STERLING SILVER - is created by combining two metals, pure silver and copper (sometimes zinc) to create the final alloy. The sterling silver alloy contains 92.5% silver by weight and 7.5% by weight of other metal to make it strong and durable. Metal alloys with a silver content greater than 92.5% are too pliable to be used without sustaining dents and dings. The second alloy is required to ensure the metal's stability and resilience.
Sterling Silver is the whitest of all precious metals, and is loved for its high-lustrous finish and versatile applications from jewelry to dinnerware. It's harder than gold, and is one of the more luxury metals for jewelry designers and silversmiths. Because it has some flexibility it is easy to hammer and mold into various forms and shapes.
If pure sterling silver, also referred to as fine silver, was used to create jewelry and other products it would not be usable because it is extremely soft, malleable, easily reshaped, and vulnerable to damage.
The word "sterling" was incorporated into the silver name going back to the 12th-century. It was used as payment for English cattle. An association of eastern Germans paid the British with silver coins called "Easterlings." Eventually, the Easterling was accepted as English currency. The Easterling name was eventually abbreviated to "Sterling," which is now used to refer to the highest grade of silver metal.
Centuries of experimentation by silversmiths resulted in copper being the best companion metal as it improves the silver's integrity and durability without affecting its beautiful color.
The small amount of copper added to silver has very little effect on the metal's value. What does affect the price of sterling silver jewelry is the amount of labor involved in making a piece of jewelry or other the item, the skill of the artisan / craftsperson, and the detail and intricacy of the design.