How to tell real silver from the fake stuff…

how to tell real silver

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.