Are you looking for a new sterling silver necklace, bracelet, or set of earrings?
When you're shopping for pieces like these, you need to consider more than just the style. You need to make sure they're genuine, too.
This is because many sellers attempt to pass off silver-plated jewelry as sterling silver. In order to avoid being duped, you need to learn the warning signs to look out for.
This is especially important if you're allergic to nickel as fake jewelry can cause you to break out in a rash.
In this post, we'll tell you everything you need to know to identify real .925 sterling silver.
Learn how to tell the difference between fake jewelry and the real deal with these simple tips:
Sterling silver is prone to tarnishing. This is because the copper it contains reacts to oxygen, moisture, and sulfur in the air.
That's why you need to regularly clean it and keep it looking shiny and new. This can be done by polishing it with a special cloth, or dipping it into a jewelry cleaning solution. After that, it's as good as new.
If you see any signs of tarnishing when shopping for jewelry, it's not necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, when it comes to sterling silver, it's a sign that it's real. Look out for dull patches or small black marks on any piece before you buy it.
After you've checked for tarnishing, you can do one quick and easy test. Take out a soft white cloth and rub it onto the tarnished area of the piece.
If it's genuine, you should see some black marks left on the cloth afterward. If it comes away spotless, the jewelry is either extremely clean, or it's not 925 sterling silver.
The next type of test you can do requires a little more preparation. That's because you'll need to have a small bottle of nitric acid.
When this acid comes into contact with fake or less than 925 silver jewelry, it will cause some discoloration. For example, 80 percent silver will turn brown, while 50 percent silver will turn green.
Nickel, which is commonly used for cheap costume jewelry, turns blue or green during the nitric acid test.
The test is can be carried out by simply dropping the acid on the item you're testing, or by taking a small shaving to test separately.
Since sterling silver doesn't have any reaction, genuine jewelers shouldn't have a problem with you proposing this test. In fact, some are able to perform the service themselves at your request. However, you may need to pay a fee beforehand.
If you're doing the test yourself at home, use a precious metal testing kit. These are similar to children's chemistry sets and can be easily purchased online.
Magnets have little to no effect on genuine sterling silver.
This means that if you have one handy, you can use it to perform a very simple test. If you find that your magnet creates a strong attraction to the jewelry you're testing, walk away. This is a clear indication that it's fake.
You can use this test to identify real gold, too.
The first way most people identify sterling silver is by looking for markings.
Sterling silver jewelry is always stamped with a marking to indicate the percentage of silver it contains. Usually, this appears as 925, .925 or 92.5.
In the U.S., anything less than 92.5 percent is not considered sterling silver. However, this isn't the case in some other parts of the world.
Sterling silver made in the U.S. is marked 925, .925 or 92.5. Jewelry with lower purity is not considered sterling silver by U.S. and U.K. standards.
For example, in Germany, sterling silver can be 83.5 percent, and in Lebanon, it can be as low as 70.0 percent.
The general threshold of 92.5 percent is becoming a worldwide standard, but since official standards still differ in various countries, it's possible for some jewelry to be marketed as sterling silver while being below that percentage.
That's why markings aren't always reliable. They don't tell you the entire story. Use them as a starting point, but conduct some of the other tests on this list, too.
You can also test sterling silver by listening to the sound it makes.
If you gently tap it, either with your finger or a coin, it should produce a high-pitched ringing sound similar to that of a bell.
When conducting this test, it's important to take great care not to damage the item. If you tap it too hard, you could cause a dent or a scratch. Then, you may have to pay for the item, whether or not it's genuine sterling silver!
This may sound like a strange way to test your jewelry, but it works.
Real sterling silver shouldn't give off any odor at all. Simply give it a sniff. If you get a strong or distinct smell, it's likely that it has a high concentration of copper or some other alloy.
Lastly, you should consider the price of a piece of jewelry before buying it. That's a dead giveaway.
Real sterling silver doesn't come cheap. You get what you pay for, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Steer clear of cheap, knock-off jewelry and buy from a reliable retailer at a price that makes sense.
Follow these guidelines, and you won't be fooled into buying anything less than .925 sterling silver.
Now that you know what you're looking for, you're ready to go shopping for the next addition to your jewelry collection. However, even for seasoned jewelry lovers, it's not easy. With so much variety out there, it can be hard to choose a piece that's just right.
If you need a little help, see our tips for buying jewelry.