|Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, usually copper.
The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925.
Fine silver (99.9% pure) is generally too soft for producing functional objects; therefore, the silver is usually alloyed with copper to give it strength, while at the same time preserving the ductility and beauty of the precious metal. Other metals can replace the copper, usually with the intent to improve various properties of the basic sterling alloy such as reducing casting porosity, eliminating firescale, and increasing resistance to tarnish. These replacement metals include germanium, zinc and platinum, as well as a variety of other additives, including silicon and boron.
A number of alloys, such as Argentium sterling silver have appeared in recent years, formulated to lessen firescale or to inhibit tarnish, and this has sparked heavy competition among the various manufacturers, who are rushing to make claims of having the best formulation. However, no one alloy has emerged to replace copper as the industry standard, and alloy development is a very active area.