How to tell real silver from the fake stuff…
Do you have silver jewelry?
Since you’re reading my blog, I’m going to assume that you do. But do you know what kind of silver jewelry it is? Or if it’s even real?
If you said “um…no?” that’s okay! I didn’t know for the answers for the longest time either. Before I was a jeweler, I knew that sometimes the silver would fall off my jewelry, my skin would turn green, and sometimes the jewelry I wore would actually break and be a different colored metal on the inside. But I still didn’t really know it might be something other than silver, or how to tell real silver from the phony.
As I am very stubborn, this was something that took a while to dawn on me…
As I am very stubborn, this was something that took a while to dawn on me…
Just because a piece of jewelry is gray, shiny, and looks like silver, that doesn’t mean it really is solid silver.
In addition to being very stubborn, I can also be extremely trusting, fairly gullible, and outright dense at times.
So, without further ado, here are my five basic tests to identify real silver jewelry. Hopefully this will help you be able to tell real silver from the phony stuff!
1. Your silver may not be fully silver if…. it’s not marked as Silver.
I know, this seems a little obvious, but also very telling. There are actual laws and fines involved for the mis-marking and mis-representation of precious metal jewelry. So real, solid, quality silver jewelry should be marked: SS, 925, ST, STERLING, or even just SILVER.
2. Your silver may not be fully silver if…. it turns you green.
This one is a little bit misleading. Most fake silver jewelry is tin over brass, copper, or some other non-descript base metal. Most of these will turn a person a range of colors. However, having a metal turn you green is due entirely to how one’s own body chemistry reacts to the metal. For example, copper usually turns some people green, but I can wear copper without any problems, as can quite a few other people.
Here’s the other misleading part. Some poor unfortunates are actually allergic to silver. Even actual, solid, 100% pure silver will turn their skin green in a heart beat, often including a rash along with it. But in general, if you know you’re not allergic to silver… if it turns you green, it’s not silver!
3. Your silver may not be fully silver if…. you buy it off the street (not at a craft fair) from someone with a sad story.
We all know this, right? You’re out for the evening walking to the restaurant, and a lady comes up to you in obvious distress. Her car broke down, and she needs cab fair to get home right now to her kids, and she feels really awful about parting with it, but would you buy this pendant her mother gave her so she can get home tonight? The jewelry involved is usually “gold”, and sometimes it’s “silver”- but it’s always fake, and you’re not the first mark she’s found tonight.
4. Your silver may not be fully silver if…. it’s less than $10.
There are exceptions to this example. At times an artist or a store is having a serious promotion to help attract attention, and sometimes the artist is just starting out, and doesn’t have a clear understanding of what it costs to make jewelry. Without a doubt, however, solid silver jewelry priced less than $10 is not even covering costs- but is actually costing them money to sell. So all those fabulous cheap jewelry shops with tables piled high with silver pendants for priced 3 for $4.95 … they’re not really silver.
5. Your silver is probably not true silver if…. it’s stamped “China” “Taiwan” or any other country that produces masses and masses of inexpensive jewelry for export.
This is also somewhat misleading. There are many fine artisans in these countries, who produce amazing, high quality work. Just like in the USA, however, they will stamp their jewelry in a responsible manner with their artist’s mark and the materials involved. If there’s no artist’s mark, it looks mass produced, and you’re in doubt it’s probably not silver.
So there you go – five basic warning signs that your silver isn’t silver. These aren’t definitive, and they may be incomplete, so use your best judgement!
What other warning signs can you think of?
For more information in identifying the real deal from the phony, click here.
Be careful on those online auction sites too. Most auction sites will help you if you get conned, but it still happens.
Caveat emptor (buyer beware). One useful technique is to use a credit card rather than a debit card or cash. There are some laws to protect you against credit card fraud. Call your credit card company if you get ripped off, they will help you recover your money.
We have a silver tea set that was left to us on the bottom reads. Reed and Barton king Frances 1653 creamer,1652 sugar and 1660 and 1955 and 1925 on other piece. Are they real?
Hi Sonja! Reed and Barton were premier silversmiths who specialized in high quality silver plated tea sets. The markings are not dates, but rather item numbers. Despite being plated, they are highly collectible, and sought after.
Here’s an example of the set for reference: https://www.sterlingshop.com/King_Francis_5_PC_Tea_Coffee_Service_p/18113.htm
Hey, I’m Interested in buying a supposed Silver necklace but the markings are unreadable apart from Italy, it’s a fake Chanel but I’m more interested if its Silver or not, is the fact there are markings at all mean its s good chance its Silver?.
Lisa – the fact it’s a fake Chanel should probably tell you that everything about it is fake, including any marks. I really wouldn’t take the risk unless you don’t mind wasting the money.
I have a necklace marked 925 on the chain and the pendant but the pendant is magnetic. Is it real or fake? Should I test it?
sayablingj jewelry is from.china not california. and is not marked 925 silver..plated..nice but looks like costume jrwelry..hard to return. only psys 10dollars for return to china. ..cant give real review..beware
How about a link to your very complete earlier blog article on silver and gold marking. I had read it before and it would be a great addition for those folks who want more information.
Trying to do an estate sale within the family.. some tea sets may be early–1920s ??? some 1960 Williamsburg VA place settings etc etc. Need to know how to identify through markings or knowledge of origin. Your blog seems to be the best help yet. Thanks. Unit markings site for who made the item, serial #s marques and so on’ Any help appreciated.
Hi Dave! If you’d like to email me a picture of the markings ( Kaelin at kaelindesign dot com ), I would be happy to help, or give you a some suggestions on where to go for the information.
I also have a silver chalice and patin set from the 60s. It was a French export and has the silversmiths stamp along with the mercury head stamp. It doesn’t have a 925 or any numerical stamp to tell purity but I was told that in France that’s how they made there silver. Is that correct?
Correct. The numerical stamping system is fairly modern. European countries especially had their own various legal ways of marking precious metals- and they would change based on what year it was or who was king.
Hi Kaelin I was wondering if you knew anything about those Victorian book chain necklaces ? Such as, why are they called what they are and how long where they popular for ? I’ve seen many and have just bought one with a silver locket for my partner for Christmas. Any information would be very much appreciated. Kind regards Philip
I have a ring an 2 pair of earrings and they are marked sterling but they dont test positive. Are these fake?
Hi Dave! Have you ever heard of Dr. Lori V? Look on YouTube for her videos. She’s a doctor in antiques and appraisals and tells you exactly what you should be looking for on alot of different things! She used to be a curator and she’s awesome! She educates us so we can know what she knows! Anyway, I hope you check her out! Have a great day!!
My silver necklace has wgb on a tag that hangs on the clasp. ??? Is it not real silver . I can not get a straight answer when I Google it. It just brings me to a horrible eBay review and places to buy necklaces.
Hi Warren! For that marking, I’d say it is likely “White Gold Bond” which is a thin layer of white gold over a non-precious base metal.
I have a set of “silver” fish knives and 6 forks On the back handle,about half way along the handle, is a “reference number or code”,R8623779.After that going towards the top of the handle are 4 sets of letters consisting of 2 letters X 3 and 1 set of 3 letters They are HA EA FA & EPA I presume the cutlery to be around 1920’s but could be wrong.There are no I d.marks to say it is silver or electro nickel plated silver.But then .925 wasn’t on silver until the 1940’s.Tge cutlery was tarnished and some areas were black.I used a jewellers silver polishing cloth to clean the cutlery and is is now shiny There is no wear on any of the cutlery Is this real silver?.
With those markings, you have a set of silver plate from the Atkin Brothers Silver company in England. They likely have a heavier silver plating than we commonly see in America, and with careful maintenance, the plating should last many more years.
Hello please could I send a photo for someone to identify what the marks on my necklace mean please
Hi Michael I bought some silver plated items from a charity shop and some of the silver plate had slightly worn through. I bought a bottle of what is called Silver Plate And Polishing Solution. It only cost me £5 and it worked really well. I’m telling you this just incase in time you notice you items plate getting a little thin in places. I’m in England and not sure where you are but I’m sure you could get the solution I mentioned in most countries. All the best Phil
I have a set of old garham king edward forks and spoons that have sterling on it .is it worth anything
Hi is it Gorham? And I think those are pretty collectible. I believe Gorham is very good!
Hello! I bought a silver ring at a pawn shop for $30, had it sized too. It doesn’t smell, doesn’t turn my finger green, isn’t magnetic, yet there is no marking whatsoever, but there is room for it. I’m so confused! What do you think?
Without seeing it- I’d say it’s possible that it’s a real silver ring, just mass produced, or created by someone who didn’t know to hallmark their work. Sometimes you can get a real bargain at pawn shops!
Hello! I’d like to buy this necklace but I want to be positive it’s silver as advertised. Could you let me know what you think? Thank you!
Hi I have two pieces of what I think is silver… Well it doesn’t stick to a magnet I did the ice test n it melted the ice fast like if it was boiling .. I hit them together n it made a high long ding sound … But it has no marking n the if I hold them for more then half an hour I. My sweaty palms my palms did not get green … The spoon is a fruit salad spoon about 12″ lenght … The only test left is the acid test …but can it be silver even though it has no marking of any kind …???
No, it could (and likely is) some form of stainless. Short of acid, you could also take your spoon, and put it in a plastic bag with a hardboiled egg. If it darkens within 24 hours, silver, otherwise stainless.
Hello, I found that onions also work. Thinly slice onions and as they sit out in oxygen they release sulfur dioxide. That is why onions from mcdonalds have that funky onions taste… they have been sitting out all day.
I used thinly sliced onions on a silver coin and it gave a really cool colored toning as well as striping that reminded me of making leaf-prints… really neat.
On an unrelated note: If you want your onions to keep that fresh onion flavor, rinse them immediately in cold water after slicing them!
Hi I have an old silver clogg trinket box…the only mark I see is foreign..I’ve done a couple of tests and it appears to be silver..
Hi I have a vintage coffee pot no name but has markings RPMB and then numbers P5157 then numbers 501 any Idea? thanks Liz
If something says plated does it mean it’s not real sterling silver?
I have what I believe is a real silver ring. It is stamped MEXICO 925 TC211, But the 9 spot is not legible as a 9 it seems worn but does not stick to a magnet. Any advice is helpful
Hi I bought A bag of junk jewelry for crafting and there’s a necklace with 4 hanging leaves. Only one leaf says “SS” and the others do not?? Would there be a reason for that? I did the smell test-negative. Magnet-negative. Ice-the ice melted rather quicker than another piece of ice I placed out the same time. Any help would be appreciated.
I have a silver tilting handled teapot marked CC in large letters and trw beneath the CC letters. The stand and warmer are missing. Can you tell me something about the marks?
Without seeing a picture of the teapot and it’s marks, it is very hard to give further detail. However, you can check your marks against this handy visual guide: https://www.925-1000.com/americansilver_C.html
The CC mark could very well be by Charles Carpenter, but I do recommend having it professionally appraised as silver markings vary considerably if the teapot came from overseas.
It is really a great and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us. Thanks for sharing.
I have a small piggy bank which tarnishes all the time it appears antique but has no markings whatsoever its very heavy for the size that it is and it cleans up very nicely simply with cigarette ashes(a trick someone told me about) do u think this could possibly be real silver?
What does 9254 on my silver chain means
Are the Bradford exchange rings the real thing ?
Are Bradford exchange rings the real deal ?
I have a silver compact with the marking 52 M ,is it real silver?
I want to purchase a Gotham oval platter. The seller says it’s sterling but the word “sterling” appears nowhere. Thee markings are Y414 141N “Gotham” R, P N S- each letter in square shapes and an anchor in a shield. Is this sterling?
Thank you very much for this useful article. I like it.
your article is soo amazing. I am so impressed. Thank you so much it’s very helpful for us
It is really a great and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this useful info with us.Thanks for sharing.
I have got the brooch silver written on pin and c clasp, is it real silver?
I have a silver ring marked 925BBJ. What does the BBJ stand for? I thought I was buying a sterling silver ring that was real.
Excellent blog post.
Why would a piece of jewelry be marked “Sterling” and .925?
awesome blog about silver.
Hello! How do I get rid of that orange color? I know it’s not real silver but it holds a lot of sentimental value to me and I want to take good care of it. Thank you!
I have several pieces of a Service set. One is marked with an open eagle symbol, Wm (m underlined) Rogers, Open Star and underneath is the number 33. I am fairly certain it is silver plated but am curious as to what the 33 means.
I also have two sizes of tea/coffee pots and a cream and sugar dish with FB Rogers on the bottom
A round platter with Gorham Heritage E (Anchor symbol)P (Electroplated I believe) YH320 and an extremely heavy rectangle serving tray with handles yet no markings on the bottom.
I have been searching for information on these but have yet to find anything.