The FAQ's of Sterling Silver Jewelry

Posted: Apr 26 2016

If you’ve been in the jewelry business for any length of time you know there is list of very frequently asked questions. We know that list  –  in fact, we’ve considered writing a book entitled, “How to Smile and Answer Their Questions Again and Again and Again!”  We’ve also threatened to include a chapter highlighting the most ignorant statements and questions. 

Take this exchange at a retail show this past weekend:

Q:  “I’m looking for a silver bracelet.” 

A:.,Welcome to our booth!  Everything here is Sterling Silver, and is handmade in Taxco, Mexico. 

R:  No – I want the real stuff.

You can chuckle, but let me ask - how would your staff answer that exchange?  Obviously, you have to assess whether it’s a genuine question or a statement of bravado made in front of their friends. But a genuine question warrants an answer. 

Here are a list of my FAQ’s, and my standard responses. 

  1. Is Sterling Silver real Silver?

Yes - Sterling Silver is a very pure alloy mixing 92.5% of Silver and 7.5% mixture of Copper.  Why do they add Copper? Because pure silver ( also called Fine Silver, or .999, doesn’t tarnish), is so soft that it scratches easily and isn't practical for jewelry worn daily.  The British decided that adding 7.5% copper to 92.5% silver was the perfect alloy, and coined the alloy, “Sterling”.

  1. Will it tarnish?

Sterling Silver will tarnish, due to the addition of copper, but remind your customers that the higher the ratio, the less the silver will tarnish. Also add that the heavier pieces hardly tarnish at all, and often take on a beautiful patina on its over the years. If a customer insists that their silver jewelry tarnishes, or worse, shows copper, it’s very possible that they didn’t buy Sterling Silver, or that the ratio is suspect.

  1. How do you clean it?

We use three products here in the office:  a good cleaning cloth, a liquid cleaner and a paste. We use the cleaning cloth 90% of the time.  If we have a simple silver piece that is dirty, we soak it in the dip for a couple of hours, rinse with hot water, and then dry and buff with the cleaning cloth. If a piece is oxidized or has fragile stone, we work a little of the paste into a soft cloth and rub the piece over the cloth briskly, avoiding the oxidized areas and stones as much as possible. For the very dirtiest pieces we combine the paste and dip to make a mud, coat the piece, and let it soak in the dip. We advise our customers to wipe their jewelry off occasionally as the combination of the air and their skin’s oils is the biggest challenge to keeping silver clean. They should store infrequently worn jewelry in a ziplock bag to keep it clean.

  1. “I bought a Sterling Silver ring on the beach for $5 but it turned my finger black!”

This is one of the questions that will end up in our special chapter.  Go ahead and roll your eyes, or murmer, ‘well, duh,” under your breath. Remind them that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is---then show them a beautiful piece from Taxco.

There are a lot of other FAQ’s in my world – but most involve giving directions to the exit or the closest ladies room.  I would also like a dollar for every customer who, when hearing that our jewelry is made in Mexico, launches into a detailed description of their Squash Blossom.  But that’s a subject for another time.   


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