How To Tell If It's Real Sterling Silver

There are many items that are made of silver. From jewelry necklaces, pendants to household items such as silverware, tea sets and trays, silver is a metal that lends any item to look for sophisticated and beautiful.

Not everything made of silver is created equally. In many cases, an item may merely be silver plated, which mean that there is a less expensive metal underneath the surface of the item. This is the case with many inexpensive jewelry pieces. However, if you want something of more value, then you want to look for something made of real sterling silver.

Here’s how to tell if something is made of real sterling silver.

  • Know what sterling silver means. Before you try to investigate if something is made from sterling silver you must first understand what it is you are trying to determine. Legally, something can only be termed as sterling silver if it is 92.5% silver. The remaining percentage is another metal that is harder than silver. The reason silver cannot be used pure is because it is too soft. Also, it will render the item too expensive.
  • Look for a marking. If it is a piece of jewelry, there is usually a marking on the clasp or underside of the item. It will read as 925. 9.25, Sterling 925 or even S/S, which all stand for sterling silver. Flip the item over and try to look for this marking. In some pieces, the words Sterling Silver will actually be engraved on the piece.
  • Wipe the item. Get a piece of soft, non-abrasive cloth. Use it to wipe down a portion of the silver. If the cloth turns black, then it is silver. The reason for this is because real sterling silver tarnishes because of the oxidation process. This is why you need to regularly polish silverware before using, and the reason why silver tea sets and trays have a dull color after a few years.
  • Consider where you bought the item. If you bought the item from a reputable jeweler or a high end store, then chances are the item is made of sterling silver. If the packaging or the item itself is labeled as sterling silver and it is being sold to a reputable store, you can be rest assured that you are getting the real deal.
  • Bring it to a jeweler. If you don’t know where the item was purchased from or you can’t find any markings on the piece, then the next sure fire way to determine its authenticity is to do an acid test on the piece. A reputable jeweler or antique collector can do an acid test for you for a nominal fee. The silver will be exposed to some nitric acid to see if there will be any discoloration. If it turns green or the area touched by the nitric acid changes color, then it is not sterling silver.

Silver plated items are still beautiful, although over time, it is sterling silver that holds its beauty, luster and value more. Consider investing in real sterling silver items that appreciate in value and retain its natural beauty in the long run.


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