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Silver, alongside gold, is considered to be one of the most precious metals in the world.
It has served as a major currency during the Age of Exploration and the galleon trade in the Pacific. It’s even mentioned in the Bible as a revered currency and is highly valued in Jewish culture.
Silver has also been used in the production of coins in the early years of the 20th Century until the arrival of the Great Depression. Since then, currencies all over the world have been replaced with banknotes and coins minted with more common metals like aluminum, nickel or brass.
Today, though slightly still lesser in value in comparison to gold, many still invest in silver in the form of jewelry, family heirloom, bars, and bullion coins. Silver has taken many forms, even as everyday objects.
But this can be disadvantageous as well with the proliferation of fake silver items.
For the untrained eye, distinguishing real from fake silver can be very confusing and misleading. Counterfeit silver items resemble real silver items a lot so don’t be fooled easily. If you really want to invest in silver, make sure you test it for authenticity. Here are some things to consider on how to test silver.
Ice Cube Test
ice melts fast
ice melts slow
beautiful ringing sound
dull and blunt sound
magnet slides down
does not tarnish
brown or red color
dark brown or blue
device does not tilt
Nitric Acid Test
creamy white color
Physical Ways of Testing Silver
This video shows you how to test silver to tell if it is fake or real:
If you are about to purchase or invest in silver, make sure you know how to distinguish the real ones, the silver plated ones, and the totally fake ones.
There are a variety of tests that can be used but sometimes doing physical tests on the objects in question will keep its original value. Note however that physical tests have their own limitations as well.
- Checking the label goes first. If the item has an inscription of “ster” or “sterling” that means the silver content in the item is at 92.5 or very close to being pure silver.
- Items that say “IS” mean that that the item is “international silver” or silver-plated.
- If testing for bullion coins, strike two coins together. If it makes a nice ringing sound, it is real. If it generates a dull sound, one of it is fake.
- Use a neodymium magnet. Tilt object 45 degrees, place magnet on the tilted surface. If it slides down, it is real. If it sticks, it’s fake because real silver is non-magnetic.
- Get two ice cubes. Place one on top of the silver item and the ice cube on a regular pan. If the ice on the item melts faster than that of the pan, then the item is real silver as silver is a heat conductor.
- For coins, using a Fisch device can be helpful too. Slide the coin in the device slot. If the device tilts, this means the coin is fake silver. If the device remains steady, the coin is real silver.
Chemical Ways of Testing Silver
For more complex and accurate testing, certain chemicals can be used to clearly determine the purity of silver of an item. It can help distinguish silver-plated from real silver items in which physical testing could miss.
The downside of chemical testing though, despite being more accurate, is that it may devalue the item partially or totally. Chemical testing however still works best in larger items like silverware.
Note that the chemicals are EXTREMELY dangerous and should not be performed by children under any circumstances.
- The Nitric Acid Test is used to check if silver is pure or plated. To do so, file a small part of the item in a discreet area where it cannot be seen. Apply a few drops of nitric acid. If the area turns into creamy white, the silver is pure or sterling. If green, it is probably fake or silver-plated.
- Simply apply bleach to a silver product. If it tarnishes quickly, then it is real silver. Otherwise, it is fake. Bleach however may damage your item and devalue it greatly.
- Use the silver Acid Test to see the amount of silver content in the item. A few drops on the item will reveal some details based on the color. If the acid turns bright or dark red, it is likely that you have fine or sterling silver. If acid turns brown, silver is 80% silver. If acid turns green, silver is only 50%. Both already mean they are silver-plated. Other colors will reveal a different metal is used and is just plated with silver.
Other ways of determining the authenticity of silver is through a jeweler’s scale (to determine weight), a jeweler’s loupe (to check for details especially in coins), and to a certain extreme, XRF analyzer machines that uses x ray fluorescence.
So be a discerning silver investor by using these simple tricks and tips.