How Can You Tell If Your Items Are Sterling Silver?
Silver is a major player in the precious metals game – and has been since at least the 12th century! When silver first appeared on the scene, it was used for commerce. Nowadays, it can be found in flatware, vases, jewelry, decorative accents, coins, paper clips, hair brushes, surgical instruments, instruments, and more.
Yet pure silver is too soft on its own, so other metals are mixed in to toughen it up. So how can you tell if your items are sterling silver? That’s where the hallmark comes in.
Silversmiths would brand each piece of silver with its purity content, which told buyers the silver content in a piece. Fun fact: Baltimore was once a major producer of silver due to its booming silversmith industry. Even now, you can still find pieces marked by Baltimore silversmiths.
In the United States, sterling silver is classified as containing 92.5% or more silver, which is why you might see “sterling” or “925” stamped at the bottom of an authentic sterling silver piece. That’s the key identifier that a piece is sterling silver. Additionally, silversmiths would stamp the piece with the mark of the silversmith or designer, and sometimes, the date of manufacture. Being able to see these details go a long way in verifying an item’s authenticity and value!
What if there’s no hallmark?
That’s what we’re here for! There are a variety of tests that professionals can use to identify the authenticity of a piece. Here’s one you can do at home: take a cube of ice and put it on top of the silver item. Take another cube of ice and put it on an item made of another metal or alloy. Silver has the highest thermal conductivity, which means it will melt the ice faster than any other metal. If the ice melts in equal time, it’s not sterling silver.
Another fun one to do at home: grab a few magnets and see if they’re drawn to your object. If the magnet sticks strongly, it’s not sterling silver.
How the professionals evaluate silver
With all silver, you should always have a professional verify whether they are sterling silver or hold any value. A big factor in identifying sterling silver is time: pieces created prior to 1906 vary in how they are marked or whether they are marked at all. Pieces created after then followed a more standard convention that included the 925 or sterling label.
If you want further validation on whether or not your items are sterling silver, a professional can help. At Samuelson’s, we often use acid to test the silver content if there is no hallmark evident. A drop of nitric acid will trigger no reaction on sterling silver, which helps us confirm that it is indeed sterling silver. If the item is not sterling silver, the liquid from the acid will turn green and bubble up on the surface of the item.
Our expert silver buyers are always available to determine if your items are sterling silver. We can walk you through the process of assessing the item’s history and its current value. If you’re looking to sell, we can also walk you through our offer process since we are always on the lookout for gorgeous sterling silver flatware, hollowware, or tea sets!
To start the process, contact us to request an appointment with one of our certified buyers.
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