Indications That Something Is Not Silver
Have you ever wondered how to tell if something is silver or not? Are there easy ways to know, or do you need special equipment? Silver comes in many shapes and sizes, however there are ways to understand and determine purity that anyone can accomplish.
Because silver, like other precious metals, has unique properties, various clues help identify it as silver. To accompany these properties, there are often identifiable manufacturing markings. By using a combination of these indicators, it is likely to tell if what you have is silver.
Examine the piece to see if there are any hallmarks or manufacturer’s stamps. A hallmark generally identifies the manufacturer or silversmith as well as the purity of the silver used to make it. Silver purity is often labelled sterling .925, .900 or .800. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure, .900 and .800 indicate 90% and 80% purity.
Like gold and copper, silver is non-magnetic. Take a magnet and place it near the piece you are in question of. If there is a magnetic attraction, it is not silver. If there is no attraction, you have another indicator that it may be silver.
Because silver tarnishes or oxidizes it needs to be polished from time to time. If you take a white piece of cloth and polish the object and notice the cloth turning black, that is a good indicator that it is silver. If there is no black residue on the cloth or the object has rust, it probably is not silver. This is good low-tech non-invasive way to test with the bonus of a bright new shine!
Odour or Odourless?
Silver is an odourless precious metal. A notable odour indicates it is not silver and will most likely be observed in a variety of silver looking metals. If there is an odour of a metallic or sulphuric nature, then it’s an indication of not being silver. If your sense of smell is not that strong, then this may not be an accurate indicator.
If the object has areas where the metal seems to be flaking or peeling where you can see a different metal underneath the flake, it probably is only silver-plated. Pure and sterling silver does not flake.
The Ice Test
Silver has the highest thermal conductivity of metals. This means it transfers heat faster and at a higher rate than other metals. Take an ice cube and place it on the object in question. Take another ice cube and put it in a cup. If the object is silver the ice should start to melt immediately as if it has been placed on something hot. It should be melting faster than the ice cube in the cup. If they both melt at the same rate the object is probably not silver.
When exposed to a strong oxidizing agent such as household bleach, silver will tarnish very quickly. All you need to do is put a single drop of bleach on the object and watch to see if quickly tarnishes, turning black. This occurs due to the oxidization of the metal. After putting a drop of bleach, if the object immediately turns black, the object is silver. However beware! – Items that are only silver plated will also pass this test.
These tests should be used together to help you gauge whether your object in question is or is not silver. The more positive results you have will help you determine as a layperson what the object’s true nature is.
Knowing these easy-to-use tests will build your knowledge base and help boost your confidence when examining objects to determine if they are silver.
Ultimately, the best way to test is using spectrometer analysis to determine the metallic constituents of an object. But most people don’t have easy access to one of these machines. At guardian we have multiple and will be happy to assay your precious metals.
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