How To Check Silver Authenticity
While many metals may appear to be made of silver, some may not contain any silver at all. Under U.S. law, every item made of sterling silver must be stamped with a visible “.925” to indicate its silver and copper content. Whether you are purchasing a piece of silver or you’d simply like to know the value of a precious family heirloom, there are a few ways that you can tell if what you have is authentic sterling silver.
1. Use a magnifying glass and examine the clasp on the jewelry. A tiny “S.S.” or “.925” indicates that the piece is made of pure silver. If you see “.900,” you are looking at coin silver, meaning less silver content compared to sterling. Conversely, “.999” denotes fine silver, meaning more silver content compared to sterling. If an “S.P.” is located anywhere on the piece, you have silverplate, a thin coating of silver that adheres to the item. It does not indicate real silver.
2. If there are no indications of “S.S.” or “.925” that you can see, you can lightly scuff or scratch a small inconspicuous spot on the piece and apply a small drop of nitric acid on the sport. Low-quality silver alloys, nickel silver and silverplated brass will turn green when they come into contact with nitric acid due to the high copper content, and coin silver will turn black. Pure silver will turn creamy in color.
3. Yet another test you can perform is a magnet test since sterling silver will not bond with a magnet. You will likely need to use a magnet stronger than your typical refrigerator adornment, but most extra-strength magnets can be found in any hardware store. However, keep in mind that just because your item is not pulled by the magnet does not necessarily mean that it is real silver, so it is important to conduct another test to verify your item.
4. If all else fails, you can visit a local pawn shop or jeweler who will be able to tell you the silver content of your piece. Keep in mind, though, that if you are seeking to trade in these items that you should get a second opinion as some businesses may undervalue your item in order to turn a profit. Jewelers, rockhound and lapidary supply stores also supply testing kits that can help you to determine the type of silver.