Why Is There So Much Fake Sterling Silver Jewellery Around?
As the price of silver as an investment rises, so the price of silver jewellery goes up. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver, and so is a costly metal. For this reason, there is a lot of fake silver on the market and a lot of silver-like alloys being passed off as sterling silver.
Not All That Sparkles Is Silver
S925 Silver is Sterling Silver, it is 92.5% pure silver alloyed with another metal, usually copper. This is the silver from which prized jewellery is fashioned. There are other alloys claiming to be silver, but they aren’t 92.5% the real thing. Watch out for EPNS, it is a nickel alloy which contains no silver unless it is silver-plated. Beware also of Alpaca silver, German silver, and Tibetan silver. These are all alloys containing considerably less silver than bona fide sterling silver. Finally, be cautious when offered 925 FAS silver, there is confusion about this acronym and some jewellery of doubtful provenance is stamped with it. An online jeweller like Silver by Mail in the UK will not trade in such alloys.
Ways To Spot Fake Sterling Silver
Here are some ways to stop yourself being fooled by fake sterling silver jewellery.
Exercise caution. Consider the price of what you are being offered. If it seems the deal is just too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true. When you purchase silver as jewellery, it is more costly than its price by weight because value is added when it is made into jewellery. Cheap jewellery is highly unlikely to be Sterling Silver.
Take a soft cotton cloth and rub the jewellery. Sterling Silver should leave a black smudge on the cloth. If the cloth is left clean, then the jewellery certainly isn’t silver. This property of silver was used in the medieval period when plans for cathedrals were drawn on sheets of linen with silver, not lead, pencils.
Check for stamps and hallmarks. All Sterling Silver is stamped or hallmarked. If there are no stamps, it isn’t silver. Also look carefully at any stamps which are on it. These should be firmly stamped into the jewellery and easy to inspect. Faint stamps, stamps obscured by plating, and stamps simply reading ‘silver’ are dubious, and jewellery carrying them cannot be trusted.
With larger pieces of jewellery, rub the surface of the jewellery with your thumb, then smell the silver. Sterling Silver is virtually odourless. If the jewellery emits a dirty metallic smell, it is not authentic sterling silver jewellery.
Sterling silver is non-ferrous, and so, will not be attracted to a magnet. Pass a small magnet by the jewellery, if there is even the slightest magnetic reaction, you can be assured the jewellery is fake.
Finally, there are acid tests which can be performed to check whether jewellery is silver or not. These can be dangerous and are probably best left to professionals in laboratories. However, if you are feeling brave, a small amount of nitric acid can be placed on the jewellery. If the surface turns green, then the jewellery is not Sterling Silver. If it goes cloudy grey, then it is real.
So you can use your common sense, eyes, nose, handkerchief, magnet or nitric acid (as a last resort) to avoid buying fake Sterling Silver.