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5 Ways to Tell If Something is Sterling Silver

Silver is a precious metal used in making valuable jewelry, flatware, and other durable items. How would you feel after buying a piece of expensive silver jewelry only to discover it is made of cheaper metals like copper and cobalt? What about going for silver jewelry because you are allergic to some metals only to learn that what you bought was fake after experiencing the same adverse effects you were trying to avoid?

Today, almost everything can be faked, silver items included. Some jewelers sell fake silver products to unsuspecting customers at relatively lower prices than the original ones. If you are planning to buy sterling silver or just starting in the jewelry industry, you need to know how to differentiate original from fake silver.

Essential Tips to Spot Fake Silver Jewelry

1. The Magnetic Test

The Magnetic Test

You can tell if a piece of jewelry is made using pure or fake silver using magnets. This is because silver does not connect to magnetic materials like cobalt, iron, and nickel do. Other precious metals such as gold and copper are also nonmagnetic and only exhibit weak reactions when they come into contact with magnets.

Not everything that looks like silver is pure silver, and magnets can be used to show this. Instead of making sterling silver products to recommended standards, some unscrupulous dealers use other magnetic metals like cobalt to make their products and trade them as pure silver. Simply because such products look like silver does not mean they are original.

The magnetic test is an easy and reliable way of checking the quality of sterling silver. Neodymium magnets are the most commonly used in this test because they are cheap and come in different sizes. A magnet that is no bigger than a pea is enough to carry out this test.

Get a magnet made from neodymium or another rare earth metal. Bring the strong magnet close to the silver-made product. If the jewel sticks strongly to the magnet, it is not pure silver. If it does not stick, it is real silver.

2. The Bleach Test

You can tell if your sterling silver jewelry is original or not using bleach or polish test. Although authentic silver oxidizes and tarnishes after placing a drop of bleach on it, it will return the original shiny tone after polishing it with a piece of cloth. On the other hand, if your jewelry does not tarnish when it comes into contact with bleach, it is made of fake silver.

A piece of jewelry made of a different material from sterling silver will not retain its shine over time. After polishing such products for some time, the underneath cheap metals get exposed. Regardless of how much you try to polish such jewelry, they will never return to their original shiny look.

If your sterling silver rusts, it is not pure silver. Jewelry made of low-priced iron, copper, cobalt, and other metals apart from gold, platinum, and silver can oxidize, losing their original appearance. Such jewelry may turn your skin green when it comes into contact with cheap metals.

Silver is used for making jewelry because it is not susceptible to corrosion and oxidation. When you buy original sterling silver jewelry, you don’t have to worry about replacing it constantly. The Polish test can enable you to avoid the pain of buying fake silver thinking that it is original.

3. Authentication Hallmarks

Authentication Hallmarks

Another meaningful way to identify if silver is real or fake is by checking if it has a sterling silver quality mark showing it is made of 92.5% pure silver. So before paying for that beautiful pair of stud earrings, check if they have these markings or stamps. In most countries, silver items are supposed to be stamped with at least one silver hallmark showing the purity of the metal, maker, and other important information about the product.

Silver items are stamped as 925, 900, or 800. Since sterling silver has a purity level of 92.5%, anything between 80% and 90% silver is referred to as ‘coin silver.’ An original sterling silver product should have a label with an inscription that says ‘ster’ or ‘sterling.’ The label should also have ‘IS’, which stands for international silver.

Pure silver is quite soft and needs to be strengthened with other metals. However, the alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper is stronger than either of the two metals and durable. In addition, the alloy can resist corrosion and oxidation, making it ideal for jewelry, coins, and other items.

Sometimes, noticing the .925 labels can be tricky because they are small and placed in discreet places. You can use a magnifying glass to check the imprint on the inside part of the ring or the underside of the item you bought. Even after noticing this mark, you can use another test, especially when you are uncertain about its originality.

4. Ice Test

You can also test silver for authenticity by melting ice cubes on its surface. However, this method is only used for testing silver items with flat surfaces such as coins and other products. The ice cube will melt fast when placed on top of an authentic silver product.

Silver has a high thermal conductivity. Therefore, the ice test can be best done when you have other metals such as iron and copper for comparison purposes. When you place an ice cube on the three metals, you will notice that the one on the silver metal will melt quicker than the rest.

When dealing with a fake silver product, you will realize that the ice cube will take longer to melt than when placed on real silver. If you conduct the ice test on your silver item and realize that the ice melts slower than copper and iron, that could be a fake product. Besides being effective, this test is easy and inexpensive.

5. Look, Smell, Feel

Look Smell Feel

You can use your senses to test if the sterling silver is pure or not. Real silver is lustrous and soft white. When you look at an item, you can know if it is made of pure or fake silver. If the jewelry you want to buy has distorted colors and appears to have metal layers, it could be fake.

Genuine sterling silver is odorless. However, when mixed with other metals, it can exude other smells depending on their concentration. Therefore, a silver-plated item may smell sulfur or another metal, proving that it is not made of pure sterling silver.

Real silver is soft and slightly bendable. If you come across an item that is bumpy and not smooth at all, you could be dealing with another metal or alloy that looks like silver. Any piece of jewelry made of genuine sterling silver should not be scratchy either.


Like in any other industry, it is vital to know some basic information about the jewelry sector, especially when you are new. Understanding some of these questions can help you to address some of the most crucial issues regarding its authenticity.

Q: Should Real Silver have a Stamp?

A: Yes. In the United States, silver items should have 925 stamps to protect consumers. It is illegal for items that don’t meet these standards, such as fake silver products, to have the 925 or ‘sterling’ stamp.

Q: Is It a Must to Find the Stamp?

A: Most countries demand that products made of precious metals like gold and silver should have a stamped mark. This makes it easy for them to authenticate their originality. You will not lack a ‘ster’ or a ‘sterling’ mark on your jewelry if it is made of pure sterling silver. The stamp may contain information such as ‘S925’, meaning that it is made of 92.5% pure silver, which is necessary for keeping it stable.

Q: Can Price Enable me to Know If Something is Made of Original Silver?

A: Authentic sterling silver products are expensive. Most fake commodities sell at relatively lower prices than original ones. Therefore, if you find jewelry selling at a price that is “too good to be true,” higher chances are that the product is not original.

Q: What is the Meaning of 835 on Silver?

A: If you come across a piece of silver jewelry with 835, it means its silver part is 835. However, if you want something better, you should go for a sterling silver item that is 925 or 93.5. This is what most reputable international sellers include in their silver products.

Q: How Can I Tell that I am Buying Jewelry Made of Sterling Silver?

A: Check the item you want to buy and see if there are small markings or stamps. Sterling silver item will be stamped with .925. If the product does not have a stamp, higher chances are that it is not original.

Final Thought

Although it has become increasingly easy for people to develop counterfeit products, it is almost impossible to make a fake silver item that mimics the original 100%.

You can tell if the sterling silver jewelry is original or not by checking the label and conducting the magnet test, the ice test, the bleach test, or by using your senses. This basic information is enough to enable you to avoid becoming one of the unsuspecting customers targeted by these fake silver dealers.

If you have any questions about sterling silver and jewelry, comment below.

In case you are not sure whether what you have seen is original or fake sterling silver, you can:

  • Check for label authenticity
  • Perform magnetic test
  • Perform ice test
  • Perform bleach test
  • Look, smell, and feel the item
  • Get help from professionals and reputable dealers.