted in a specific quantity while silver bars are common and no premium is added to its production.

US Mint emits the American Silver Eagle, the Royal Mint in London issues silver Britannias, the Royal Canadian Mint - has the Silver Maple Leaf - the famous ultra-fine, 99,99 pure silver, which most mints do not use.

To trust or not to trust?

You are probably asking yourself how can you be sure of the purity of your silver, although if sterling silver has the usual mark 925, and fine silver the mark 999?

If with a 925 mark, then the copper, nickel or zinc will interact with oxygen or other elements in the air, making it change its color. For testing, there is a “home remedy” you could apply, called the acid test. If when put in acid, the acid’s color changes, than the item has a purity below 92,5%. This could be done at home by using a simple testing kit. However, there are professionals that can do it for you.

Now I am sure you wonder where you can find all these items?

Bullion Exchanges provides a wide and diverse collection, where you will definitely find the desired product:

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