If you are trying to figure out if the silver (sterling silver) jewelry in your possession is authentic or not, you’d have to run a number of tests that will tell you more about the value of the sterling silver and its authenticity.
One of these tests involves testing its magnetic properties. In this article, we look at real silver and whether it is magnetic or not.
But first, some basics of silver.
Silver making process
Silver is a soft precious metal that makes a great variety of good quality jewelry, silverware, and décor pieces, among others. In most cases, the silver is extracted through a process known as cyanide or the heap leach process that is now widely accepted in the manufacture of low-grade ores of silver.
For this process, the silver particles have to be very small, and they must react with the cyanide solutions; and also, the ore must have a very small amount of minerals/ contaminants that would interfere in the cyanidation process.
The silver ore is then crushed into tiny pieces of about 1-1.5inches in diameter, a process that makes the material a lot more porous. The porous material is then mixed with lime for the oxidation of the precious metal. In other words, this is where the silver ore is prepared.
After the crushed ore is added to the cyanide solution, then the curing of the ore starts. The addition to the cyanide solution can be done using processes like ponding, injection, or even seepage from the capillaries.
The silver is then recovered.
Silver recovery can be made in different ways, but the most common silver recovery process is known as the Merrill-Crowe precipitation. This recovery process involves the use of fine zinc dust that will precipitate the silver from the solution. Once it is precipitated, the silver is filtered off, melted, and turned into bullion bars.
The other silver recovery methods include carbon absorption – solutions are pumped through the towers with the activated carbon, then a solution of sodium sulfide is added, forming a silver precipitate.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that silver is very rarely found alone, but in ores, most of which contain gold, lead, and copper, among other metals that are commercially valuable. As a result, silver often comes into existence as a byproduct of these other metals being processed.
For recovery of the silver from the zinc ores, a process known as the Parkes process is used. In this process, the zinc ore is heated until it melts before the mixture is then allowed to cool. A thin zinc crust and silver will form on the surface. The crust will have to be removed before the residual metal is distilled for the removal of the zinc from the silver. And to extract silver from the copper ores, electrolytic refining is applied.
The silver properties
Silver, just like gold, is a precious metal that crystallizes in a cubic system that is face-centered.
It has a high melting point of 962 degrees Celsius, and silver has a density of 10.49g/cm3, a feature that makes it one of the lightest precious metals.
That said, silver is also the least noble of all the precious metals, especially because it reacts quite readily with most of the common reagents like sulfuric and nitric acids – this is the reason why metallic silver can be easily dissolved from the different gold alloys containing a maximum of 30% gold when the alloys are boiled with 30% the strength of nitric acid.
This takes place through a process known as parting.
- So, how reactive is silver? Well, silver boasts a relatively high level of resistance against oxidation in the atmosphere, hence its use in making jewelry.
- It does, however, boast the highest known level of thermal and electrical conductivity, which is why it is used in electrical conductors.
- Pure silver is quite soft and malleable.
Is real silver magnetic? Or is real sterling silver magnetic? Why?
Well, no. Pure silver is not magnetic, and if you hold a magnet to silver, there should be no attraction.
That said, silver has been proven to have very weak magnetic properties that classify it as a diamagnetic material, which, unlike the ferromagnetic material that is attracted by magnets, is actually repelled by the magnets, albeit to a very slight extent.
With this in mind, only the highly sensitive and fine-tuned materials would make it possible for you to notice silver’s magnetism. Therefore, as long as you are dealing with silver in your everyday life, you can assume that silver is actually not magnetic.
How about sterling silver?
Well, most of the silver-plated materials are magnetic. But for the plated pieces, the magnetism of the item is tied to the type and the characteristics of the core material (s).
If the core metal is a nickel alloy or nickel, that plated silver piece will be highly magnetic.
Note that sterling silver is a silver alloy made of 92.5% pure silver, and the rest of it (7.5%) is made of copper, and the copper is what hardens the silver.
Both these metals are, however, non-magnetic, which means that if you have a piece of jewelry made of high-quality sterling silver, you should expect any magnetism from it.
Oftentimes, genuine sterling silver bears the .925 hallmark sign, which is what you need to look out for in the search for the best sterling silver jewelry options.
Is rhodium-plated sterling silver magnetic? Why?
Rhodium plating is common with white gold jewelry, as well as the ones made of copper and sterling silver.
The plating with rhodium creates a barrier that protects the base metal.
During the plating process, a thin layer of nickel will be deposited on the sterling silver base before the application of the rhodium, as a way of preventing the contamination of the rhodium bath with the copper and silver in sterling silver – this is because these two metals might dissolve in sulfuric acid which is often present in the rhodium bath.
So, does this make the rhodium-plated sterling silver magnetic?
Well, the layer of nickel that is an important part of the plating process is what would affect the plated metal’s magnetism because nickel is ferromagnetic.
The magnetism is quite weak, though, because the percentage of nickel in the rhodium-plated piece is too low. So, yes, a rhodium-plated sterling silver piece would have some weak magnetic properties.
Why is some silver jewelry magnetic?
There are many reasons why this would be the case, but the main reasons for the magnetism of some sterling silver jewelry are as follows:
- The jewelry is actually made of fake sterling silver, and it could be made of something like stainless steel and not sterling silver, as advertised.
- The jewelry is silver-plated and not made of real/ pure silver. Keep in mind that real silver is too soft and malleable to be used in jewelry making, which would make any jewelry labeled as ‘pure silver’ to be fake, especially if the price is too low.
- The sterling silver could contain a higher proportion of a ferromagnetic metal like nickel rather than copper, which would make it magnetic.
Real silver is not magnetic, and if it has some magnetic properties, it should repel magnets and not attract the magnets. If it’s magnetic, it could be a silver-plated piece, not real silver.
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.