Silver is one of the seven metals of antiquity which were known to prehistoric humans, the others being gold, copper, tin, lead, iron and mercury. As it has been in use for so long the history of its discovery and early use are not known.
Similar in its composition and character to gold and copper, silver is a very soft, ductile and malleable metal which also takes a very high polish. While it doesn't have the hardness of gold, it still has many uses, especially when alloyed with other metals to make it harder.
WHAT IS STERLING SILVER?
Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver. In this form the metal is beautiful and suffers from minimal tarnish, but it's generally too soft and malleable for many uses, including making most silver jewellery.
Instead fine silver is alloyed with copper to create sterling silver, which is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. This is why you will sometimes see sterling silver referred to as '925 silver'.
The copper makes the silver harder, more durable and therefore much better to work with and use, but without compromising on colour. Most silver jewellery that you buy and wear will be sterling silver.
These percentages are the reason why sterling silver is often hallmarked with the numbers 925.
The only downside to sterling silver is that the added copper will cause it to tarnish, with the metal turning dark brown or black over time, especially in humid conditions. However, it's easy to clean and beneath the tarnish your sterling silver will still be in great condition: it won't rust or perish with normal use.