There are a few ways to determine if your jewelry is genuine solid sterling silver, if it is simply Silver tone or silver-plated, or worse yet, fraudulently advertised as .925 sterling silver.Here are 5 ways to uncover the truth.
1. Fine silver (99.9% pure) is too soft for use in jewelry designs, so sterling silver is used by jewelers to create high-quality silver jewelry. Sterling silver is an alloy that is created by combining pure silver with another metal to provide increased strength and durability. Sterling silver jewelry should contain a .925 quality stamp, meaning that the composition contains 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper. The .925 or STER quality stamp is regulated and mandatory on all sterling silver jewelry produced in the USA. Often the .925 stamp is quite small and may require a magnifying glass to view clearly. The mark will likely be placed in an inconspicuous location. Check for the .925 quality stamp on the clasp of a bracelet or necklace, the back side of a pendant, or the inside of a ring.
2. Under US federal law genuine sterling silver jewelry must also contain the jeweler's hallmark stamp along with the .925 quality stamp. The jeweler's hallmark stamp is a maker's registered mark that identifies their work.
3. Use a soft polishing cloth to assess the authenticity of sterling silver jewelry. Genuine sterling silver will naturally darken/tarnish with time as it oxidizes with air. This tarnish can be easily removed with a silver polishing cloth to restore the original brilliance of the piece. Sterling silver jewelry will produce black marks on the cloth.
4. Like gold and platinum, silver is not magnetic. An ordinary refrigerator magnet may not be strong enough to elicit a response, so use a heavy-duty magnet to conduct this test. Heavy-duty magnets may be found at your nearest hardware store. If the piece of jewelry that you are testing is attracted to the magnet, it is not sterling silver.
5. Genuine sterling silver is odorless. While copper is a common alloy in sterling silver, .925 sterling silver does not contain enough copper to produce an aroma. If your silver-tone jewelry smells like an old penny, it's not sterling silver.