Silver is one of the most popular metals in the world. It’s used in making different items—such as jewelry, tableware, solar panels, water filtration systems, and coins. And because of its popularity, some manufacturers sell fake silver—and nobody wants that. It can also be harmful to people with sensitive skin or allergies to it.
So, how do you know if silver is real or fake? In this post we’ll show you how to tell if a necklace is real silver or not.
Silver Necklace: Authentic or Not?
Like gold, copper, and mercury, silver is one of the noble metals resistant to corrosion and oxidation. This means that it won’t rust and tarnish over time as other metals would, and that’s why silver is perfect for making all types of jewelry.
What is real silver and sterling silver?
Real silver has 99% silver, and the remaining 1% is other metals. Meanwhile, sterling silver is 92.5% silver, with the other content composed of other metals. Both are authentic and don’t come cheap, but real silver is soft and malleable, which is why jewelers prefer to make intricate designs with sterling silver.
Nowadays, some jewelers sell fake silver jewelry that they pass off as real. We know that silver is valuable, which is why you need to know whether that piece of jewelry you’ve got your eyes on is authentic.
10 DIY Silver Tests Recommended by Experts
Some unprofessional jewelers label fake silver jewelry as authentic. Here are some of the DIY tests that you can perform to check if yours is real:
1. The Easiest Test: It Gives you Green Skin
According to myth, if a piece of jewelry turns your skin green, then it’s fake or low in quality. But that’s not true, because the reason behind green skin is the metal composition. Acids cause sterling silver to oxidize, and that chemical change is what causes tarnishing and leaves a green or dark stain on the skin.
2. Hallmark Test: Check for Authentication Imprints
The hallmark test is another way of checking the authenticity of silver. Whenever you buy sterling silver jewelry, you’ll see a hallmark imprinted on it (you might need a magnifying glass). The following are the different hallmarks that you’ll find in sterling silver jewelry:
- “925” or “925/1000” - Sterling Silver
- “999” - Fine Silver
- “958” - Britannia Silver
3.The Magnet Test
Silver isn’t magnetic. If you place a strong neodymium magnet on a silver bar or coin at a 45-degree angle, then it shouldn’t stick and should slide very slowly. If the silver slides quickly or holds right away, then it’s not silver. Remember, however, that just because the magnet doesn’t stick doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s silver.
4. Silver vs. Ice Test
Another easy test in determining the authenticity of silver is the ice test. Silver is known to have the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. So, if you place a piece of ice on a silver coin or bar, then it will melt more quickly than putting the ice to anything else at room temperature.
5. Chemical Test: Bleach Check
This is by far the easiest way to determine if silver is real. Try putting a drop of bleach on a silver item, and if it turns black, then it’s silver.
6. The Acid Test
You can buy either a testing acid for silver or use a drop of nitric acid. Just make sure you have gloves and eye protection. To perform this test, put a drop of acid on the silver item. If the acid changes color, then it’s not real silver. Some people use vinegar to do the acid test, but it won’t produce an accurate result. This test isn’t recommended for coins as it will damage the coin, which then loses value.
7. Chemical Analysis Test
Jewelers frequently use the chemical analysis test. They usually do this by applying a swab of Schwerter’s Solution or a mix of nitric acid and potassium dichromate directly to the item or one a fine sample of it (taken from filing or drilling). Once it’s applied to the testing paper, the solution will turn deep red if it’s real silver.
8. Store’s Reputability: Reviews, Listings & Authenticity Certification
Another way to determine if silver is authentic is by looking at a store’s reputation. Normally, if a store is established, then it will have good reviews and ratings. Also, when you purchase from them, it should come with a certificate of authenticity. This will certify that its products are 100% real.
9. Detailed Inspection: See & Feel your Silver
People with experience will know if a piece of silver is fake or real. Look at the craftsmanship of the piece. Is it shiny? Smooth? Does it look like care was put into making it? If so, then it’s probably real (as long as it has the authentication stamp on it as well).
10. The Odor Test: Is it a Stinky Jewelry?
Sterling silver doesn’t smell, so if you smell any metallic fragrance, then it’s fake. However, it could be silver-plated, but this only indicates that it's not made of pure sterling silver.
Variants of Silver
Silver comes in variants, with some more common than others. Included below are their silver content percentages and where they are usually used:
Mexico is one of the leading producers of silver in the world, and you’ll find the finest silver jewelry in Taxco, Mexico. Today, people from around the globe visit this city to purchase their silver jewelry.
Standard Mexican silver is 92.5% pure, though its purity ranges from 92.5% to 99.9%. It’s used for making jewelry, currency, and decorative items. A simple indication of Mexican silver is an eagle stamped to it, next to a number designating where it originated from.
Coin silver is used as a common alloy in the U.S. It’s made up of 90% silver and 10% copper. You may think that coin silver is used to make coins, but it’s actually used for producing refined scrap coins. Nowadays, coins in America don’t contain silver and are made of different base metals. Some are considered collectibles and have higher value—especially if they come with a certificate of authenticity and have a quality stamp of .900.
Britannia silver is made with 95.8% silver. It’s used in making silverware, such as tea sets and utensils. These days, you'll likely find Britannia silverware in antique shops.
Argentium silver is the most durable. It uses pure silver and has two grades: .932 and .960. It’s also scratch- and dent-resistant, making it the best silver to use for the finest jewelry.
This is the closest to the pure element, as it contains 99.9% silver. It’s soft and malleable, and it easily gets scratches and dents. It may not be best for rings and bracelets, but fine silver is best for necklaces and earrings.
Nickel silver, also known as Alpaca silver or German silver, doesn’t contain any silver as it only describes the color. It’s usually used in making costume jewelry.
Benefits of owning real sterling silver:
- Durability: When compared to fake silver, real sterling silver could last a lifetime if maintained properly. And because it’s a natural precious metal, its value increases over time.
- Timeless and versatile: When it comes to fashion, silver is a popular choice. With its classy look, silver jewelry can be perfect for any occasion.
- Hypoallergenic: If you have sensitive skin, then getting real sterling silver is best since other metals may cause irritation.
Now that you know the variants of silver and how to check for authenticity, you must know everything about the store you’re going to purchase it from.
Here at Lexie Jordan, our personalized and handcrafted collections are made for each woman, made with only the finest materials and craftsmanship. We make sure that our jewelry is authentic and made with love by our designer, Cheryl Roberts, who personally selects and sources our materials.