At Chasing Treasure, we take great pride in providing our customers with jewelry boxes that are lined with soft textiles that help prevent damage to precious metals like gold and silver. The soft sueded fabrics and velvet-like fabrics help prevent scratches. When you spend good money on a beautiful, heirloom quality jewelry box, it is nice to know if you are putting real jewelry inside of it. Fortunately, there are several tests you can do to check whether the silver pieces you have are covered in inexpensive silver plate or if they are made of real Sterling silver.
While silver plating makes beautiful jewelry, plated silver is not considered precious or “real” silver. In the world of jewelry and silver work, the only “real” silver is Sterling silver. Fortunately, the easiest way to tell if your silver is Sterling is whether or not it has a hallmark. These hallmarks will be stamped as: Sterling silver, .925 (or higher), or have a lion on it. Nearly every piece of real silver will be stamped. But, when it comes to silver plate, most is not marked. But, if it is, the marks will say whether the piece was electroplated (EP), electroplated nickel silver (EPNS), or it will simply say silver plate.
The challenge with determining whether silver is real or not comes with the grade. Most silver jewelry is not 100% silver, because the metal is soft and malleable. Usually, silver is combined with another metal to make it a bit less malleable. Each piece of real silver should be graded and stamped with the grade. There are just a few commonly seen number. Most jewelry will be stamped with .925, but some antique pieces will have a .950 mark. Now, jewelry that is made in Europe has a .835 stamp. Pieces of sterling from the early 1700s will often be labeled with a stamp of .958. If you have investment-grade silver, it will say .999.
While you will not be able to determine the grade of silver on your own, you will definitely be able to determine if the piece of jewelry you have is actually silver. The first and easiest test is the magnet test because silver does not stick to magnets. If the piece sticks to a magnet, it is not silver. If it does not stick, it still might not be silver.
Another fun test to run is the ice test. Silver conducts heat and cold quickly. So, if you put silver in a cup with ice cubes and a bit of water, the silver will become cold very quickly. If it takes more than 10 seconds, then the item is most likely not made of silver. If you are unsure, put a piece of a different metal into the cold water and see how long it takes to cool. The silver will be noticeably cool extremely quickly.
The last test that you can do at home is the sensory test. You do this with sight and smell. Real silver will have an actual smell - especially when it is wet or warmed up. It also has a noticeable sheen with a touch of warm yellow. None of these do-it-yourself tests are perfect. The best way to find out if a piece of jewelry is real Sterling silver is to take the piece to a quality jewelry store and let the experts make the decision.