Checking silver for its authenticity is actually quite easy. Here are a few tests you could try.
Image by Caro Wallis via Flickr
There are many ways to check silver for authenticity. Here’s what you can do to spot counterfeits.
The Ping Test
Tap your silver with another piece of real silver and you should hear a ringing sound, like a bell. This test takes a little practice so understand the sound it should make.
The Magnet Test
Take a strong magnet and place it on the piece of silver, slanting the item at a slight angle. If the piece is genuine, the magnet will slide down at a slow pace. By doing this, you’ll ensure your silver item hasn’t been faked with a magnetic metal core. If you have jewellery from Silver by Mail, you don’t have to worry about getting fake silver. You can see their full collection available online now and not have to go through any of these rigorous counterfeit tests.
The Weight Test
This should be the most important test you do to check your silver. All previous metals are weighed in Troy Ounces. Place your silver item on a scale to check its weight for authenticity.
The Archimedes Principle
This is probably the most accurate silver test of all. It’s not the easiest to conduct but it’s well worth it to avoid buying counterfeit silver. It’s also one the best tests as it won’t damage your items at all.
When a piece of silver is submerged, the volume of the object is equal to the volume of displaced liquid. This is how you can calculate the density of the item. Every chemical element has a particular density so it makes it even easier for you to determine whether the density is right for the item’s supposed composition.
Start by weighing the piece of metal jewellery. Ideally, you should use a triple-beam gram balance or even an electronic scale that has the equivalent accuracy.
Next, submerge your item into water and measure the weight of displaced water, converting it to volume. The accuracy of the measurements you take will determine the accuracy of the final calculation.
Let’s say you have a couple of silver bangles crafted in quality silver that weighs in at exactly 1 kilogram and it displaces around 3.25 fl. Oz of water. All you do is divide the weight by volume and you’ll get to a density of 10.49 grams per square centimetre.
Take a look on the periodic table of elements and you’ll realise that the only element that has that density is pure silver. Anything less than 3.25 floz and you’ll know your item is not pure silver.
This test can tell you the difference between gold and tungsten, too. A 100 ounces’ troy tungsten bar will displace 0.4 millilitres more water, for example, than a gold bar that has the exact same weight.
Density measurements can be fairly difficult with coin-sized pieces of gold. That’s alright, though, since a coin that has a tungsten core can be very quickly spotted by the fact that it will not ring when flicked into the air.
Experienced metal handlers are able to quickly spot a fake piece of silver without even needed to take precise measurements. They know almost exactly how heavy a piece of silver should be for its size and will be able to rapidly notice the difference in size or weight. What’s more, each alloy tends to make a particular kind of sound when you flip it up in the air or jiggle it around.
When all else fails, ask to see certifications or take the item to an experienced jeweller who will tell you if the silver is indeed counterfeit or not.