How to Tell if Silver is Real: 6 Ways to Identify Real Silver and 3 Ways to Care For It


Although there are silver-coloured accessories, many people may be wondering how to distinguish them from real silver since they may not actually be made of real silver. 

There are multiple ways to tell if a product is made of silver.

In this article, we will explain 6 ways to distinguish between real silver and plating.

We will also be sharing causes of darkening of silver products and correct care methods. 

6 Ways to Distinguish Between Silver and Plating

There are six main ways to distinguish between a product made entirely of silver and a product with a plated surface.

  • Check the engraving
  • Do a magnetic test
  • Put ice on it
  • Check the sound
  • Use chemicals
  • Drop bleach

In the below section, we will explain each of the 6 different ways in detail

Check the Stamped Value

Products made of silver have a stamp indicating the silver content, and the material can be identified by the numerical value.

Products exported as silver are required to be engraved with numbers such as "925", "900" and "800". 

Products marked “925” are silver products that contain 92.5% sterling silver. 

Products marked “800” are made up of 80% real silver.

The size of the engraving is small, so use a jewel loupe to check the surface of the product. 

If you don't see an engraving, it could be a plated product. 

However, depending on the place and time when the product was manufactured, some real silver products may not be stamped.

Do a Magnetic Test

The reaction to the magnet makes it possible to identify the material used in the product.

High-purity silver has the property of being slightly attracted to magnets. 

On the other hand, products made of iron are characterized by being strongly attracted to magnets. 

Therefore, even if it looks like silver, if it is strongly attracted to the magnet, it is judged as a plated product.

However, metal materials such as lead and tin also have a weak magnet reaction, so products that are not strongly attracted to magnets may not always be made of silver. 

In addition to the magnetic test, try other ways of distinguishing.

Put Ice on It

If the product melts faster than usual when ice is placed on it, it is likely a silver product.

Silver has the highest thermal conductivity of all metals and quickly transfers heat to objects that come into contact with the surface. 

When ice comes into contact with silver at room temperature, heat is rapidly transferred and the ice will quickly melt, so it can be identified as a product made of silver.

Since the inside of the plated product is made of a material with a lower thermal conductivity than silver, plated products may not melt the ice as quickly.

However, it may not be possible to identify accessories that are odd-shaped as ice cannot properly rest on it, such as necklaces and rings. 

Use this method on flat-shaped products such as silver bars and coins.

Check the Sound

Products shaped like coins can be identified by the sound they make when they are impacted.

When silver undergoes shock, it makes a clear bell-like sound. 

Therefore, if you drop a coin-shaped product from a height of about 20cm onto a desk or floor and you hear a clear sound, it is highly likely that it is a silver product.

Use Chemicals

The chemical kit used to determine real silver often contains nitric acid. i

If the surface of the metal you want to distinguish is slightly scraped with a jewel file and the part where nitric acid is dropped turns red or brown, it is a high-purity silver product.

When the purity of silver is about 50%, or when it is a metal other than silver, it changes to green or yellow. However, you should be careful with nitric acid and don’t let it touch your skin. Be sure to wear rubber gloves to ensure safety.

Drop Bleach

If it is okay to scratch the product you want to identify, you can also use a commercially available bleach to determine the type of metal.

When bleach touches silver, the surface of the silver instantly turns black. 

However, the surface plated with silver also turns black, so it is necessary to scrape the plating layer a little with a jewel file when checking.

If the exposed part of the surface also turned black by bleach, it can be determined that the inside is made of silver.

When using bleach, make sure that the room is well ventilated.

What Causes Silver Products to Darken?

The surface of silver products may darken after long-term use. 

Sulfur is the main cause of darkening in silver products.

The air contains trace amounts of sulfur chemicals such as "sulfurous acid gas" and "hydrogen sulfide." 

When a chemical substance containing sulfur comes into contact with a silver product, a black silver sulfide film is formed, which is the cause of darkening.

Since hot springs and bath salts also contain sulfur, the surface may darken even more if you take a bath while wearing silver products.

3 Ways to Care For Silver Accessories

Darkening of silver products due to components such as sulfur is a change that occurs only on the surface of the product. 

Therefore, it is important to keep the surface of the product clean and to prevent substances that cause darkening from coming into contact with the surface.

By understanding and practicing proper care, it is possible to keep silver accessories clean for a long time. Here are three specific ways to care for your silver products.

Clean with a Special Cloth

If the silver product is left with sweat or dirt on it, the surface tends to darken. 

Therefore, after using the silver product, use a soft cloth for accessories to wipe off the sweat and dirt on the silver product.

If there is a lot of sweat or dirt on it, wash it off with water or lukewarm water and then wipe it off with a soft cloth. 

However, if the product uses parts made of a material other than silver, it may be vulnerable to getting wet, so it is safer to wipe it dry with a cloth.

In addition, some silver cloths come with polishing agents to give them a glossy finish. Polishing agents can also be used if necessary to increase the luster of silver products.

Store in a Cool and Dust-Free place

When storing silver products, it is important to choose a place where the temperature is as low as possible and dust-free.

In general, the higher the temperature, the faster the chemical change of a substance progresses. 

Therefore, if it is stored in a place with a high temperature, sulfur tends to adhere to the surface of silver products and darkening sulfurization tends to proceed quickly.

Dust on the surface also makes silver products look bad. 

Choose the right place to keep your silverware clean.

Store Items in Airtight Bag

Infrequently used silver products can be kept clean for a long time by putting them in a sealed plastic bag for storage.

Silver products in sealed plastic bags have less contact with air than when stored under normal conditions. 

Therefore, it is not necessary to touch the substances that cause darkening, and the storage condition tends to improve. 

However, if you wrap it in a wrap to avoid contact with air, the silver product may darken due to the material used for the wrap, so be careful.

Conclusion

There are two types of silver-colored products, one is made of silver and the other is plated on the surface. 

Silver products and plated products can be distinguished by the engraving on the surface of the product surface, and magnetic testing.

In the case of silver products, it may darken in response to hydrogen sulfide containing sulfur in the air.

In order to keep silver accessories of silver products clean, it is important to wipe them with a special cloth after use and pay attention to the storage method.

If you want to know if your jewelry and accessories are made of silver, why not try the methods introduced in this article.

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