Stainless steel is an incredibly versatile material used in everything from cookware to furniture – and in this case, even jewelry! Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to verify whether or not the jewelry that you receive really is made of stainless steel.
Fortunately for you, there are a few ways to test your jewelry for authenticity. Today, we’re going to teach you how to find out if your stainless steel piece really is what it seems!
All About Stainless Steel
If you want to be able to recognize the signs that your jewelry is, in fact, made of stainless steel, you need to know the properties of the material!
The first thing you should know is that stainless steel is an alloy made up mostly of steel, iron, chromium, and carbon. Other metals included in the mix are:
Because of this, real stainless steel has a few different properties. It is:
- Resistant to corrosion, abrasion, and erosion
The authenticity tests that you will be doing should reflect the presence of these properties.
Stainless Steel Authenticity Tests
Without further ado, let’s get into what you should do if you want to test the authenticity of your stainless steel jewelry.
- Check for Codes
Oftentimes, the easiest way to tell if your stainless steel jewelry is real is to look for the code. Jewelry is often marked with a code depending on the type of metal it is, and stainless steel is no exception.
The code you’ll find on a stainless steel piece will usually be made up of 4 digits, as dictated by the ASTM (Association for Testing Materials) International system. The directory for these codes can be found in full when you click on this link.
Now, the absence of a code doesn’t always mean that your jewelry isn’t made of stainless steel. For instance, if you get your piece from an artisan, you won’t likely find a code. That’s okay! There are other ways to test for authenticity.
- Magnet Test
One of the properties of stainless steel is that it’s magnetic. This is not always the case, but a good portion of the materials you buy made of this material will be magnetic. If you don’t see a code on your jewelry indicating that your piece is authentic, you can try the magnet test.
As mentioned before, not all stainless steel is magnetic. It has a lot to do with the specific mix of metals that your alloy is made up of. The addition of chromium and carbon is what makes stainless steel magnetic. If there are lower concentrations of these materials and higher of nickel and aluminum, you won’t get that same magnetic pull.
In fact, stainless steel jewelry is often made with higher concentrations of nickel than other products, so your jewelry can still be authentic and not stick or only partially stick.
To test, simply hold a magnet to your jewelry and see if it sticks. If it does, then it’s likely your piece is made of stainless steel. If it partially sticks, it could still be authentic. You need to supplement your findings with further testing to be sure, though.
There are still more tests that you can conduct to determine the authenticity of your stainless steel jewelry, though! If the first two haven’t worked, simply keep trying with other methods.
- Rust Inspection
Real stainless steel is resistant to rust. You typically will not notice any rust forming on your jewelry if it’s authentic. If you find that yours is a little rusty, the ring is contaminated. It could just be oxidized iron on the surface, though, so you should do a little further testing.
To test for authentic stainless steel, try and wipe the surface rust off with equal parts nitric and hydrofluoric acid. If there is still rust present afterward, your jewelry likely isn’t actually made of stainless steel like you were told. Real stainless steel will present with no rust after the initial wipe is done.
- Acid Test
One of the more definite ways to test your jewelry for authenticity is the acid test. Before we dive into how to do these tests, please make sure you have safety goggles, gloves, and safety glass on hand. These tests can be dangerous if done improperly or if an accident occurs; you should be prepared ahead of time to keep safe.
Also, keep in mind that this test may very well damage a small part of your piece. If you can’t bring yourself to do so, then this test isn’t right for you.
Now that you’ve got your safety supplies, you can perform the acid test.
- Choose a small piece of your jewelry that you wouldn’t mind causing minimal damage to.
- Fill a dropper with muriatic acid.
- Drop a small amount of the acid onto the surface of your jewelry.
- Let the acid sit for around 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, carefully wipe the acid off of your jewelry.
If your jewelry comes away from this test slightly discolored in the spot that you tested, then your piece is authentic. This can be a bummer because who wants their jewelry to get damaged? However, it certainly lets you know whether or not you’ve been lied to!
If you are testing a stainless steel ring, we suggest testing the inner band so that the damage doesn’t show. (This may not be ideal for anyone who is sporting a ring with an engraving on the inner band, though.)
After conducting this test, be sure to thoroughly clean your jewelry and all the supplies that you used.
- Clean Test
If you’re still left unsure of the authenticity of your stainless steel jewelry piece, you can always look for other clues by cleaning it. It’s simple, quick, and easy! After cleaning your jewelry, you should notice that the surface is shiny and mirrorlike. If any tarnish that has built up was impossible to remove or the jewelry piece is still dull, you may not be dealing with stainless steel after all.
There you have it! Use any of these methods to test if your jewelry is real stainless steel or not. Do so safely and cautiously, as you could cause damage to the piece and to yourself if you’re not careful.