History of use

How to tell if silver is real or not?

Silver jewelry is beautiful, noble and wearable. But there is one nuance – silver is part of a group of metals that are very similar in color. In the same group are white gold, platinum, brass, and steel. Unfortunately, despite the availability of silver jewelry, it is often counterfeited. In addition to disappointment, low-quality metal can cause allergies. When jewelry is given as a gift or not purchased from a jewelry store, questions arise: is it a fake and how to check the silver? Of course, no one will try to sell white gold or platinum as silver, because the former are more expensive, but base metals, such as steel or brass, are often passed off as a silver alloy. In this article we will figure out how to recognize silver at home and before purchasing.

Visual inspection

Inspecting the product is the first way to identify silver before purchasing. Here we will focus on two points: sample and external characteristics.

Silver sample

The test will allow you to visually distinguish silver from other metals. Silver products sold through Russian jewelry stores are subject to hallmarking. This is done by the State Assay Office. On silver jewelry, it doesn’t matter whether it’s regular or gilded silver, the standard value is usually 925, which is called sterling silver. On Soviet silver items you can find hallmark 875 and a five-pointed star icon. And in Tsarist Russia, stamps were two-digit, so such finds are possible in antique stores. The mark consists of three elements that are read from left to right: · one-letter code of the State Assay Supervision Inspectorate; · the mark of the hallmark – the head of a woman in a kokoshnik, turned in profile; · three-digit standard of precious metal – indicates the proportion of noble metal in the alloy: for example, 925 silver contains 92,5% pure silver. Another mandatory element of silver jewelry is the manufacturer’s mark (name). Rings are most often branded on the inside of the tavern, for chains the brand is placed on the lock, for earrings – on the earrings, for spoons – on the handle on the back side. On foreign-made jewelry sold through Russian chains, the name tag may be absent, and the hallmark may be indicated by words. For example, the sterling marking is an analogue of the 925 standard. Not all consumers are aware of the changes in the law. From June 23, 2020, in jewelry stores you can find Russian-made silver products without hallmarks, and this will not be a violation on the part of the seller. Previously, mandatory testing and marking with the state hallmark was carried out only for silver products weighing over 3 g. The decision to test such a product was made by the manufacturer on a voluntary basis. At the same time, the rule about the mandatory existence of a name tag on a silver product has been preserved.

Product quality

During a visual inspection, check that all elements are well secured. For example, if this is a ring with stones, then pay attention to the quality of the setting. The inserts should not be glued – no self-respecting jewelry company will use glue even in a budget product. In chains and chain bracelets, all links must be soldered and there must be no gaps. See if the connecting ring between the lock and the product itself is soldered. Scratches, abrasions, stains on a new product are a reason to be wary. However, when buying secondhand, such defects are also possible on real silver, because it is a rather soft metal.

Tag

The seller is obliged to provide the buyer with reliable information about the product. Make sure that the information on the tag is written accurately and completely and reflects the real state of affairs. The sample indicated on the label must correspond to the marking of the jewelry. The tag also indicates the weight of the product in grams, and, if there are inserts, their characteristics.

How to determine the authenticity of silver at home

There are several ways to verify authenticity. Let’s look at them below.

Testing with reagents

In specialized stores you can purchase chemical reagents to test silver for authenticity at home. These include chrompic. The compositions are sold in glass or plastic bottles with an applicator. The metal being tested is pre-cleaned, a drop of chromium is applied to the prepared surface and the reaction is observed. Excess solution should be removed with a cotton swab after 3–5 seconds. If the drop remains yellow and a colored spot does not appear on the product, it means that the alloy does not contain silver or the fineness is below 500. If the color turns into red-brown, blood-red or dark brown with the formation of a precipitate, then the alloy contains silver of fineness higher than 500. With the help of a chromium marker, with proper experience, you can determine the sample with an accuracy of up to 20 units. But in order to determine for sure whether silver is real or not, it is necessary to carry out a test on a touchstone, using assay needles, as well as other reagents.

Determination of silver with a magnet

Many people are interested in whether silver is magnetic. Silver, like gold, is not attracted to a magnet. Therefore, in this way it is possible to weed out crude counterfeits made of steel, which is very similar to a silver alloy. This diagnostic method cannot be called 100% reliable for two reasons. The first is that brass, for example, is also not magnetic. The second caveat is that when checking a silver chain, do not bring a strong magnet to the lock, because the clasp has a steel spring installed, and the real chain will be magnetized.

Sulfur ointment test

How to check silver for authenticity if there are no special reagents? A unique household indicator of a silver alloy is sulfur ointment, a cheap pharmaceutical product. The ointment is applied with a cotton swab to the product, a small area of ​​which has been pre-treated with a soft nail file, and left for up to 10 minutes. A silver item will leave a dark mark, while steel, brass and other alloys will not show marks. The stain is quite easy to remove with the same soft file.

Determination of density

Let’s talk about how to distinguish silver from a fake by density. To do this, you will need accurate scales and a glass of water. First, calculate the mass of the sample. Then place a glass of water on the scale and drain it. Place the ring tied by a thread into the container so that it does not touch either the walls or the bottom. We divide the result of the previous weighing by the resulting value and find out the density of the product, and then compare it using the table. Table of theoretical densities of metals: Density (g/cm3) The Internet offers more than a dozen simple ways to identify silver. Unfortunately, most of them only partially work. And some are even harmful to silver jewelry. We will skip such methods of testing silver as by sound, smell or vibration as uninformative. The methods of checking silver described in the article should not be applied to antique jewelry. After all, 50, and moreover 100 years ago, the standards for making silver alloy were different. Therefore, modern home methods for determining silver will not always work. In addition, old jewelry is easier to damage and ruin than new jewelry. How you can test silver for authenticity, and how you absolutely shouldn’t, is in an article from Silva.

Sample

Before you start listing clever ways to identify silver and test chemical reagents, look for a sample on the surface. A miniature mark will tell you how much silver is in your ring or earrings. Read more about this in our blog. The sample is not always placed in the most visible place. Therefore, inspect the product with special care. Do not forget that modern samples are increasingly marked with a laser. If you purchased silver jewelry in our online store, you can call us, and the manager will tell you where to look for a sample in a particular piece of jewelry. There is no sample – the decoration is of dubious origin. In more than 95% of cases, this is a cheap analogue. There is a slight chance that the item is made of jewelry metals. However, in this case, she passed the assay control. And this, firstly, is illegal, and secondly, it does not guarantee any quality.

Magnet

One of the easiest ways to determine silver is to test it with a magnet. Silver is diamagnetic. Therefore, it will not interact with the magnet in any way. If the jewelry is magnetic, then there is no silver in it. Or there is such a tiny amount of precious metal in the alloy that calling the piece jewelry is incorrect. However, do not forget that jewelry is not made from pure silver. The assortment of jewelry stores includes alloys of various samples. The state standards of Ukraine state that the main alloy for jewelry silver is copper in varying quantities. Sometimes there are alloys of silver and zinc on the market. Neither copper nor zinc will be magnetic. Therefore, the magnet method will not help determine the quality of the jewelry, but it will definitely indicate a fake.

Scratch it if you don’t mind

  • You suspect that the jewelry is just silver plated.
  • You don’t feel too sorry for the jewelry.

The idea is simple – use a needle or other sharp object to leave a small scratch in an inconspicuous place. Next, we’ll examine whether other metal is visible inside.

In this way, not all silver-plated metals can be detected, but only those that differ noticeably in color.

Heat-cool

Silver has high thermal conductivity properties. This means that the noble metal will adapt to the ambient temperature at lightning speed. Simply put, it heats up or cools down almost instantly.

The all-knowing Internet suggests doing the following experiment to determine the authenticity of silver: take a glass of boiling water and throw jewelry into it. If it instantly became the same temperature as the water, rejoice, there is silver on your burnt hands. What else, besides burns, does this method threaten?

  • cracks and chips on stones. They, unlike metal, are very sensitive to sudden temperature fluctuations.
  • destruction of silicone elements. These are found in some charms designed to be fixed on a bracelet.
  • misinformation. The concepts of “fast” and “slow” can be very relative, just like “warm” and “cold”. Simply put, can you hold a hot piece of jewelry in your hand and say with confidence that it has heated up faster than aluminum? Or stronger than nickel? Most likely no. To be sure, you need to repeat the experiment with other metals. But even then, your impression will remain very subjective.

Sulfuric ointment

A cheap and simple method based on the oxidation reaction of silver under the influence of sulfur. The idea is simple – spread sulfur ointment on the jewelry (sold at the pharmacy), leave for 10 minutes. After that, wipe with a napkin. If the place has darkened, it is silver.

This method has at least 3 significant disadvantages:

  1. It’s not easy to get rid of the dark mark left by sulfur ointment. Regular home washing and polishing may not be effective. Then you will have to take the jewelry to a jewelry workshop.
  2. Sulfur ointment will not react positively if the silver is plated with rhodium. The trick of sulfur ointment is that silver is oxidized by sulfur. Rhodium does not react. Therefore, contact with the mentioned ointment will not affect the appearance of rhodium-plated silver jewelry. Please note that the rhodium plating technique is very common today.
  3. With the help of ointment it is impossible to distinguish between real silver and a silver-plated fake.

Iodine

Probably the most popular method on the Internet. However, it is far from the best. The principle of action is similar to sulfur ointment, the same disadvantages.

If you leave a drop of iodine on a silver surface, a dark spot will form at this place. Everything is simple, fast and accessible. However, it is not always informative. Before you run on iodine, don’t forget;

  • A dark stain is difficult to remove. Sometimes it’s simply impossible.
  • The rhodium will prevent the iodine from reacting with the silver. There will be no darkening.
  • You won’t know if it’s silver or silver plated.

Chalk

“Rub the silver with chalk. If the chalk turns black, the silver is real,” word of mouth advises us. At first glance, this is a great way. But, unfortunately, it leaves much to be desired.

First of all, chalk leaves scratches on silver. In addition to numerous small scratches, deep ones will be added if there is a stone hidden in the chalk. It’s surprising that there are still hundreds of tips on the Internet for cleaning silver with chalk. After all, it not only removes dirt, but also a layer of silver.

Now imagine that in front of you is a magnificent ring made of rhodium-plated silver. You take a piece of chalk and start rubbing the jewelry. The first efforts do not yield any results, because the chalk does not darken. You decide to try harder. There is a trace left on the chalk, but not so intense as to convince of the authenticity of the jewelry. The research impulse wins, and you rub as hard as you can. And finally, you get the desired dark shade on the chalk. You are satisfied, and the ring gets rid of the precious protective rhodium layer. Think about whether it was worth it.

Remember school physics?

Not the simplest of methods, but effective in its own way, is to measure the density of the metal. There is a simple formula for this, which, of course, was conveniently forgotten by everyone except physics teachers and seventh grade students. Density = mass/volume.

The density of pure silver is approximately 10,5 g/cm3. For a silver alloy – a little lower. We measure the weight of the decoration (for example, on a kitchen scale). Then we find out the volume. At this point difficulties arise. A ruler will not help – you will have to lower the decoration into a container filled with water and measure the volume of spilled water.

Plug the results into the formula and compare the results with the density of silver.

Khrompik

Potassium dichromate, also known as chromium, is a popular chemical reagent for the determination of silver. It is actively used in pawn shops.

Using such a reagent, you can not only accurately recognize silver, but also determine its sample. On low samples (600, 780), chromium leaves a dark red trace. At higher samples the brightness of red increases.

Chrompic will help determine silver with great accuracy, but there is one “but”: it is extremely toxic. Causes burns and skin irritation, difficulty breathing and a burning sensation in the throat if inhaled. Therefore, such a remedy is not entirely suitable for home use.

Pawnshop and jewelry workshop

Don’t trust home methods for determining silver? Then entrust the matter to professionals. Your jewelry will be checked and appreciated. But it’s worth bringing something really significant for a professional assessment. After all, a broken earring found on the sidewalk can cost less than the procedure itself, even if it is silver.

Signs of counterfeit silver jewelry

  1. Rust. Silver does not rust.
  2. Reaction to a magnet.
  3. Sample missing.
  4. Under the scratches you can see metal of a different color.

As you can see, there is no method that will help you quickly, easily and 100% identify real silver. Each of the listed methods has its pros and cons.

To test your silver, you should choose safe methods – first of all, for you. If the jewelry has value for the owner, do not use traumatic means. After all, stains from aggressive substances may remain, and scratches made intentionally will ruin the appearance.

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