- How to distinguish silver from fake: 5 ways
- How to distinguish from other metals
- How to distinguish from silver plating
Yuri Zotov, teacher of the Jewelry Design program at the British Higher School of Design, jeweler-technologist AVGVST;
Anna Koltsova, art critic, antique jewelry specialist, jewelry designer, author of the KALOSKAGATHOS brand.
Let’s talk to a jeweler about how to easily check silver for authenticity without leaving your home.
How to distinguish silver from fake: 5 ways
According to international standards, modern silver products are marked with special marks with the numbers “925”, “900” or “800”
Silver is a malleable, ductile noble metal of gray-white color. It has been known to mankind since ancient times, was very popular among alchemists, and in some countries, for example, in Ancient Babylon, it was considered sacred.
According to international standards, modern silver products are marked with special marks with the numbers “925”, “900” or “800”. These samples indicate the percentage of precious metal (92.5%, 90% and 80% respectively). However, if you received antique jewelry or products that were not intended for mass production or general sale, they may not have such a mark.
On the Internet you can find many ways to recognize silver without testing, but not all of them are trustworthy. For example, not only silver will not pass a magnet test (it truly belongs to non-magnetic materials), but also cadmium, copper, zirconium, lead and a number of other metals. So how can you reliably distinguish silver from a fake? Let’s talk to an expert.
1. How to test silver with iodine
Dip a cotton swab into the iodine solution and apply a little to the product. Rinse it off immediately. If a dark mark appears in this place, it is real silver. A white coating will appear on the fake.
It is better to carry out the procedure on the side of the product that is not the front, since there is a risk that the iodine will remain on the surface of the product longer than necessary, and the unsightly stain will remain for a long time.
2. How to test silver with vinegar
This test is also best carried out on that part of the product that is less noticeable. Take a sharp pin or needle and make a scratch, which you then need to apply a drop of vinegar to. If you have real silver in front of you, a white coating will appear in this place, but the fake will be covered with greenish foam.
3. How to test silver with sulfur ointment
4. How to test silver with heat
Silver has high thermal conductivity: if you put a silver spoon in a glass of hot water, it heats up much faster than, for example, a steel spoon. You can do the same with jewelry.
5. How to test silver with a reagent
The surest way to verify the authenticity of silver is to take it to a jeweler, who will test the product with a special chromium reagent. But in this case, silver will in any case be subject to mechanical stress – since there is a possibility that the product has a decorative coating applied to it (silver or rhodium; sputtering a noble metal of a brighter color protects the silver from darkening).
The safest way to check a silver item is spectral analysis. It is carried out with a special device, which is available in foundries, buyers of radio components, and in some jewelry stores that accept jewelry for buying, in pawn shops. There may also be reagents for testing metal. Spectral analysis is good because it does not require mechanical impact on the product.
How to distinguish silver from other metals: expert advice
Silver can be confused with white gold because it is often plated with white rhodium, which is also used to plate silver.
Together with Yuri Zotov, we’ll figure out what metals silver can be confused with and how to prevent such a mistake.
1. How to distinguish silver from aluminum
Silver is more reflective than aluminum because it is a light, almost white color. Also, silver is not a light material. If you compare products of the same size, silver will be heavier than aluminum.
2. How to distinguish silver from white gold
Silver can also be confused with white gold. It is often plated with white rhodium, which is also used to coat silver. In this case, it is better to clean the surface with a file and add a drop of reagent, the same chromium (potassium dichromate). If the silver reagent does not work, it is worth checking the product with a gold reagent.
3. How to distinguish silver from tin
Tin is a very soft metal that can easily become deformed. Large items are made from it, rather than thin, small jewelry. Tin also has a low melting point: if you try to heat something like this with a soldering iron, it will most likely melt.
It is worth considering that all these checks can harm the product, so it is better to contact a specialist.
4. How to distinguish silver from nickel silver
Nickel silver and cupronickel are non-precious alloys of copper, nickel and zinc. Nickel silver is very similar to silver: it is quite dense, has the same color and similar weight. But there are also differences. Nickel silver rings can darken your fingers, but this does not happen with silver. Nickel silver is harder than silver because it contains nickel. It also does not react in any way to sulfur, that is, it cannot be darkened with sulfur ointment, unlike silver.
5. How to distinguish silver from cupronickel
Cupronickel has an unpleasant metallic taste and smell, which is why cupronickel forks and spoons are so unpleasant.
Another way to identify whether a piece is nickel silver or nickel silver is to place the piece in a container with acetic acid and sawdust. If after a day it turns green, then it is not silver.
How to distinguish silver from silver plating
Applying the hallmark of the assay office to a silver product is not necessary, but it is still necessary to have a name tag – a manufacturer’s mark, which may contain letters and a numeric code
Most often silver plated is bronze or brass. The silver plating layer is not thick enough to withstand mechanical stress: if you rub such a product with sandpaper or a file, you will most likely see a difference in the color of the coating and the base metal.
“If the thing is old, then the silver begins to flake off and wear off. Therefore, you should pay attention to yellow spots or unevenness of the coating,” advises Yuri Zotov.
How to determine a silver sample at home
In Europe, applying the hallmark of the assay office to a silver product is not necessary, but it is still necessary to have a nameplate. This is the manufacturer’s mark, it may contain letters and a numeric code. The most common is 925 sample. Other samples are quite rare, says Yuri Zotov.
You can determine the silver sample at home using the same chromium solution. By the brightness of the stain on the item painted with the reagent, you can approximately determine the content of pure precious metal in the jewelry. If the stain is bright red, then most likely it is 925. The darker the stain, the lower the sample.
- The bright red color is the highest standard silver.
- The dark red color is 925 sterling silver.
- Brown color – 800 sterling silver.
- Green color is low grade silver.
“To accurately determine the sample, it is worth contacting those people who have a spectrometer to check the composition of the metal. Spectral analysis will give you an accurate…