Along with gold and platinum, silver is one of the most popular precious metals. Silver is an incredibly popular material for use in the jewelry industry and it’s not hard to see why. Silver is highly valued, and artisans use this metal to make everything from jewelry to flatware, and have done so for centuries. Other metals have a similar cool gray appearance like silver has. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between silver and other metals, but how can you tell if your jewelry is made from real sterling silver, or simply silver plated costume jewelry?

As you are likely to want to spend your money on a piece of jewelry that will last for a very long time, it’s important to know the difference between genuine sterling silver jewelry and fake silver pieces.



Check for Hallmarks

Hallmarks are small imprints of numbers, letters, and images.  You should be looking for marks which say “925”, “.925” and “s925”. These imprints in metal are often in an unobtrusive location, such as on the bottom for dishware, or on the back for jewelry. They are very small, and often require a magnifying glass and strong light source to read.


Common Mark

Type of Silver


Fine silver


Sterling silver


Sterling silver


Electroplated Nickel Silver, not solid silver


Most silver products on the market are alloys, meaning they are a combination of silver and other stronger metals such as copper. This is because pure silver is too soft by itself to be a durable option for objects that buyers use, such as flatware and jewelry. Sterling silver is the current industry standard for most major modern silver producing countries.


Silver Testing Methods

Even if a piece of silver is marked with a purity number or image, it is possible for the hallmark to be a forgery. Older pieces of silver may not have any marks at all. Luckily, there are a few additional ways to tell whether a piece is real silver or not.

Magnet Test

The easiest way to test if your jewelry is really sterling silver is to get a magnet and place it next to your piece of jewelry. Silver is not a magnetic metal. This means it does not react in the presence of a large magnet. The easiest way to test if your jewelry is really sterling silver is to get a magnet and place it next to your piece of jewelry. If a piece reacts to a magnet, it is composed of a metal that is not genuine silver. A regular house magnet does not have enough pull to work for this test; so silver owners should invest in a strong magnet, such as a rare earth magnet.

Sound Test

Silver rings with vibrations for a couple of seconds if an owner strikes it against something hard. Silver sounds high pitched, while copper sounds dull and deep. It helps to have an authenticated real piece of silver to use in comparison when performing this test. Testers should also be careful not to hit objects so hard they damage them. A gentle tap with another metal object does the trick.

Acid Test

The acid test is one of the most definitive ways to test for real silver, but it is also has the potential to damage a piece. Acid can be dangerous, so if the silver owner is doing this test at home it is important to use gloves and eye protection.You may buy an acid test kit from a jewelry store to check the purity of silver. Avoid this test on expensive silver items, because the acid may cause slight damage when it reacts with the metal.

There are two ways to complete the acid test. First, the tester can apply the acid directly to the piece in question. The tester should apply the acid in an inconspicuous spot, because the acid permanently discolors a metal that is not silver.

The other option is to scratch the silver piece on a stone that comes with the acid kit. Testers then apply the acid to the metal scrapings that adhere to the stone. If the piece is silver plated, a scratch permanently damages the piece. If the piece is genuine silver, owners can buff and polish away the scrape.

If a piece is real silver, the color of the acid is red. Depending on the shade, it is possible to tell the purity of the metal. The brighter red the acid turns, the more pure the silver. If the acid turns green, then the piece is not real silver.


Take it to a Professional

When all else fails, take potentially silver objects to a pawnshop, jeweler, or metal refinery for testing. These professionals and facilities have special equipment to test metal content, including further acid tests and x-ray machines. It is a good idea to take a piece to multiple locations to get several opinions.

Many metals look very similar, so it is sometimes difficult to determine whether an object is real silver or not. Modern silver pieces and some antique ones often have a mark indicating they are genuine. There are also several tests that silver owners can use at home to determine if their piece is real silver. If all else fails, silver owners can take their pieces to a trusted jeweler or refinery to get more in-depth tests done.