When you have items that are silver, you will want to know if it is real or sterling silver. Sterling silver is an alloy made of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. These items are more valuable and considered to be a higher quality than silver-plated metals. You might be able to find a mark that says “Sterling” or “S925” or some form of this mark. If your piece has a quality mark such as these, it is easier to know that it is silver. If there isn’t a mark, you will need to find another way to determine if your silver is sterling.
Examine the Item Thoroughly
The first thing that you can do is thoroughly examine the item to determine whether or not it is sterling silver. Start by looking for a mark that confirms that it is sterling. It might say Sterling or have a foreign hallmark, or it could have a 925 stamp. The 925 stamp stands for the fact that sterling is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals. Examine your item and look for a stamp or a hallmark that might tell you if it is sterling silver.
You can also tap the silver and listen to the sound. If it is sterling, you will hear a tone that sounds like a bell. This tone will last a second or two. You can use a metal coin or your finger to tap the silver, and if you hear this high pitch ring, it is silver.
In addition, you can smell the piece. Sterling silver does not actually produce a smell. It may have a sweet smell, but if you notice a strong smell, it is probably not sterling because it contains too much metal to be sterling.
Finally, check to see if the piece bends or has any give to it. Silver is a soft metal that can bend. If you find that the piece bends easily, it is likely sterling or pure silver.
Perform Tests on the Item
Another way to find out if your silver is sterling is to run actual tests on it. There are several tests you can perform. One test is the oxidation test. When you expose silver to the air, it oxidizes and over time it takes on a black tint. You can test it with a white cloth. Rub it over the item, and then you can look at the cloth. If you see black marks, you can tell that the piece is pure or sterling silver.
You can also test the piece to see if it is magnetic. Silver is nonferrous, and it is not magnetic. Take a strong magnet and move it along the item. If it sticks to the item, it is not sterling silver.
Finally, you can use ice to test the silver. Silver has incredibly high thermal conductivity, and it conducts heat fast. Because of this, you can lay the item on a flat surface and put an ice cube on top. Then, place another ice cube on a table, and see which melts faster. If the piece is sterling silver, the ice cube should melt faster.
You can also fill a bowl with ice cubes and place your silver item inside along with a non-silver item that is similar in size. The sterling silver item should become cold more quickly than the non-silver item.
Take the Item to a Professional
Professionals are experienced and know how to tell whether items are sterling silver or not. In fact, the best professionals will be certified by the American Society of Appraisers. Jewelers are also trained by the Gemologist Institute of America, and they can assess your pieces. You can ask these professionals to conduct their own tests, and they will be able to tell you if your item is sterling silver.
It is important to know whether your items are sterling silver because they are more valuable and have different properties if they are. You can use any of the above methods to find out.