Science, Tech, Math › Science Sterling Silver Chemical Composition Share Flipboard Email Print David Sucsy / Getty Images Science Chemistry Molecules Basics Chemical Laws Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated July 26, 2018 Sterling silver is a popular metal for jewelry, silverware, and decorations. Sterling silver is an alloy of silver that consists of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of other metal, usually copper. Fine silver (99.9% pure) typically is too soft for practical objects. Alloying with copper maintains the silvery color of the metal while increasing its strength. However, the copper is much more susceptible to oxidation and corrosion, so sterling silver tarnishes more easily than fine silver. Other metals that may be used in sterling silver include zinc, platinum, and germanium. Silicon or boron may be added to improve the properties of the metal. Although these metals and additions may improve the resistance of the sterling silver to firesale and tarnish, most sterling silver is still made using copper.