How To Spot a Fake: Sterling Silver

Wendy Stokesby:

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Real sterling silver is malleable and will not cause any kind of reaction on your skin. Because sterling silver is expensive, it’s important to ensure that you’re investing in authentic 925 Italy Silver, otherwise, you’ll be wasting your money. Sterling silver doesn’t have to be 100% pure silver; in fact, that might not be good at all. 100% pure silver is extremely soft and requires having harder base metals like copper mixed into it to give it a little bit of body and stiffness. This allows jewelry designers to shape and mold the silver into any design they like. Real sterling silver will have markings on it that say “925” or “925 Italy” or “925 Italy Silver”. These markings will indicate that the silver you are purchasing is real, as it is illegal for any jeweler to sell jewelry with these markings if they’re not made from 92.5% silver. Always buy your sterling silver jewelry from trusted or accredited jewelers.

How To Tell Real Sterling Silver from Fake Ones

Real sterling silver jewelry is expensive, there’s no way two ways about it. However, it’s a great investment to make, especially if you take care of it for future generations to appreciate. This is why you must make sure that the sterling silver jewelry you buy is authentic and not cut with more than the 7.5% base metals that make it 925 silver.

Fake sterling silver has become a real problem over the past few years. From necklaces and earrings to rings and piercings, fake silver is proliferating in the jewelry industry. What’s worse, unscrupulous dealers will often sell these fake silver jewelry for prices far more than actual silver, all in an attempt to fool the public. Often, fake sterling silver jewelry is comprised of a piece of jewelry made from base metal and then simply plated with impure silver (less than 92.5%) and then polished to imitate real silver’s shine. Over time, this plating will deteriorate and reveal the ugly truth, and ruin what could be a well put-together outfit.

Identifying real 925 silver is an important skill to learn if you’re thinking about investing in this amazing piece of jewelry. Not only will this help you get the best value for your money, but it will also save you from allergic reactions or bad odors stemming from base metal jewelry. Luckily, there are a few tests that you can do at home to check whether or not the jewelry you bought is made of real sterling silver.

Use a Soft White Cloth

Using a soft, white cloth, rub the surface of the piece of jewelry. If the cloth comes back with black marks, then it’s most likely real sterling silver. The surface of real sterling silver can oxidize quickly, leaving black marks and blemishes. It’s one of the reasons why they need to either be polished regularly or worn regularly and kept in a box with minimal air and light when not in use.

Use Nitric Acid

Nitric acid has long been used to test whether or not a piece of jewelry is real. This is because noble metals like silver, gold, or platinum do not react to acids. Meanwhile, base metals like copper or aluminum are often affected heavily by the corrosive nature of acid. When nitric acid is used on jewelry made of base metals, they will start to change color, from their faux-shine into a sickly green or red. Most reputable jewelers will have no problem with performing this test in-store before your purchase. Be suspicious of any jeweler who refuses a nitric acid request from customers. You can also attempt this test at home: make a small scratch on the surface of the jewelry, somewhere inconspicuous. Then, add a drop or two of nitric acid (wear safety gloves and glasses for this!) on the scratch and wait a couple of minutes. If the spot turns a creamy kind of white, then it’s real sterling silver. If it turns green, then you need to demand your money back.

Use an Ice Cube

This is one of the best home tests to do for sterling silver jewelry with flat surfaces. Silver has a very high thermal conductivity as compared to other base and noble metals. Place an ice cube on the silver’s surface. If the ice cube starts melting immediately, then you can be sure that the jewelry is made from silver.

Use a Magnet

Unlike most metals, silver isn’t magnetic. Using a powerful magnet, like ones made from neodymium (a rare-earth material), pass it over your sterling silver jewelry and see if it will stick. If it slides off, that means it’s real sterling. If it sticks, then you can be sure that it’s fake.

Source: Pandora Silver Jewellery

Check the Label

Finally, the simplest test: read the inscription. As mentioned repeatedly, real sterling silver will have markings hidden somewhere on it. These markings will have variations of the mark “925”, such as “925 Silver” or “925 Italy Silver” or “925 USA” and so on. It is illegal for anyone to sell any metal jewelry with these markings if they’re not made from sterling silver. If you look at your jewelry and see the mark “IS”, that means International Silver. This means that the product isn’t made from silver, but rather, just coated in silver.

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