How To Tell The Difference Between Real And Fake Silver

Can you tell if your silver is real or plated (fake)? The ability to verify your precious metals bullion is the first step (and maybe the most important step) when investing in gold, silver, platinum, or palladium.

Real silver is one of civilization’s oldest and most reliable valuable metals. Plated silver is almost worthless. The difference between the two is stark, but differentiating can be challenging for the untrained eye. This guide will help you spot fake bullion and protect you from fraudulent investments.*

*Of course, this information can also help you find out if your silver jewelry, cutlery, or decorations are authentic, too.

Why It’s Impossible to Fake Silver Perfectly

Silver is not a man-made creation. It’s a naturally occurring element with its own unique atomic properties. That said, all silver owners should understand that no investment-grade bullion is 100% pure silver. Pure silver is incredibly delicate and soft, not very conducive to retaining a bar or coin shape. Instead, silver bars and coins (and jewelry, etc.) are what are known as alloys, or blends of silver and other metals in trace amounts.  Investment grade silver products are Fine silver. They are mostly either 99.9% or 99.99% silver. Sterling-quality silver is 92.5% silver.

It is important to know that there are no fake silver bars, coins, or other products that can fake industry-standard silver alloys.

Test Method #1: Silver Melts Ice

One relatively easy and fun way to test your silver bars and coins is to place a cube of ice on them. Even at room temperature, authentic silver products will melt the ice at an exceedingly rapid rate. For the best results, try melting a second cube on a different kind of metal, such as copper, steel, or aluminum.

Test Method #2: Silver Can Sing

Find another (ideally smooth, soft, and non-abrasive) metal and gently strike it against your metal bullion. If your silver is real, you will hear a definitive “ping” sound reverberate from the collision. This ping, or chime, is distinct to real silver.

Test Method #3: Real Silver Is Not Magnetic

Most fake silvers use a thin silver plating to achieve the same shine and, to a much lesser extent, the same conductivity. However, this betrays one of the most powerful identifying properties of real silver: silver is not magnetic. Unfortunately, the magnetism check requires a somewhat powerful magnet to prove. This can be difficult since most households lack such magnets.

Test Method #4: Look at the Markings

Of course, the fastest and most obvious way to check for authentic silver is to look at the silver markings. Since the earliest days of coinage and artisanship, silversmiths and craftsmen put a designer market on their creations to prove quality and to differentiate from the competition. For example, sterling silver products almost always carry a “Sterling” stamp, usually near the bottom. Investment-quality bullion is always fine silver.

When it comes to bars and coins, the markings should include weight, purity, serial numbers, sometimes even mintage year. While these markings can be faked, missing or incorrect markings are a clear sign of a cheap knock-off.

Does Real Silver Turn Black?

One common concern regarding silver is tarnishing. The question arises: Does real silver turn black?

What Causes Silver to Tarnish?

Real silver tarnishes over time due to its reaction with sulfur compounds found in the air. When silver comes into contact with sulfur, it forms silver sulfide, which manifests as a dark coating on the surface of the metal. This natural process can often indicate that your piece is genuine silver.

How Tarnish Can Help and Hurt

Tarnishing is often considered a disadvantage because it diminishes the shine of the silver. However, tarnish can serve as a friend in the realm of identifying genuine silver. If a silver item tarnishes, it’s often an indicator of its authenticity. However, it’s crucial to understand that not all metals that tarnish are necessarily silver; some fake or silver-plated items can also develop tarnish.

Removing Tarnish

If your silver item has tarnished, you can use commercial silver cleaners to remove it. However, constant cleaning can lead to wear and tear. You can also use home remedies like a baking soda-water paste. Apply the paste to the tarnished area and rub gently.

Environmental Factors

Silver tarnishes more quickly in environments with higher sulfur content. If you live in an area with a lot of industrial activity or near the sea, your silver may tarnish more quickly. Substances like perfumes, lotions, and oils can also accelerate tarnishing.

What Does 935 Mean on a Silver Ring?

Purity Levels and Hallmarks

The hallmark “935” on a silver ring denotes that the item contains 93.5% pure silver, with the remaining 6.5% being other metals, typically copper, for added durability. This is a higher purity level than typical sterling silver, usually 92.5% pure.

Fake Hallmarks

It’s essential to note that counterfeiters have been known to put fundamental hallmarks on fake silver. A 935 mark alone is not enough to verify an item’s authenticity.

Verifying 935 Silver

Aside from looking at the hallmark, you should consider other methods to authenticate silver. Weight tests, acid tests, and even professional appraisals can confirm whether your silver is genuine.

Quality and Durability

Higher purity sometimes means better quality. A higher percentage of pure silver makes the metal softer and less durable. The added metals in sterling silver often strengthen the item, making it more suitable for rings subject to daily wear and tear.

What Does 835 Mean on Silver?

Understanding the 835 Mark

The 835 mark denotes a silver item containing 83.5% pure silver. This hallmark is often found on European silver and has historical origins going back to various continental standards for silver purity.

Verification Process

Like with 935 silver, it’s crucial to conduct additional tests to confirm that an 835-marked item is genuine. Weight tests, acid tests, and professional appraisals are effective methods.

Why 835 Silver?

This lower purity level is often found in decorative items or antique pieces. It is still considered high-quality silver but is slightly less pure than the more commonly seen 925 or 935 marks.

Historical and Regional Considerations

The 835 hallmark is commonly found on European silver items and may indicate a piece’s historical or regional origins. Collectors often find this hallmark on antique European silverware or jewelry.

Silver Prices

Market Fluctuations and Their Causes

Silver prices are subject to market forces, including supply and demand, geopolitical events, and economic conditions. Always be aware of current silver prices when buying or selling items.

Cheap Doesn’t Mean Authentic

A lower price can be an immediate red flag. Authentic silver is rarely cheap, and a price that seems too good to be true is.

Premiums on Silver

Remember that the price of silver items isn’t solely based on weight. Workmanship, brand, age, and rarity can also significantly affect an item’s price.

Investment vs. Collection

Investors often look for silver bars or coins with high purity and little concern for artistic value. In contrast, collectors may pay premium prices for items with historical or aesthetic value, irrespective of purity.

Does Fake Silver Have 925?

The Reality of Counterfeit Marks

While 925 is a hallmark denoting sterling silver, it’s essential to remember that fake items can also carry this mark. Counterfeiters often use this to their advantage to trick buyers.

Additional Testing Methods

The 925 mark should only be the starting point for verifying an item’s authenticity. Conduct additional tests like magnet, weight, and acid to ensure you purchase genuine silver.

Where You Buy Matters

Always buy silver from reputable sources, especially if you rely on hallmarks for verification. Many reputable dealers will provide certificates of authenticity and offer guarantees on their items.

Consequences of Fake Silver

Purchasing fake silver is not just a loss of money. It can also lead to mistrust and discourage you from investing in silver in the future. Always carry out due diligence to ensure you are making a wise investment.

By adhering to these guidelines and being vigilant, you can easily distinguish between real and fake silver, ensuring your investment retains its value over time.

Silver Bullion as Stalwart Against Fiat Money, Economic Turmoil

Silver remains the second-most popular precious metal for commodity investing, both in the United States and internationally. Since many silver bars and coins qualify for Self-Directed IRA inclusion, investors can protect their portfolio while staving off the IRS, too.

You can own real, physical silver bullion and store it in a tax-advantaged retirement vehicle. American Bullion can discuss your options and help you every step of the way. Our #1 goal is to help you take control of your own finances, and we promise to be transparent, safe, and efficient in the process.

Although the information in this commentary has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, American Bullion does not guarantee its accuracy and such information may be incomplete or condensed. The opinions expressed are subject to change without notice. American Bullion will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be used to make buy or sell decisions for any type of precious metals.