Silver plated items are items that have gone through a process called “silver plating,” a process that involves applying actual silver or sterling silver to the surface of the base metal (such as copper, nickel, brass, pewter, or white metal). The complete process involves electrically charging the object first to make sure it attracts the silver particles. This results in an ultra thin layer of silver coating the item, giving it the appearance of pure, fine silver. Jewelry, flatware, and hollowware are the most common silver plated items.
On the other hand, sterling silver is a combination of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% additives. The most common additives used are nickel and copper, or a combination of different kinds of metals (an alloy), which helps make the item more durable and more resistant to discoloration and oxidation. Sterling silver is commonly used in making jewelry, accessories, and silverware.
Silver plate is considered the most cost-effective alternative to the more expensive forms of solid silver jewelry. Because of its high pure silver content, sterling silver retains it intrinsic value over time. This is also why sterling silver items can be costly.