Sterling(not "Stalin") means genuine or reliable

“‘It shows you that deep down in him there is something sterling. My sister feels it’s our duty to save him. We must do something for him.’”–THE VESSEL OF WRATH by W. Somerset Maugham

I did not know the meaning of the adjective “sterling”, and looked up the word in the dictionary. It is neither related to “sternness” nor “sterility”. It means “genuine” or “reliable”.
I wonder whether this word is commonly used in the U.S.

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The word ‘sterling’ when used as a noun refers to British money (“prices in sterling are shown”) or is short for sterling silver (“a sterling spoon”). However, in this case, ‘sterling’ is used as an adjective which means: excellent or valuable (referring to a person or their work or their qualities). For instance, “This organization does sterling work for youngsters” would mean the work of the organization is excellent or first rate or exceptional with regard to youngsters.

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I had no idea this word existed in this context, good on you for signaling this.