You were itching to know how to tell if my sterling silver is real? Are you tired of note getting real sterling silver? We have you covered. We love it when people learn more about gems and precious metals, and being knowledgeable about general precious metals will allow you to buy with confidence.
Sterling Silver Overview
Silver is characterized as a soft, malleable metal that has high-level thermal and electrical properties. It can occur in nature as part of an alloy, a component of natural ore, or in rare instances, on its own as elemental silver. The majority of the world’s silver production is dependent on the unearthing of silver ores.
Once the elemental silver has been isolated chemically, the pure silver is alloyed with certain metals to produce sterling silver. Sterling silver is an alloy of silver and copper in most instances.
Some manufacturers also add germanium and other metals to cut down the rate of tarnishing, as sterling silver is prone to developing tarnish after it is worn.
This is mainly due to the interaction of silver with body oils, moisture, and other elements present in the environment. On its own, silver will stay the same. However, metals are reactive to most substances, which means that you have to take better care of your silver jewelry if you want them to remain lustrous and shiny even after many years of regular use.
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Telling Real Sterling Silver vs. Fake Silver
The following facts and guidelines will help you determine if the metal being offered to you is indeed genuine silver or fake silver.
Clarify type of silver
There are three kinds of silver products in the market, with marked differences: silver-plated items, 925 silver, and 999 silver. Among these three, only 925 silver and 999 silver have high quantities of silver in them.
- 925 silver is an alloy comprised of 92.5% silver, with the remaining percentage dedicated to another metal.
- 999 silver or fine silver is almost pure and is more delicate and fragile because elemental silver is soft and malleable, nearly as malleable as gold.
- Silver-plated items are made of other metals but have a thin sheath of genuine silver on top.
Understand how much actual silver is present in the product
To understand how much actual silver is present in the product or jewelry you are buying, check the stamp on it. 925 silver is sterling silver, while 999 silver is fine silver.
If the product bears no stamp but is being sold as “sterling silver” or worse, “fine silver” be careful as the seller may not be upfront about its quality. Silver-plated jewelry cannot be sterling silver because these are only electroplated so that the outcome would look like silver.
Ask for evidence to proof quality
The majority of sterling silver jewelry will bear the 925 stamps. If the seller insists that he is indeed selling 925 silver, ask for proof from the manufacturer. If no evidence or documentation can be provided, then it might not be the genuine sterling silver.
The 925 jewelry stamp is an international standard or quality mark, meaning to say that wherever sterling silver jewelry is produced, the manufacturers apply the mark as a guarantee that they are offering the real thing, so there is no reason for sterling silver jewelry not to have the international mark of quality at all.
In the United States, the mark may have a variation – S925, but the meaning remains the same. In the United Kingdom, some manufacturers stamp a lion’s head instead of the numerical mark.
And still, in Europe, you may see some sterling silver pieces bearing the mark of Minerva instead of 925. In France, if you know the shape of a vase stamped on silver, you are holding fine silver, which is 99.9% silver.
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Hold the piece of jewelry to your ear. This test is more straightforward if you have a hoop earring or a ring. Get a small coin and tap the silver. Silver creates a high-pitched ringing when struck lightly with another metal. The ringing should last for about two seconds, on average.
If you hear the natural ringing as the silver conducts the sound energy, well and good. If you hear a dull thump and nothing else, you may be holding a fake.
Elemental silver does not off-gas much and is virtually odorless. Hold the silver jewelry to your nose and take a good sniff. If you don’t smell anything, you have at least a 925 in your possession. What if you feel anything else? What if you smell something metallic?
If you smell something metallic in the silver, it probably contains a more significant amount of copper. Too much copper in the mix does not make a piece of jewelry a 925, because the silver has to be 92.5% of the alloy. Other kinds of metal generate odors quickly, which should make this test easy to differentiate sterling silver from multiple jewelry specimens.
Heading over to the durability test, we all know that elemental silver can be bent or deformed easily.
While alloying with copper strengthens the core of the metal, that doesn’t mean that sterling silver will be impervious to physical tension. Grab the piece of jewelry that you want to test and apply pressure with both hands. Does the metal yield easily with added stress?
If it does, then the likelihood that it is the real thing is high. If the metal bends almost immediately, you may even have fine silver on your hands. However, if the metal is resistant and hard, then there might be more copper in it than silver, and again, this disqualifies the item from being a 925 silver sample.
Silver is highly reactive to environmental oxygen, and that makes sterling silver or fine silver prone to tarnishing. Grab a clean white cloth and rub the outside and inside of the jewelry that you want to test. Check the fabric after rubbing. Does it have some black markings? If it does, you are likely holding the real things. If not, then the metal is barely interacting with moisture and oxygen, and it might be a fake, or it might not be 925 silver because it has too much copper content.
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