The art of silver testing the quality of jewellery has always been considered a dark one, especially for those who know little about the science behind the methods.
We look at the basics, although it has to be said that sometimes what looks like a good piece of silver jewellery is not and what looks a like a dull dirty piece of metal is often good quality silver jewellery. Good silver does tarnish quickly, whereas stainless steel does not so be aware that some cleaning is required.
Most of the jewellery we select, and import, is ordered with the assurance that it is at least Sterling Silver.
It is easy to spot when our suppliers, and we have over 100, are trying to supply inferior goods. This is how it is done.
Firstly we have a look at the piece for any stamps. Larger pieces should have a hall mark (legislation dictates that items of 7.78 g and over must have a mark). Some will have a number stamped on them such as ‘925’ – this is the mark for Sterling Silver. The stamp means that the manufacturer is declaring that the metal is 92.5% silver.
Unhappily, some makers of silver jewellery are fake which means that it is necessary the carry out further tests.
The next test for silver jewellery is a test for magnetic attraction. Provided the metal is silver in colour, the next step is to see if it is steel, or stainless steel, which will be attracted strongly by a powerful magnet. Do not worry if a very slight attraction to silver is displayed, as this is normal.
Our tests are not complete yet though as many other metals that are not magnetic look like silver and are not, however we can eliminate steel based items.
While some advocate tests like thermal conductivity and sound retention tests, for silver jewellery items it is it often not practical for smaller peices so chemical analysis test using a corrosive acid is the next best way to establish if the item is silver.
You may have to remove the top layer, with a file, in an inconspicuous place. A small amount of the acid is placed onto the item and the colour that it turns indicates what the metal is. If the solution turns red then there is a certainty that the item contains silver.
A method of home testing would be to place some ordinary household bleach on a piece of silver. Silver will rapidly tarnish.
Note. If, after testing, you find you have a small round blob about 1mm across on your silver jewellery, it is probably the mark left from the silver being tested with chemicals. While this is virtually unnoticeable, it can be removed using of bicarbonate of soda.
You can buy your silver testing kit at Amazon by clicking here