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How-To: Tell If Silver Is Real

Silver is one of the prettiest metals out there - especially in the jewelry making industry. However, with everything in the world as it is today, how can you tell if it is real? Today we are going to go through a few little tests you can do to tell if the silver you have is real.

The number one thing to keep in mind is that TARNISHING IS NOT A SIGN THAT YOUR SILVER IS NOT REAL. Although sterling silver is more likely to tarnish less quickly than silver of lower purity, all sterling silver will tarnish over time.

Technically, the only way you can tell if an item is real silver is by going through a few simple tests, the most common being the acid test. Usually, a small chuck or shaving is taken off the jewelry and placed into the acid solution. If the acid changes color, then it means the piece’s purity is below 92.5% - meaning it is not sterling silver or pure silver. Now this test can be hard to do at home, so there are jewelers who can perform the acid test for you; usually for a small charge/fee. 

Now, the acid test only works if you have already purchased the jewelry and want to test it out. But, what if you need to tell something is real silver by just looking at it? Well, there are a few things you can try that will tell you if an item is definitely not real. You will be putting your senses to good use during these tests. 

  • Look for wear spots that indicate that the silver plate has worn off from the base metal. If you spot an inner layer of a different metal, the item is likely plated, and not real silver. 
  • Smell the jewelry. Sounds weird, but it works. Silver plated items sometimes have a copper smell, while sterling silver tends to smell a little sweeter.
  • Feel the jewelry with your hands. Rub your thumb across the surface. The sterling silver should feel more smooth, while fake silver will feel a little more rough. Mind you this test takes practice. 

The next test you could try is the magnet test. If you hold a magnet to real silver, it should not attract. However, it is important to take note that many metals used for jewelry like copper also do not attract magnets - so this test may not be as efficient, but it is still a test you could try out. 

Lastly, you can use markings/stamps or advertising of the jewelry. This is one of the best ways, besides the acid test, to tell if a piece is sterling silver or not. If the sterling silver is real, it will be marked with or advertised as“sterling silver”/ “sterling”/ “925” “ss”/ “S925”/”0.925”/ “92.5” or it is not sterling silver. If the item is not sterling silver the jewelry will most likely be stamped with things like. “EP” / “EPNS” / “Silver on Copper” / “Layered in Precious Silver” / “Silver Plated”. 

It can be easy to be misled when it comes to buying true sterling silver jewelry. Overall, it is important to do your research on different jewelers and do not be afraid to reach out to commendable jewelers, like us, for assistance. You may end up spending more than you originally planned, but at least you can assure what you are purchasing is legit.

Kate Lowery

Kate Lowery

Kate Lowery is a writer for PaulaMax Jewelry. She has written a lot of content over the years on various topics, but has found a passion for jewelry along the way. When she is not writing, you can find Kate riding her horse or swimming among the waves of each coast of the U.S.

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