During my metal detecting adventures, I came across a religious medal marked with the words “chapel sterling” on its back. At first, I thought that it was a simple sterling silver pendant, but further research told me it was not. But since the web does not have enough information to understand what this term means; I relied on discussions to get the information I needed.
If you also find trinkets with the same marking on the back, this article will discuss what it means and how it differs from sterling silver.
Chapel sterling describes religious medals made by the church. These medals are made of sterling silver, and the “chapel ster” marking serves as the medal’s label of authenticity. Catholics wear chapel ster medals as a statement of faith.
Silver is one of the most common metals used for making jewelry. However, there is a term that confuses some people – sterling silver.
Silver and sterling silver are two different yet related metals. Silver or fine silver is a term that describes 99.99 percent silver with only 0.1 percent impurity. It is soft, making it challenging to hold shape. For this reason, jewelers thought of ways to make silver harder, thus coming up with sterling silver.
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Sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5 percent silver mixed with 7.5 percent of metals like zinc and copper. Mixing silver with these alloys makes it more durable, which prevents silver jewelry from losing its shape over time. Unlike fine silver, manufacturers can rework and reshape sterling silver without losing its quality.
In addition, sterling silver is suitable for pieces of jewelry with intricate details.
Many people think that sterling silver is not real silver. Contrary to this belief, jewelry made of sterling silver is authentic. It is one of the most common metals used by jewelers today as it tarnishes slower than fine silver.
Moreover, it is essential not to mistake coin silver for sterling silver. The reason is that coin silver consists of a lower amount of silver, particularly 90 percent or less. (source)
Chapel sterling, sometimes called chapel ster, is the term used to describe religious pendants made and distributed by the Catholic church. These pendants are made of sterling silver. However, it has a different value because it represents people’s religion. The most common chapel ster pieces are rosaries, four-way medals, and scapulars. There are chapel ster pendants with the phrase, “I am a Catholic. Please call a priest.” It means that if the owner is dying, the first responders should call a priest so that they can receive their last rites.
As mentioned, the chapel ster is made of silver alloy. However, the difference between chapel ster and sterling silver is that any jeweler can use the latter to make jewelry. On the other hand, only the religious pieces made by the Catholic church can be considered chapel sterling. People also wear sterling silver jewelry for style, while religious individuals wear chapel ster as a statement of faith.
An authentic religious piece from the church should have the “chapel ster” engraved. Suppose a piece of jewelry consists of anything that represents the Catholic Church but does not have the said marking. In that case, it is not an authentic chapel ster. (source)
As mentioned, chapel sterling is the term used for silver used by the Catholic Church to make religious pieces. It means that chapel ster has all the properties of sterling silver. However, instead of a silver hallmark, chapel ster pieces have the “chapel ster” marking engraved.
Today, you can still find chapel ster pieces like pendants, crucifixes, and rosaries sold by the church and auctioned online. Some of the ones you will find online are vintage. The authenticity of some signifies how long it has been since the Catholic Church began creating religious chapel sterling pieces. (source)
No one knows when the Catholic Church began making and distributing chapel ster pieces. However, one of the oldest chapel ster medals today is the Miraculous Medal.
The Miraculous Medal is a devotional pendant commemorating the Virgin Mary’s apparition to Saint Catherine Labouré on July 18, 1830. According to Saint Catherine, the Blessed Mother said that “All who wear them [the medal] will receive great graces.” (source)
Two years after the Virgin Mary’s apparition and with the approval of the Catholic Church, jewelers created the first Miraculous Medals in Paris in 1832. The demands for the Medals were so high that manufacturers managed to make and sell millions of them. Needless to say, the Miraculous Medal is one of the most common sterling ster pieces.
Considering how old the Miraculous Medals are, it is safe to conclude that chapel sterling pieces have been around for an extended period.
Apart from the Miraculous Medal, you can also find chapel ster vintage rosaries, another sign that the chapel ster is a relatively old metal used for making religious pieces. (source)
Rosaries are one of the most common religious pieces Catholics use to declare their faith. You can get them from shops that sell religious items online and, of course, the church. Various materials are used to make rosaries, including glass, wood, plastic, and metal.
That said, not all rosaries are created using chapel sterling. Even if the rosary you have consists of a metal chain and cross, you cannot be sure that it is a chapel ster. The reason is that creators use either gold, silver, or stainless steel to make rosaries.
The only rosaries you can consider made of chapel ster are the ones made by the Catholic Church. And as mentioned, it should have the “chapel ster” marking as proof of its authenticity. (source)
Silver is one of the most abundant metals for making jewelry, decorative items, and other metal pieces. For this reason, there are many variations of this metal. That includes:
- fine silver
- sterling silver
- Britannia silver
- coin silver
- European silver
- silver plate
Considering all these silver alloys, it is easy to mistake sterling silver for another silver alloy.
To ensure that jewelry is sterling silver, it should have an authentication hallmark.
Silver hallmarks often represent the amount of silver content an alloy has. Since sterling silver consists of 92.5 percent silver, jewelry made with this alloy has the “925” marking engraved. Some sterling silver pieces also have an inscription saying “sterling’ or “ster.”
It is worth noting that finding these markings on sterling silver pieces can be challenging as manufacturers place them somewhere discreet. The labels are also really tiny, so you may need to use a magnifying glass when looking for them.
Moreover, sterling silver hallmarks vary depending on what country it originated. Some of the most common labels are:
- thistle mark – sterling silver made in Scotland
- a lion with one of its paws raised (lion passant) – sterling silver from England
- crowned harp – sterling silver made in Ireland
Suppose you are not sure about the authenticity of your silver sterling jewelry. In that case, you can try connecting it to a pea-sized magnet. Silver exhibits a weak magnetic reaction, so an authentic sterling silver piece should not stick firmly to a magnet. (source)
Apart from the authentication hallmark and magnet test, there are other ways to tell whether a sterling silver piece is real or fake.
Get authentic sterling silver jewelry of a similar size to what you are testing. If the two pieces of jewelry are similar in weight, the piece you are testing is likely authentic.
Sterling silver tarnishes over time. So, one way to test the authenticity of a piece of silver jewelry is by rubbing it against a white polishing cloth. If the part of the cloth where you rubbed your jewelry turned black due to tarnishing, you have authentic sterling silver.
Silver has a high thermal conductivity that allows it to melt ice. If you have a sterling silver jewelry piece to test, place it on an ice cube and wait a bit. If the ice melts significantly, your jewelry is authentic sterling silver. (source)
Sterling silver is an abundant metal that does not corrode, thus making it a good metal for jewelry. But since pure silver is permeable, jewelers created an alloy of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent metals like zinc and copper to make silver more durable. This alloy is now famous as sterling silver.
If you are ever wondering whether sterling silver and chapel sterling are the same, the answer is yes and no. Silversmiths commonly use sterling silver to make jewelry and decorative pieces. On the other hand, the Catholic Church uses chapel sterling to make religious pieces like rosaries and pendants. Catholics also wear chapel ster to show their faith.
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David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.
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