Sterling silver

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MFA Acc. #: 2006.244


A silver alloy that contains no more than 7.5% of other metals, usually copper. Pure silver is too soft for most purposes and the addition of copper hardens the silver and lowers the melting point. Sterling silver has been used in coinage, tableware, and solid silver objects. The name 'sterling' was first used for the 0.925 grade of silver in 13th century England.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Easterling silver; Tealby pennies; starling silver; argent sterling (Fr.); Sterling-Silber (Deut.)

Additional Images


  • David C. Scott, Metallography and Microstructure of Ancient and Historic Metals, The Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, 1991
  • Oppi Untracht, Metal Techniques for Craftsmen, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, 1968
  • Henry Hodges, Artifacts: An Introduction to Early Materials and Technology, Ronald P. Frye, Kingston, Canada, 1988
  • A History of Technology, Charles Singer, E.J. Holmyard, A.R. Hall (eds.), Clarendon Press, Oxford, Volume 1: From Early times to Fall of Ancient Empires, 1954
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 723
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998

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