5 Easy Tests That You Can Do At Home To Tell If Your Silver Jewellery Is Fake - With Pictures
This hub is part continuation of a series of articles related to jewelry testing. If you want to find out how to test gold jewelry, please check out my hub on the subject:
5 Easy Tests That You Can Do At Home To Tell If Your Gold Jewelry Is Fake - With Pictures
Silver is a rare metal that has caught the eye of humans for thousands of years. Its characteristic sheen, its unique aesthetic when tarnished and its cultural and religious association with richness and purity has been it a much sought after material for making currency, ceremonial objects and, of course, jewelry.
While not as rare or valuable as gold, silver still has some clear advantages over it:
- Since silver is cheaper than gold, its market is financially smaller and thus far more welcoming to entrepreneurial silver traders who aren't millionaires. Its possible to get into the silver market without having to shell out a fortune, while also enabling you to make such a fortune out of it;
- Additionally, silver is overall a more useful material than gold to industry in general, having over three thousand different industrial applications, that is, apart from jewelry. So while the silver market is financially smaller than gold's, its bigger in regards to its applications;
- The government has never worried about keeping tight control of silver, since gold is used as the common denominator for currency worldwide, meaning silver traders have way more freedom in their trade. Also, there are multiple historical examples from across the globe of governments seizing gold from its original owners, but no examples of the government seizing silver. As such, silver is, historically, a safer rare metal to own and trade with;
Silver isn't without its own problems, though, specially in regards to the subject of this hub. A whole lot of metals can look exactly like silver. Even something as mundane as nickel looks almost exactly like polished silver. Even a properly treated and polished piece of iron can acquire a silver like sheen.
As such, its even easier to make fake silver jewelry than it is to make fake gold jewelry, specially because, like I already mentioned in the above mentioned hub, most people who buy jewelry are usually the people with the least ability to tell real jewelry from fake ones.
Want to keep yourself from being conned? Then read on to learn some easy methods to tell real silver jewelry from fake ones.
Wait! First I need to explain a few things about silver jewelry!
Most Silver Jewelry Isn't Made From Pure Silver
You see, a common misconception about silver jewelry is that it is made out of pure silver. This is (usually) not the case.
Most of the silver jewelry commonly available pretty much everywhere is made of special silver alloys which fall under the umbrella term of Sterling Silver.
Sterling silver is an alloy made mostly of silver (obviously) and another metal. Most commonly, this other metal is copper, since it bonds well with silver and doesn't change its look, at least not in the quantities it is used. The reason for this is because silver is a rather soft metal on its own, and is only ever used in its pure form to make jewelry that has features including weaving and very intricate designs, like silver chains, collars and some non stiff bracelets.
Adding a bit of copper (or another metal) makes the material overall harder and more resistant to scratching and bending, making it more appropriate for jewelry like rings, big bracelets, large neck pieces, earrings, etc.
The most popular sterling silver alloys usually contain no less than 92.5 percent of silver. This is because US federal law has strict standards in regards to such things. The other 7.5 percent is usually copper, as mentioned before.
So, if your partner has gifted you with a silver ring, which you later found out to be made out of sterling silver, don't feel cheated out on it! Its very unlikely he/she would even find a pure silver ring.
Now that you know this, its time to learn some ways to test your silver jewelry to check if its fake or not!
1 Silver Ice Test
While the ice test is much easier to perform silver pieces with a good amount of surface area (like spoons, coins and bars), you can also use it with small silver jewelry using a special technique.
This test isn't completely reliable for a variety of reasons. I'm listing it first because its likely the easiest test to conduct.
You see, silver is an excellent heat conductor, since its a transition metal. Silver is actually one of the very best heat conductors, with copper coming right behind it on that scale, meaning this test also works with sterling silver. This means that ice, when placed in contact with a silver piece, will melt faster than when in contact with pretty much anything else at room temperature.
If you're testing something with a good amount of surface area, do the following:
- First, you'll need some ice. Any ice cube will do, but small ones are preferable;
- Preferably, you'll also want to have another object that is identical or similar to the one you're testing, made of a material that is not silver (steel, iron, nickel, etc), in order to test it along with the object that is supposedly made of silver, so you can compare the results;
- Make sure the objects you're testing are at room temperature. Place the ice on top of the objects. Now watch the ice closely: the ice in contact with the silver piece should melt faster than the one in contact with the piece made out of other metal. The ice on the silver piece should melt completely before the ice on the object does so. If they melt at the same rate, you likely have a fake on your hands!
For small pieces with almost no surface area, like rings and other such things, you can also perform this test using the following technique:
- Hold your silver piece with two fingers in one hand, and another non-silver metal piece on the other hand, also with two fingers. Make sure your hands are both at the same temperature, as well as the pieces you're testing;
- Get a large piece of ice, like a bar or slab of ice. You can also do this with two ice cubes, but its way easier with a larger piece of ice;
- Now you'll want to softly press both pieces into the ice, making sure they're well spaced out from one another, and that around the same amount of surface area of both pieces are touching the ice;
- Since silver conducts heat so well, it should start to melt the ice faster than the other object by conducting the heat of your fingers into the ice more efficiently. After a while this should make a hole in the ice in the shape of the object. If the hole made by the silver object is deeper, then its likely not a fake;
2 The Bleach Test
An easy way to test pretty much any silver jewelry is by simply using your domestic grade bleach. Bleach is a powerful oxidation agent, and since silver is susceptible to oxidation, it should tarnish pretty quick in contact with bleach. Other, more common metals tend to tarnish differently and at a much slower rate due to their more stable molecular structure.
This test also works with both pure silver and sterling silver.
Since this test involves bleach, be careful while conducting it.
WARNING: This test uses only a single drop of bleach. DO NOT immerse your silver piece in bleach. Its not recommended that you perform this test if you do not have any means of cleaning and polishing your silver piece, since it will create a very clearly visible tarnish mark on it.
Put your silver piece/jewelry in a place that you can easily wash later to clean any bleach residue, such as a plastic container, a sink, a tub, etc. If you're doing this test on a sink or a tub, try to close the sinkhole so you don't risk accidentally knocking your jewelry down the drain;
- Place a single drop of bleach on it. Make sure the drop only touches the silver part of your jewelry, and not any gemstones or other metals it may be attached to;
- Watch closely as the metal tarnishes. The area in which the bleach drop is placed on should start to become darker and darker really quickly, until it loses all its characteristic shine and original color, becoming a dull shade of grey instead;
If your piece takes more than a few seconds to tarnish, then its likely a fake piece! However, keep in mind that pieces that are only covered with a coating of silver will also exhibit this effect, to the test can't help you tell apart a piece composed entirely of silver/sterling silver from one that is just covered with it.
3 Magnet Test: Rare Earth Magnet
This test can be easily done at home as long as you have a powerful rare earth magnet, like one made out of neodymium. You can easily and cheaply buy neodymium magnets online.
Warning: rare earth magnets such as neodymium magnets are incredibly powerful and you can easily hurt yourself using one improperly. DO NOT allow your hand or any part of your body stay between any neodymium magnet bigger than a coin and a piece of metal. Serious injury can occur!
Silver is a paramagnetic metal, meaning it only exhibits very weak magnetic proprieties, and should not attach to any consumer grade magnet.
Keep in mind, however, that there are other metals that look like silver that do not exhibit any strong magnetic interactions either, so this test should be used in conjunction with other tests.
- Put your silver piece on top of a non magnetic surface, such as a wooden table, with no other metallic objects nearby;
- Now put your magnet close to the piece and see if it can attract it. Try touching the magnet on the piece and try lifting the magnet. If the piece remains attached to the magnet with enough force to be suspended with it, then its very unlikely it is made of silver.
4 Testing Jewellery With Acid
Now here is where things get a little technical. You can perform these tests at home, but you'll need a special silver acid test kit. These can be easily bought through Amazon or Ebay, and I provided a link to one such kit below.
Here's the testing kit
Warning: doing this test improperly can damage your silver piece. Additionaly, the acids used in the test can be dangerous to use. Keep your testing equipment away from children, and when in doubt, consult a professional jeweller.
Follow the instructions provided with the kit carefully. It goes like this:
- Take the small black stone tile provided with the kit and put it on a flat surface for better usage. If you don't have a smooth black stone, you can use a piece of unglazed ceramic tile as well;
- Get your silver or sterling silver piece and carefully rub an inconspicuous part of it on the black stone/unglazed ceramic tile, in vertical motions. Don't rub it too hard! Just enough to cause silver lines to appear on the stone. Make enough lines to cover a small area, like depicted in the video above;
- Get the testing acid and pour bit of it on the stone over the marks you made, enough to completely cover the marks. Don't use too much acid, just enough to cover the marks;
- Now get a paper towel or napkin and swipe the acid off the stone using it. The marks you made using the silver piece should get cleaned off as you do it as well;
- Look at the smear of acid in the paper towel or napkin you just used and watch it carefully. It should acquire a certain color in a few seconds.
Depending on the colour you get, it will mean your piece is made of different materials. Use the following color code to identify the material:
- Bright Red: Fine Silver
- Darker Red: 925 Silver (sterling silver should look like this)
- Brown : 800 Silver (80 percent silver)
- Green : 500 Silver (half silver content)
- Yellow: Lead or Tin
- Dark brown: Brass
- Blue: Nickel
5 Scratch Jewellery Test
This test aims to check if your silver jewelry is actualy made entirely out of silver/sterling silver or just plated with silver. However, I'm only listing it here for the purpose of the article. I do NOT recommend you try this yourself, actualy.
You can do this at home but only if you have the required equipment and you actualy KNOW VERY WELL what you are doing. When in doubt, contact a professional jeweller.
- First, you'll need a jeweller's file. You can find kits of these on Ebay and Amazon;
- Get your silver piece and find a very inconspicuous place on it. A place people will never be able to look at when you're wearing it, like the inner part of a ring;
- Take your jeweler's file and, using its point, make a scratch on the silver, moving the file a few times;
- Look at the metal in the scratch, is it a different color? You can also pour a little bit of your testing acid right on the scratch and wiping it off with a paper towel like in the test above;
If the color of the metal beneath isn't silvery, or if the acid test shows a different colour when you tested the scratch you made from the file, then your piece is likely just silver plated, instead of being made completely out of silver!
As said before in my other hub about gold, a skilled craftsman may be able to replicate most qualities of real silver using other elements, so even if you piece passes a few of these tests, its always good to conduct others, just to make sure. The more tests it passes, the more likely it is to be genuine silver.
And finally, remember that it is always better to have a professional test your silver piece.