Sterling silver is an alloy of silver. An alloy, by definition, is a metal made by melting and mixing two or more metals or a metal and another material together (2016 Merriam-Webster, Inc.). Sterling silver is composed of 92.5% by weight of silver, and 7.5% of other metals, most commonly copper. Centuries of experiments proved copper to be the most compatible metal to mix with silver because it improves the hardness, durability, resilience, and stability of the product. The color is maintained and has little effect to the value of the precious metal. It is astoundingly different from silver-plated products, where a layer of silver is coated over another metal or alloy so it can be easily scraped off and tarnished.
Genuine Sterling Silver comes at a hefty price and can be considered an investment because its value increases through the passage of time. If, then, you are contemplating on buying sterling silver products, ensuring that you get your money’s worth is imperative. There are many products sold all over the world that claim that it is made of sterling silver, they pass a counterfeit good as the real thing, but when tested, proves otherwise. As a prospective buyer, here are some ways in which you can check the authenticity of your future asset.
Silver, gold, and platinum are non-ferrous materials, therefore, they are non-magnetic. An ordinary fridge magnet may not be enough, though, to elicit any response from metals mixed with silver; a heavy-duty magnet, purchased from the nearest hardware, is more advisable to be used. Once you have your magnet, place the product near it, if it sticks or even moves as you hover the magnet over it, it is not sterling silver.
925 silver oxidizes when exposed to air leading to chemical changes in its wake. Using a soft white cloth, rub a small part of the jewelry, if the surface produces a black mark it would mean that the product is sterling silver. On the other hand, the color change would be absent in fake merchandise.
Using acid to test the authenticity of the product needs to be done safely, should there be a need to do this, it is best to apply extreme caution. In theory, a drop of nitric acid on a silver-plated product, or other low-quality alternatives for real sterling silver, would alter its color, producing a greenish tinge. While genuine sterling silver, when subjected to this kind of test will turn its color into cream.
Silver has the highest thermal conductivity. Place ice directly on top of the silver product and see if the ice melts immediately like it is placed on a hot surface and not just on a room-temperature surface. This test works well with solid silver bars and coins.
Real sterling silver products would not exude any smell. If the goods you believe to be sterling silver produces any odor it may mean that there is a higher concentration for the alloy it is mixed with.
The value of an authentic sterling silver product can be costly. It greatly relies upon the labor involved in crafting it, the intricacy of its design, and the skill of the craftsman. Fake commodities are being sold at a “too good to be true” amount so it is best to check the market first before taking into consideration buying a product for an unbelievably low price.
Sterling silver products have markings to identify their make and to say that it is made up of 92.5% of silver. Commonly written as “.925”, “925”, “S925”, or “STER”, these markings are found on the products. In some cases where a marking is not present, an official stamp from the manufacturer will prove that it is highly likely to be genuine.
Hallmark and stamps are used to name the source of origin and the purity of the metal. Countries involved in manufacturing commercially-made sterling products are usually found with one. These hallmarks are also known as “Assayer’s marks” which can be in the form of animals or other figures that may represent the country of origin. Silver made in Ireland, for instance, bear the name “Hibernia”, which is the Latin name of their country. By understanding these traditions in crafting sterling silver products, you are more likely to be able to gauge the authenticity of the product.
It does take an expert to determine, for sure, whether an item is genuine sterling silver or not. Taking your products to a local jeweler or pawn shop would help.
When you are still in doubt about taking the bull by its horns and doing tests on your own, the best tip would be to choose a reputable store that has an established and excellent reputation when considering purchasing genuine sterling silver products. Of course, these stores, themselves, would do everything to the best of their ability to sell only genuine ones.
Whether or not you are buying a piece of sterling silver jewelry, dinnerware, or any other sterling silver product, having an idea as to how you can distinguish a real one from a counterfeit is important. It is about getting your money’s worth and being able to get the investment you are hoping for.