Silver Plated Vs. Sterling Silver What's the Difference

If you are a fan of silver jewelry, ornaments, or other products, you must be aware of the different types. In the silver industry, you will hear things such as pure silver, silver-plated and sterling silver.

In my search for silver pieces, I was confused about these three. I thought silver was just silver, and this mentality almost got me scammed. In this article, we will focus on two types of silver products; silver plated and sterling silver. Knowing the facts and differences will help you avoid paying a lot of money for something worth a bag of peanuts.

Silver Plated Vs. Sterling Silver: Which One Is Better?

Both Sterling silver and silver-plated items have their strengths and weaknesses. Choosing any of them depends on what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend. You will find that sterling silver is pricier than silver plated. But why?

Sterling silver is made out of 92.5% pure silver plus 7.5 percent of other metals, making it more expensive. On the other hand, silver-plated items only have a thin layer of silver that coats base metals, providing a shiny look. The quantity of silver used in both affects their price and value.

Sterling silver is also more durable since it’s made of a high percent of silver and 7.5 percent of metals that increases its durability. These are pieces that can last for many years and be passed on to grandchildren. On the other hand, silver-plated items do not last for a long time. The outer silver layer can chip off easily, leaving an open layer of the base metal.

However, this does not mean that silver-plated items are a bad choice. You can get a high-quality silver-plated product made of a thick layer of silver and strong base metals that can withstand oxidation. You will get a high-quality silver-plated piece that is way cheaper than a sterling silver piece.

What Is Silver Plated?

What Is Silver Plated
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You have probably come across silver-plated items a couple of times in your life without realizing it. Silver-plated items have a thin layer of silver on top of base elements such as copper, pewter, brass, and many more.

It gives an illusion of pure and shiny silver to the product hence enhances its appearance. The electrolysis process is used to help the silver layer attract to the base elements. Silver-plated items are mostly jewelry, pendants, and other accessories. The fashion industry loves silver-plated products because they are cheap and easy to produce.

However, silver-plated items chip off very fast without proper care. People with Nickel allergy are advised not to wear silver plated jewelry because they develop a rash when they chip off on the skin.

What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages OF Silver Plated Products?

Silver-plated items have their good and bad qualities. They include:


  • Have plenty of designs when it comes to jewelry.
  • They are affordable


  • When worn on the skin, they can leave a green residue.
  • It chips off after a while.

What Is Sterling Silver

What Is Sterling Silver
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Are you in search of a metal that is quality and affordable compared to other luxurious metals? Sterling silver is the one. This metal is very durable and can last for more than a century. If you plan on leaving something for your grandkids to remember you by, you can buy a piece of sterling silver jewelry.

The only thing silver sterling items need is regular polishing and good storage. Silver sterling is composed of two major things; silver and other metals or alloys. It contains 92.5% real silver and 7.5% metals such as Nickel and copper or other alloys (two or more other metals). This combination gives sterling silver its durability characteristics.

Common items with sterling silver include kitchenware, accessories, and other household items such as frames. My mastery of silver metal has made me realize that you should always know the pros and cons of each metal before investing in it. Let us look at them;

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages of Sterling Silver


  • It is very durable
  • It still looks great even after years of wear
  • It is not as expensive as pure silver
  • It is an affordable option in the high-quality jewelry category.


  • It has a higher price tag compared to silver plated

How Can You Tell Silver Plated And Sterling Silver Apart?

How Can You Tell Silver Plated And Sterling Silver Apart
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It can be hard to tell the difference between silver plated and sterling silver products if you are not keen. Some business people can fool you and make you pay more money for something that is not worth the price. Here are the things you need to look at to know the difference;


This is not visible, but it is a difference worth noting. It could make you look like a silver guru in the eyes of sketchy salespeople. As stated earlier, sterling silver is made up of 7.5% pure metals such as copper, nickel, etc.

On the other hand, silver plated items have a thin layer of silver on top of other metals, acting as the base.


You will notice that sterling silver metals are darker than silver-plated items. Silver-plated has an appearance of a lighter silver color.

But why? Silver-plated items have a thin layer of silver-coated onto metals, while sterling silver products are almost entirely made out of pure silver (92.5%).


The base metal of a silver-plated metal oxidizes very fast, making it chip off and tarnish after a while. However, compared to sterling silver, it is more durable due to the base metal.

On the other hand, sterling silver does not oxidize because it has a composition that enables softer than silver plating. As a result, this makes it prone to malleability and shaping.

This does not happen to all sterling silver products if their 7.5% composition is made out of durable elements. However, some of these products with complex grooves and details will wear off.


Silver is a naturally light and malleable element. Silver-plated items are mostly made out of base elements, while sterling silver items are almost entirely made out of silver. This means that sterling silver is much lighter than silver-plated items.


Silver-plated items are much cheaper than sterling silver. This fact can help you know if you are getting a deal that is too good to be true or the other way round.

You can tell when an advertisement for sterling silver looks fishy. Because of its 92.5% silver composition goes for a high price and resold even for higher amounts.

When it comes to silver plated items, they have no real silver value because only a very small portion involves silver. If you are not careful, sketchy business people can sell you a silver-plated item for the price of sterling silver.

Still Skeptical? Check The Label

Some people are very shady and can fool you if you are not careful. They might even make claims that silver -sterling and silver-plated are the same thing. So, if you are still not sure that you are being fooled, you can check the label.

Silver-plated items always have an engraved letter “EPNS”, which stands for electroplated nickel silver). You will also find other engraved words such as silver on copper or “EN”. This label will help you know if a seller is conning you.

On the other hand, sterling silver always has an engravement of “92.5” or “925”. 92.5 or 925 represents the amount of pure silver in the item. You can find that sterling silver items have these numbers and a letter, logo, or country in which it was manufactured.

How To Care For A Sterling Silver Item?

The first piece of sterling silver item that I purchased was a necklace. I realized that I had to take care of it; otherwise, it would look dull and underwhelming.

Taking care of sterling silver means making it look delightful. If you are not wearing it, ensure that it is stored in an airtight place to prevent tarnish. If you wear it regularly, you don’t need to keep polishing because the tarnish wears off as you wear it.

A sterling silver piece should also be kept away from items that can scratch the silver because it is soft. Other than that, you do not need over-the-top maintenance.

How To Care For A Silver Plated Item?

It’s almost impossible to prevent your silver-plated item from tarnishing because it reacts to many materials such as chlorine in water, hair spray, and many other things. With a thin layer of silver, you must use a careful cleaning approach. You can use the following process to clean your silver-plated items;

  • Use aluminum foil to cover the inside of the washing bowl.
  • Add a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon of baking soda to the bowl.
  • Add water until it is half of the bowl.
  • Stir the solution until it is well mixed.
  • Place your item in the mixture and make sure it is fully covered.
  • Let it soak for ten minutes.
  • Rinse your item and wipe out excess water with a lint-free cloth.
  • If you are not using it immediately, ensure that it is stored in an airtight space with little exposure to humidity and air. You can store it in a sealed bag that acts as a barrier preventing air from contacting your jewelry or other items. You can also store them next to silica bags that help absorb the air and humidity in the environment.

Wrapping Up!

So, there you have it; we have looked at everything you need to know. You now know what it means by silver plated and sterling silver.

By knowing these differences, you can walk confidently into a store without fear of being scammed. Physical differences such as color, weight, and label help you identify whether a product is a real deal.

Did you find this article helpful? What has your experience been with buying silver products? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments in the comments section below.

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