Silver is one of the five precious metals. It was once used as a currency in the galleon Trade in the Pacific and the Age of Exploration. It has a mention in the Christian Bible, and the Jewish culture values it highly.
In the early 20th century, and up until the onset of the Great Depression, silver was used in coin production. Since then, the world’s currencies have replaced the coins with banknotes, and any coins are mint using common metals like brass, nickel, or aluminum.
Today, silver has a slightly lesser value than gold, but many people invest in silver in the form of jewelry such as silver bangles for women, bullion coins and bars, etc. Silver is also used in making everyday objects, leading to the creation of fakes passed as genuine silver.
For an untrained person, distinguishing genuine silver from a fake can be confusing as the counterfeit is very similar to real silver. Here are a few tests you can do to check if the silver is authentic.
Items passed off as silver and internationally sold need a stamp based on their content of silver. If the item does not have a stamp, be cautious. It could still be genuine silver, but originating from a country which does not need stamping.
Check the International Silver Stamp Rate
Get a magnifying glass and look at the piece. International silver sellers usually stamp the pieces as 925,900 or 800. These numbers show the percentage of fine silver present in the piece. 925 means the item is 92.5% silver, 900, and 800 indicate the item is 90% or 80% silver, which is also known as coin silver.
Test Using a Magnet
Use a powerful magnet such as a rare-earth magnet made from neodymium. Silver is termed as paramagnetic, meaning it exhibits weak effects from magnets. If your silver item sticks to the magnet, it is not silver and contains a ferromagnetic core. Tilt the magnetic object at 45 degrees, and if the magnet slides off the silver item, the silver is real.
The Ice Cube Test
Take two ice cubes and place on the silver item, and the other cube on a standard frying pan. If the ice on the silver melts faster than the one on the pan, this means the item is real silver, because solver is an excellent heat conductor.
When silver tapped, it makes a sweet ringing sound, especially when tapped with a different form of metal. If you can get hold of the United States quarter made before 1965, use it to test. These 1965 quarters were made of 90% silver and the later quarters made after 1964 made from an alloy of copper and nickel. The 1965 quarter gives a high, clear ringing sound and the newer one a dull thump.
For more accurate testing, you can do chemical tests, which are dangerous and should be done with caution. These tests make it possible to distinguish between silver-plated items from an original silver item. A significant disadvantage of chemical testing is that it might end up devaluing the item.
The Nitric Acid test
The Nitric Acid test checks if the item is pure or plated. File a tiny, but hidden part of the item and pour a few drops of nitric acid. If the silver is genuine, or sterling, the area turns creamy-white. If it turns green, it is either silver-plated or fake.
Pour some bleach on the silver item. If it tarnishes fast, it is authentic silver. If not, it is fake. The downside is that it will devalue and damage your item.
The Silver Acid Test
A few drops of acid on the silver item reveal its composition. If the acid turns dark or bright red, that is fine or sterling silver. If the acid turns brown, the silver is 80%, and if green, silver is 50%, which implies the items contain silver plating.
Authenticating silver is tricky for a novice. If the physical methods are inconclusive, you can try the chemical methods, which on the flipside might damage and devalue your item. Testing with chemicals is hazardous, and you must exercise a lot of caution.