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Sterling Silver and Silver Plate - The differences

The differences between Sterling Silver and Silver Plate?

Silver plating is a process of bonding a thin layer of silver (measured in microns) to a base metal.  In the manufacture of our trophies we use a base metal of brass or copper.

To keep its shine, silver needs to be polished regularly. Frequent cleaning can wear away small areas of plating causing the base metal below to show through. This is a good indication that the item is silver plate and not sterling silver.

A scratch test can also be used to see if the base metal shows through - but this does carry a risk of damaging the item.

What is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is an alloy consisting of 92.5% fine silver, the remaining 7.5% is either zinc or copper that is used to harden the object. Fine silver is composed of 99.9% pure silver and generally used for making fine jewellery which is more expensive.

Look out for HallmarksS1997 sterling silver and silver plate

By law British Sterling Silver must be 92.5 per cent pure. Assay offices around the country check the purity and mark each piece that is passed. In Britain there are three standard marks indicating that a piece is made from sterling silver. A lion passant represents English silver, a crowned harp Irish silver, and a thistle or lion rampant Scottish silver.

Likewise, the assay offices themselves are represented by particular marks: London by a leopard's head, Sheffield by a crown, Birmingham by an anchor and Edinburgh by a castle. Silver plate will not carry any hallmarks.


The Sterling Silver made by Swatkins Carries the following Hallmarks
The makers hallmark - PS which stands for Pitt and Swatkins
The Birmingham Assay Mark - which is the Anchor
The purity of silver mark for the UK is 925
The year of the hallmark


Sterling Silver and silver plate are both sensitive to moisture and sulphur in the air, which in time can lead to the item becoming black (tarnished). But with proper cleaning, sterling silver will last for a long time.  Due to the cleaning methods required to keep silver plate tarnish free, the silver finish will not last as long as sterling silver.

How to look after Sterling Silver and Silver Plate

Prior to polishing, the item should be washed in a mild detergent and dried carefully with a soft clean cloth. Examine the item to see what tarnish remains. To help remove tarnish and renew shine there are a number of polishes that have been specifically formulated to care for silver and silver plate.

When choosing a silver polish, look for a brand that is less abrasive to protect the silver.  Abrasive polish can seriously damage the surface of silver plate. Here at silvertrophy.com we offer a specially treated soft napped cloth made from 100% cotton. Its impregnated with a silver cleaner and anti-tarnish agent. Simply buff thoroughly to obtain a perfect shine.

If someone asks, ‘can you tell the difference between sterling silver and silver plate', you can say you read it here

Call us on 01922 862431 or email sales@silvertrophy.com with any questions you may have about our sterling silver and silver plate awards

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