Pure silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft, very malleable and easily damaged, so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Although any metal can make up the 7.5 percent silver-free portion of sterling silver, centuries of experimentation have shown that copper is your best companion, improving the hardness and durability of the metal without affecting its beautiful color. The small amount of copper added to the pound has very little effect on the value of the metal. In contrast, the price of the silver item is affected by the labor involved in the manufacture of the item, the skill of the artisan and the complexity of the design.