How Can You Tell if Something’s Real Silver?
Silver is a well-loved metal because of its high value and beautiful, lustrous appearance. However, due to its popularity, it’s also one of the most commonly counterfeited precious metals. Whether you’re shopping for silver flatware, jewelry, or decorative accents, you shouldn’t be surprised if you end up buying something that’s made of fake silver. Fortunately, there are a number of easy ways to determine the authenticity of a silver object. The following are some of the questions you need to ask when trying to distinguish genuine silver from counterfeit silver.
Is There a Stamp of Authenticity?
In most countries, a silver item that’s meant to be sold commercially typically comes with one or more stamps showing its purity and the name or logo of the silversmith or manufacturer. If you’re buying a silver ring, you’ll most likely find the stamp of authenticity somewhere on the inside surface of the ring. A silver bracelet may bear the stamp on its underside or the side of its clasp, while a piece of silver flatware usually has the markings imprinted on its handle.
The purity of silver is usually expressed as parts per thousand, such as 999, 925, 900, or 800. If a silver object is marked “999,” it means it’s made from 99.9% pure silver. However, most of the silver items you find on the market are made of sterling silver, which contains 92.5% silver. This is because pure silver is too soft and malleable for making jewelry, flatware, and other objects. If you see a tiny “925” imprint somewhere on a silver item, then it’s most likely a genuine sterling silver piece.
Image via Flickr by Deidre Woollard
How Does the Item Respond to a Magnet?
Conducting a magnet test is another quick and easy way to find out whether a certain silver object is authentic. Similar to other precious metals, pure silver is regarded as nonmagnetic. It exhibits weak magnetism, but the effects shouldn’t be noticeable. Grab a magnet and see if it’s drawn to the item in question. If the piece strongly attracts the magnet, it has a ferromagnetic core, meaning it isn’t silver. Silver-plated or counterfeit silver objects may be made of metals that are ferromagnetic, such as iron, nickel, or cobalt.
It’s important to note that the results you get from magnetic tests are not 100% accurate because certain types of metals can mimic the weak magnetic properties of precious metals. If you’re still unsure whether the silver item is genuine after conducting the magnet test, you may want to do other tests as well.
Do You See Tarnish and Flakes?
Besides the stamp of authenticity, you should also look for other visual signs that can help you determine the genuineness of a silver item. One of the signs indicating an object is made of real silver is tarnish. Also known as patina, tarnish is a layer of color that appears on the surface of a silver object as a result of oxidation. It’s commonly found on silver estate jewelry or artisan pieces.
Nonetheless, bear in mind that patina can be artificially added using bleach, but it’s easy to tell whether it’s natural or forced. A forced patina tends to be much darker and creates a sharper contrast, making a silver item look older than its real age. A natural patina, on the other hand, exhibits subtle blackening around folds and crevices in the metal. It’s representative of the age of the piece, so something that’s 10 years old won’t appear to be 100 years old.
Flaking or layering is another visual difference between real silver and fake silver. If the item you’re examining has flakes or layers, it’s either plated or made from some other metal because genuine silver won’t flake as much. Although it’s a softer alloy, sterling silver is strong enough to absorb impact better than many other types of metal. However, it isn’t uncommon for a silver object to sustain scratches or indentations over time. Then again, if it has large flakes missing, it’s most likely a fake.
Image via Flickr by NATALIA PHOTOS
Does the Item Have an Odor?
If you notice a strong smell coming from a silver item you’ve been wearing or using, there’s a likelihood it isn’t made of genuine silver. Real silver doesn’t emit any noticeable smell. An object that smells like an old penny or rotten egg isn’t silver. It may be silver-plated or made of copper or zinc. While it may seem strange to give a piece a sniff, it’s an effective way to find out whether the silver is authentic or fake.
How Does the Piece React to Ice?
The ice test is another easy method of determining whether something is made of genuine silver. Silver is widely used in solar panels because it’s the metal with the highest thermal conductivity. Even at room temperature, it can melt ice at a surprisingly rapid rate.
To conduct this test, you’ll need to have two pieces of ice. Place one piece in a metal pan and the other on the silver object you’re testing. If the piece of ice on the silver object melts significantly faster than the one in the pan, then you have an authentic item. However, if the two pieces of ice melt at the same speed, your item isn’t made of real silver.
Should I Take My Silver Item to a Jeweler?
The surest way to tell whether your silver object is real or fake is to take it to your local jeweler for a professional test. The jeweler will most likely conduct a simple and quick acid test that involves using a special solution. In this test, they place a drop of acid on the piece. If the color of the acid remains the same, you have a true silver piece. On the other hand, if the color changes, certain hues suggest whether or not the item is fake.
If you reside in Chicagoland, you can buy or sell genuine silver pieces or have your silver valuables professionally tested at Americash Jewelry & Coin Buyers. We deal with a wide range of silver items, including jewelry, watches, coins, and flatware. Contact us online or give us a call at 630-296-9883 to find out about our products and services.