Silver jewelry boasts a timeless allure that makes everyone want to own and wear the jewelry. The shine and the natural silver luster is elegant, simple and adds a nice flair of sophistication for all its wearers. As a result, this kind of jewelry is suitable and chosen by many people. Silver and sterling silver jewelry will catch light unlike any other kind of jewelry, which is why sterling silver jewelry is a beloved style of jewelry that cuts across generations.
But then, there are many fakes around, and the jewelry that looks like silver may not be silver after all. While real sterling silver jewelry attracts a higher price, fakes would also be made to look like the real thing and priced just as high.
So, how would you tell when the jewelry you are considering is actually made of real silver? It’s not like you can sniff out the fakes, or can you? And most importantly, how do you avoid allergic flare-ups from wearing fake silver jewelry?
Well, this piece takes you through everything you need to know about silver and how you can differentiate real silver from fake silver jewelry. So, let’s jump right in it!
How to tell if the jewelry is real silver
Before we look at some of the simple and neat tricks for testing silver, it’s worth noting that real silver is a timeless classic. It is also a soft metal piece, which gives its limited uses. So, to be used in jewelry, it’s converted into sterling silver through the addition of 7.5% metal alloys and 92.5% of pure silver, given the high composition of real silver, sterling silver, and pure silver share a number of characteristics.
1.Look for Authenticity Hallmarks
The first and often the easiest way of identifying real sterling silver is by looking out for the authenticity stamps or markings.
So, if you suspect that an item could be made of real silver, the first thing to do would be for you to look for the authentication hallmarks. If the piece is made of real sterling silver, you’ll most likely come across a stamp or markings, especially if the piece is sold commercially.
The stamp shows the purity level of the silver, and it’s regarded as the mark left there by the silversmith or the manufacturer. There could also be other kinds of markings.
Some of the markings you should consider looking out for in sterling silver jewelry include the 925, 900, or 800 stamps. These are the numbers that indicate the purity level of the silver. If the piece is claimed to be made of the best quality silver, it must have a purity level of 92.5% or higher.
Most sterling silver jewelry will have a silver purity of 92.5%, and these pieces are regarded as the best quality sterling silver jewelry.
2.The Magnet Test
Next, you could test the magnetic properties of that piece of jewelry. Before you conduct this test, you need to know that precious metals such as gold and silver, even copper, are not magnetic, which means that a piece of jewelry made of high-quality or high purity silver will be non-magnetic.
For the magnet test, first, grab a neodymium magnet, then move it over the silver piece slowly to see if the object is drawn to it. Real sterling silver lacks noticeable magnetic properties, and it will only exhibit very weak magnetic properties because it’s made with other metal alloys like copper, nickel, or cobalt.
Therefore, it will exhibit the properties of the other metals and only appear to be weakly magnetic. So, if the magnet sticks to the jewelry that was sold as a real silver piece, you will know that it isn’t actually made of real silver but a silver-plated piece or a piece made of fake silver.
Keep in mind that objects that are strongly attracted to magnets often have ferromagnetic cores, and in the case of the jewelry, it would mean that the ‘silver’ piece that now appears strongly magnetic does not have a silver core.
3.The Odor Test
The other test you could run to determine the authenticity of silver is the odor test. Why smell sterling silver jewelry? Sterling silver is odorless.
If the piece of jewelry in question has a noticeable odor, say, a sulfur-like or a rather distinct metallic fragrance, it means that the jewelry isn’t made of authentic sterling silver.
It may be silver-plated nit not made of sterling silver entirely. That said, this test is only recommended and ideal for you if you believe that you have a strong sense of smell.
4.The Flake Test
You could test a questionable piece of jewelry to determine if it’s actually made of sterling silver or not by running the flake test.
This test helps tell you when you have a real sterling silver jewelry piece or a silver-plated piece.
To run this test, try scratching the piece in question using your fingernail or any other soft material like a fine file. If there is flaking that reveals a base with a different kind of metal underneath, it means that you are looking at a silver-plated piece rather than a piece of actual sterling silver.
You could also test the flakes that come out by dropping them in an acid. If the piece is made of pure silver, the acid won’t change color, but there will be color changes if it’s plated or just not made of pure silver.
5.The Polish Test
This is the other test you could run to determine the authenticity of real silver.
This test often works because silver is not inert, and it gets naturally oxidized and tarnished when it’s exposed for some time. This is also the reason why pure silver pieces should be polished regularly.
So, after you’ve checked the piece of jewelry for stamps and any other markings, and even after doing the magnet test, you’d have to run the polish test.
For this test, get a piece of soft white cloth, then rub it over the piece of jewelry as you would when polishing the jewelry.
If it gets tarnished and there is some black residue on the cloth, then it’s made of sterling silver.
But if there is no residue left on the piece of cloth, it means that it’s made of silver/ sterling silver. The absence of oxidation or rust is indicative of the material being made out of other metals and not silver.
6.The Ice Test
This is the other effective test for silver or sterling silver.
To test the jewelry, you need to first obtain an ice cube. Place the ice cube on the silver item in question.
Since silver has the highest level of thermal conductivity in comparison to all other alloys and metals, the silver or sterling silver piece will melt the entire ice cube only in minutes.
So, if that piece of jewelry melts the ice fast, it’s authentic, and the melting takes long, it could be silver plated.
There are different varieties of silver, including 92.5% sterling silver used in jewelry, Britannia Silver, which is 95.84% pure silver; and Mexican Silver, which is 95% pure silver and only 5% copper. But even with the variations, the tests above will help you determine the authenticity of the piece you are buying.