A History of Sterling Silver's Development
By Grant Copland
Sterling silver is 92.5% silver (at least) with the rest of the alloy being copper. Sterling silver was first established as a standard in 1478 in England. By the 1850s, electroplating had become predominant in the silverworking world, as that is a lot more affordable than making or buying true sterling silver pieces. But silverworking has been with us all around the globe since ancient times.
Silver jewellery making started at least 5000 years ago. Graves from the Sumerian city of Ur that date to about 3000 BCE have items of silver jewellery in with them. The first sources of mined silver were the mines of Anatolia, or modern day Turkey. The Chaldeans were the first peoples to begin extracting silver from other ores, and this practice was originated sometime around 2500 BCE. By 1000 BCE the North American and South American natives were engaged in advanced silversmithing.
About 100 years later, Larium mines in the vicinity of Athens, Greece, became the single greatest source for the production of silver for the next 1000 years. The Romans were also known to use silver for the making of household items. By 200 BCE, Chinese immigrants had arrived in Korea and they brought with them there the techniques they knew for working in silver. Although working in silver did spread from Korea to Japan, the Japanese never really got into working with silver.
By first century AD the Indus Valley peoples were producing silver drinking cups and horns that bore a close semblance to those made by the Hellenes. By 600 AD silverwork had become one of the highest priorities and arts of the T'ang Dynasty in China. Silver had actually been very rare in China before this period in spite of the aforementioned fact of Chinese immigrants being the ones who introduced silverworking to the Koreans. The Repousse technique would become very common in China's Sung Dynasty of four hundred yeas later.
By about 900 AD very refined silverworking techniques were to be found being utilized in Oaxaca region of what is now Mexico. By 1000 AD Spain's mines had become important sources of silver. At this same point, there had also been developed many important silver mines in Austria-Hungary and Germany.
Five hundred years later, when the Spanish conquered the Native Americans of what are now Mexico and South America, they discovered in the silversmiths of the peoples a technique for working in silver that was of the same quality as their own. European mining of silver in the Americas began in Bolivia, Mexico, and Peru and came to supply 85% of all the silver in the world through the year 1800.

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