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How to Tell if Sterling Silver is Fake Or Real

stacked sterling silver rings

 

If you’re in the market for jewelry, you’re likely looking at different options. One option may be silver.

It is a common choice as it is one of the more beautiful metals you can find. But as you shop and look around, you’ll start to notice that there are different types of silver.

You’ve likely encountered pieces claiming they are pure silver, while others claim they are sterling silver. What’s the difference between the two?

Is one more valuable than the other? You may also question whether sterling silver is real at all.

The first thing you should really do is bring your product into a jewelry store. The experts at Elite Jewelry and Loan can test the metal. Not all sterling silver is the same and can have different reactions to tests.

But there are also fun ways for you to test your jewelry at home.

 

Sterling Silver vs Silver

 

The main difference between these two types of silver is their composition. Pure silver is 99.9% silver. The other 0.1% is typically copper or nickel.

This actually makes pure silver incredibly soft. It is difficult to work with because it cannot hold a shape. Because of this, jewelers began mixing silver with other trace elements to make it stronger.

Copper and nickel are the most common metals used. Sterling silver is a mix of silver and copper (or nickel). Silver itself makes up 92.5% of sterling silver. It is still quite a valuable precious metal.

This earned it the nickname of 925 Sterling Silver. Combining metals makes the metal much easier to make jewelry with. It’s harder and can be shaped into just about anything.

 

sterling silver chain

 

If you see an intricate piece of jewelry, it is likely made of sterling silver. Anything wrapped or braided, or anything with intricate details are typically sterling silver. You’ll even see watches with sterling silver faces.

Rings are also common to find with this metal. It is fairly sturdy and doesn’t leave marks on your finger. (And if it does, then it isn’t real sterling!) It has a gorgeous shine when polished often.

 

Is Sterling Silver Real or Fake?

 

Sterling silver, in general, is the real deal. It may be a different type of silver, but that doesn’t change it’s authenticity in the jewelry industry.

However, there are those who try and pass off fake sterling silver as the real thing. There are many ways that you can tell sterling silver from fake materials. Some are easy to do from home, others require lab materials.

 

How Jewelers Test Sterling Silver

 

Most high-end jewelry stores won’t sell you a fake. Neither will a wholesale jewelry store like Elite Jewelry and Loan. Their jewelers are trained to spot a fake from the real deal. To do this, they use a few different methods.

 

 

The Nitric Acid Test

 

This is the most accurate and easily attainable way to test silver. Jewelers know the right way to apply this test without damaging the product. They also are trained to tell when this test succeeds or fails.

A drop of nitric acid on a fake silver product will turn a greenish hue. If the acid becomes a cloudy grey, then the piece is real.

 

Taking an X-Ray

 

This test does not risk damaging the piece. Because of this, it is a preferred method for testing not only sterling silver, but other precious metals as well. The x-ray can tell if a piece of jewelry contains the right amount of silver and other trace elements to be considered pure sterling silver.

 

How to Test Silver At Home

 

When using the following methods, keep in mind that they can’t guarantee accuracy. This is more of a stepping stone and something fun for you to try. Think of it as a science experiment. Again, the best way to determine authenticity is by taking your piece to a jewelry seller.

 

Sterling Silver Marks and Numbers

 

The easiest way to tell if sterling silver is real is by finding the imprint on your piece. Rings, necklaces, and bracelets made of sterling silver will have a “925” stamp somewhere.

 

sterling silver number stamp

 

On rings, the stamp is usually on the inside band. Bracelets and necklaces will often have them on the clasp or on a seperate charm.

However, anyone can stamp a piece of jewelry regardless of authenticity. Going by the stamp alone isn’t the best way to figure out if your sterling silver is real or not. Use any of the other methods in combination to know for certain.

 

The Weight Test

 

Even easier, you can test your jewelry by its weight. Find a piece similar in size that you know for certain to be real sterling silver or silver.

Compare the weight of the two with your hands or a gram scale. If the two are similar in weight, then you likely have a real piece of sterling silver.
The Magnet Test

Is silver magnetic? One simple answer gives you an easy test to try. No, silver is not magnetic. Test your jewelry with a strong magnet.

Slowly move the magnet closer. If your piece snaps to the magnet, then it is not true sterling silver.

 

The Tarnish and Cloth Test

 

Obviously, if your ring starts to tarnish after a while, then it is definitely sterling silver. But you certainly don’t want to wait that long! Another way to test silver is to rub the necklace with a white polishing cloth. If the piece is silver, the cloth will turn black as it picks up the tarnish from the surface.

 

tarnished sterling silver cross bracelet

 

But how can you tell when it doesn’t tarnish? Likely, your ring will leave a green mark on your skin. This is because of the chemicals used to give the piece it’s silver look.

You should also be aware that some luxury sterling silver designers are starting to add rhodium to their rings. They put a thick layer on the surface to prevent such tarnishing from happening.

 

The Ice Test

 

Believe it or not, silver does melt ice! It has the highest thermal conductivity of any metal, meaning it transfers a lot of heat outward. We can’t feel it ourselves, but it’s there.

Put a piece of ice on a silver coin and leave it alone for a bit. If you come back and the ice is melted significantly, then the coin is silver. If the ice hasn’t melted more than it normally would at room temperature, then it is a fake.

 

Why is it Important to Learn

 

Sterling silver comes with a big investment on your part. You want the full value for your dollar. Nothing feels worse than spending your hard-earned money only to learn later that the item is a fake.

You can avoid this mishap by learning how to tell if sterling silver is fake. Some sellers try to pass off silver plated jewelry as sterling silver. Others use a different material entirely.

If you’re searching for sterling silver jewelry, check out Elite Jewelry and Loan’s expansive inventory. They also offer collateral loans on most jewelry.