How to tell if sterling silver is authentic – Think Engraved


How to tell if sterling silver is authentic

Posted by David Hayes on

sterling silver symbol

Before you get too caught up in 925 silver value information, make sure what you are examining is truly 925 silver.

Not every piece of jewelry with a shiny, silver appearance is true sterling silver. Whether you’re investigating the pieces in your jewelry box to find out the worth of things you already own, or considering a new purchase and want to make sure you get what you pay for, it’s important to be able to distinguish genuine 925 silver from other metals.

Just because something looks like silver doesn’t mean it’s pure sterling silver. Something could be plated, or coated, with a silver or silver-like substance, giving it the appearance of sterling silver. However, over time, the silver plating will chip away and expose whatever metal is underneath it. This is usually copper, which will most likely tarnish once it’s been exposed to air.

Since it’s difficult to tell real sterling silver from something that is silver-plated by appearance alone, here are a few things you can do to test for authenticity: Look for the 925 stamp. Most sterling silver objects from reputable sources will feature a stamp that identifies the piece as “925,” “Ster,” or “Sterling Silver,” somewhere on the object. If this doesn’t appear anywhere on the object, it’s likely just silver-plated.

Rub the item with a soft, clean white cloth. After you thoroughly rub the object, check the cloth for black marks. If you don’t see any black marks on the cloth, it’s likely not sterling silver, as pure sterling silver oxidizes with air exposure.


Smell the piece. If it has a metallic smell, it’s probably not sterling silver. You can compare by first smelling the piece in question and then smelling a regular penny. Sterling silver doesn’t give off the metallic, coppery smell that a penny does, but silver-plated objects might.

Put the item next to a magnet. If the piece is attracted to the magnet, it’s not sterling silver, as true sterling silver has no reaction to magnets.

​Put a drop of nitric acid on it. This may be used as a last resort as not many people have nitric acid lying around the house, but it is an effective method for distinguishing sterling silver from lookalikes. Most honest salesmen will not be opposed to you putting a drop of nitric acid on the piece if they claim it’s real sterling silver. When the acid comes into contact with sterling silver, at most, the acid will take on a creamy color, but the silver will remain unharmed. If it’s fake, the acid will likely turn the piece green or cause its color to fade. Remember, always wear proper gear, including gloves and goggles, when handling nitric acid.

Like this story? Click here to read other stories.

0 comments

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published