8 Ways to Tell If Silver Is Real

Silver is one of the most popular precious metals today – you will find it in jewelry, flatware, vases, and many other durable items. However, because of this much popularity, silver is also one of the most counterfeited metals.

Luckily, there are several ways through which you can determine whether your silver item is authentic. Here, we share useful pointers on how to tell if silver is real or not to help you pay for only what’s genuine. So, let’s get down to business!

What Is Real Silver?

What Is Real Silver
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Real silver contains 99.9% silver, meaning, it is typically pure silver. But pure silver is just too soft to be molded into anything. As such, it has to be mixed with other metals to harden it and make it easier to work with. The extra metals also make the resulting product more durable.

What is used to produce jewelry, flatware, and all the other silver products we see today is not usually pure silver but an alloy of silver and other metals. Most of the time, this alloy comprises 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper and is commonly referred to as sterling silver.

Sterling silver is the type of silver used in almost every silver item produced these days and is what most manufacturers will refer to as real silver. Of course, there are many other silver alloys used today, with less than 92.5% of silver.

Such alloys may contain 90%, 85%, 80% of silver, or lower. Due to this low concentration of silver, these alloys do not qualify for sterling, and therefore, they are sometimes not considered real silver.

What this means is that for an alloy to be considered real silver, it has to contain at least  92.5% of pure silver. There are some alloys with up to 95% silver. These are usually referred to as Britannia silver, and while they may qualify for sterling, they are slightly softer and less durable.

Ways to Test If Your Silver Is Authentic

1. Look for Hallmarks

Look for Hallmarks
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Silver items designed for commercial use usually come with a stamp indicating the purity of the silver, commonly referred to as a hallmark. In most cases, the stamp will also show the logo or name of the manufacturer.

The location of silver hallmarks will vary from item to item. For engagement rings, for instance, the stamp will most likely be located on the interior surface.

A silver bracelet will mostly be stamped on the underside or somewhere on the clasp, while flatware will usually be marked on the handle.

But what exactly should you look for when it comes to silver purity?

The purity of the silver used to make your item will be expressed as a number. If you see an item marked “999”, then it means that it is made of 99.9% pure silver. But due to the malleability of pure silver, you will most likely not see many objects marked “999”.

Most silver items you come across today will be marked “925” because they contain 92.5% silver. If an object has this number stamped somewhere, then it is most likely an authentic sterling silver piece.

2. Look for Signs of Tarnishing

Look for Signs of Tarnishing
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Apart from the silver hallmark, there are other visual signs that can help you determine whether your silver is genuine. One of the most common is tarnish, a thin film that forms on silver items due to excessive exposure to oxygen.

Also, known as patina, tarnish occurs when the metals in sterling silver react with the sulfur in the atmosphere, creating silver sulfide, a compound that makes the silver item lose its shine. This is a common occurrence in jewelry.

Keep in mind, however, that tarnish can be artificially added to the silver item using bleach but you can easily tell when tarnish is forced and when it is natural.

Forced patina will usually appear much darker and will have a sharper contrast that will make the object look older than it really is. The natural patina, in contrast, will exhibit subtle darkening in some parts of the item, and will not make the piece appear older than its actual age.

3. Assess Any Flakes

Assess Any Flakes
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Other than tarnish, you may also want to check the item for flakes. If you see any, the item is either plated or made from something else other than silver because real silver doesn’t crack as much.

Sterling silver is sturdy enough to withstand impact than many other metals. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean a silver item won’t develop scrapes and dents over time. But then again, if the flakes are larger than normal, there is a high possibility that the piece is fake.

4. Test for Magnetic Qualities

Test for Magnetic Qualities

Pure silver is not regarded as magnetic. Sure, it may have some magnetic properties but the effects are very weak to even be noticed.

Grab a magnet and bring it close to the silver item you want to test for authenticity. If the object is strongly drawn to the magnet, it is not real silver.

Items made of fake silver or those that are silver-plated may contain materials that are ferromagnetic like nickel, iron, or cobalt.

Note, however, that some metals may exhibit the weak magnetic attributes of silver and, therefore, this test may not be 100% accurate. If you have performed a magnetic test on your silver but still aren’t sure whether the object is authentic, you may want to consider other tests.

5. Smell the Item

Smell the Item
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A silver item that smells like sulfur or other distinct metal is not made of sterling silver. Real silver is odorless, so if the piece in question has a noticeable smell, it is likely not authentic. Sure, it could be silver-plated, but any scent, especially if the item is new indicates that the metal is not entirely sterling silver.

While sniffing jewelry pieces at a jewelry shop may seem a little strange, it is one of the most effective ways of telling real silver from fake. If you have a relatively strong sense of smell, this test would be a great way to ensure you are buying genuine silver.

6. Perform an Ice Test

Perform an Ice Test

Of all metals used in thermal conductivity, silver is the best heat conductor. This metal has been found to melt ice surprisingly fast even at room temperature.

You can always find out if a silver item is genuine by placing a piece of ice on it and another piece on your regular cooking pan. If the ice placed on the silver item melts exceptionally faster than the one on the pan, then it’s likely that the item is authentic. If the metals melt the ice at the same time, however, the item in question is not made of real silver.

7. Perform an Acid Test

Perform an Acid Test

One of the best ways to know for sure whether a piece of silver is authentic is by conducting a simple acid test. Any jewelry shop can do this for you. The test is done on the spot and takes only a few seconds.

If you would rather do it yourself, make sure to order the appropriate silver acid test. Place one drop of the acid on the silver and use the instructions on the color scale to know whether your piece is real or fake. In general, the color scale will be as follows:

  • Bright red: Pure silver
  • Darker red: Sterling silver
  • Brown: 800 silver
  • Green: 500 silver
  • Dark brown: Brass
  • Blue: Nickel
  • Yellow: Tin or Lead

8. Check to See If Your Skin Turns Green After Wearing Silver

Check to See If Your Skin Turns Green After Wearing Silver
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This is by far the easiest way to tell if your silver is genuine or fake. In fact, move this baby to number one!

If you have ever purchased a cheap ring or necklace, you most likely know the type of greening we are talking about; it is the greenish-black stain that remains around the area where you were wearing the piece of jewelry.

Why your skin gets stained is because of the presence of an oxidizing metal in the jewelry. Copper, for instance, tends to oxidize and form copper salts with the oils, lotion, and sweat on your skin, leaving you with a greenish stain.

While this stain is harmless, it is a sign that the silver in your piece is impure. Genuine silver will not leave any kind of stain behind.

You could choose to apply clear nail polish on the surface of the skin the fake jewelry touches. But this will be temporary, as friction will cause the coating to wear out over time.

All of the above methods can help you easily differentiate real silver from fake. To gain more insights on the same, check out this video.

How to Avoid Buying Fake Silver Jewelry

While the tips provided above can help you figure out whether a piece of silver jewelry is genuine or not, there are several other things you can do before you make your purchase to further help you spend your money only on authentic pieces. Here are the two most important:

Do Your Research

Before you head to the nearest jewelry store to buy your silver, make sure you know exactly what you are looking for. Learn everything you can about sterling silver and, in particular, know how to tell if the silver is real or fake.

Checking for silver hallmarks is one of the many tests you can perform at the store to make sure you are not buying a fake. If the piece does not contain the mark of authenticity, you may just go ahead and ask the jeweler to perform an acid test or any other test that will leave you content.

Buy From a Reputable Seller

Don’t buy your silver just from any jewelry store. Ask around to find out who sells genuine jewelry. You can always get this information from people who buy authentic silver. If you have such people among your friends or family members, you can ask them for help.

If you are buying online, make sure to read the store’s reviews before placing your order. Customers will always leave positive reviews if they feel the jeweler gave them value for their money.

Note, however, that there are some dishonest stores that write the reviews themselves! Be on the lookout for “customer reviews” that sound so good to be true. Sites like Trustpilot can be a great place to look for genuine company reviews.

Why You Should Buy Real Silver

Why You Should Buy Real Silver
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Real Silver Is an Investment

The price of silver, like all precious metals, is always rising. When you buy an item made of authentic silver, you can rest assured that it will keep its value. With proper care, you can even sell the piece at a higher price than you bought it.

Real Silver Is Not Expensive

While fake silver can be valued at a price ridiculously lower than real silver, if you do the math in terms of how much you will spend replacing a piece, you will notice that real silver is actually cheaper.

Sure, all silver will tarnish at some point in life but if your silver is real, you can easily clean the tarnish and get your jewelry looking brand new again. With fake silver, you may not be able to get rid of tarnish, and you will most likely have to buy a new piece every time the old one starts to lose its shine.

Real Silver Is Durable

When it comes to buying jewelry, one of the factors you want to consider is durability. A piece made of real silver will certainly serve you for many years than one made of cheaper metals.

Authentic silver doesn’t chip, flake, or bend easily. As long as you clean and polish it regularly, you can wear it every day and it will still look great years to come. With the right maintenance, you can pass down real silver to your family’s future generations.

Hopefully, with the tips shared in this article, you can now be able to tell real silver from a fake. If you’ve got any questions regarding this topic, feel free to ask in the comments.

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