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You may not know it, but there is a big difference between pure silver and sterling silver. Pure silver will not mold into a shape because it is too soft. Sterling silver, on the other hand, is a mixture of silver and another metal (such as copper, zinc or nickel) that makes an alloy that can hold a shape.
Silverware can be made of sterling silver or of other metals with silver plate on top. Silver plating (also known as electroplating) bonds silver over another base metal through the use of an electric current. Typically, the silver is placed over copper, brass, nickel silver or some other mix of metals.
If your silver is sterling, it should have a stamp that states its silver purity as 925. That means the item is 92.5 parts silver, with the remaining parts made up of another metal. Another indicator that your silver is sterling is that it will tarnish when exposed to air. To slow this process when your sterling silver is not being worn or used, store it in an airtight container. When cleaning your silver, always be careful to only use warm water and mild soap or a soft silver cleaning cloth. Other cleansers can be too harsh and may cause damage to the finish of your silver.
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