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Sterling Silver

Anyone dealing in antiquities, jewellery, and older British coins, will almost certainly have heard the term Sterling Silver at one time or another. Here in the UK, Sterling Silver has become ubiquitous with many silver products, and as the name would suggest, it's history is firmly routed in Britain.


What is Sterling Silver?


Sterling Silver is a quality standard for an alloy which combines fine silver with other metals. At
it's simplest, Sterling silver means and item 92.5% silver, and 7.5% something else.

Silver alloys are classified in terms of parts per 1,000. In this millesimal system, Sterling Silver is
classified as 925 - that is 925 parts in 1,000 that are pure silver. Hallmarks on silver follow this
system, and modern Sterling Silver is therefore stamped with 925.

Pure, 999 silver is soft and easily damaged, making it less useful for circulating coins. Adding other
metals hardens the material, making
it more usable without much apparent reduction to its bright attractive lustre. The remaining 7.5% of
Sterling Silver coins and bars is made up of other metals; commonly copper.

Silver has the chemical element symbol of Ag, from the Latin argentum. Like the other noble metals
gold and platinum, silver does not corrode but alloys such as Sterling Silver could tarnish.

Click here to view our Sterling Silver coins collection.


History of Sterling Silver

Silver is one of seven metals of antiquity that date back to prehistoric times - the others being gold, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury.

Some historians believe the term 'Sterling,' when referring to silver, is derived from the French word ' esterlin' which was a Norman silver penny. The history of Sterling Silver here in the UK truly began hundreds of years ago. There is definitive evidence that the term existed in the 12th Century when, to ensure standards, King Edward I ordered that all silver must be at least 92.5% pure.

From this point on Sterling Silver become the standard for all silver for many centuries to come. The coins struck for much of British history had to be Sterling Silver, ensuring it was known around the world as the British Empire expanded.

Beyond coins, Sterling Silver has remained the main alloy of choice to this day for jewellery in Britain. Pure silver would be too soft for most uses, so many jewellers strengthen it with other metals, to a purity of Sterling Silver, to produce a high purity, but durable item.


Sterling Silver coins

Prior to 1920, British silver coins were minted from Sterling Silver. From 1920 the silver content was reduced to 50% and from 1947 'silver coloured' coins have been minted from a copper-nickel alloy (cupro-nickel) with no silver content whatsoever.

Unlike common currency, bullion coins are generally minted in pure or 999 fineness. The value of bullion and numismatic or collectible coins depends on their silver content or collectibility, and is usually far greater than their pure face value. BullionByPost has a range of numismatic Sterling Silver coins from the UK and around the world. These range from Silver Pennies and Shillings to Crowns.


Scrap Sterling Silver

BullionByPost are happy to buy scrap Sterling Silver at market leading rates. If you have unwanted Sterling silver, be it in the form of pre-1920 coins, or antique silverware and jewellery, simply enter the weight of your items on our scrap calculator for a quote today.

We pay 100.1% of the market spot price for pre-owned silver bullion, and up to 88% for scrap sterling silver. This can be in the form of old coins or bars, or more commonly old and damaged jewellery.

Scrap Silver

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