Sterling silver is a type of metal used to manufacture jewelry, tableware and other items. But since pure silver is too soft to manipulate on its own, it is normally mixed with other metals that are more durable, such as copper and nickel. For a certain item to be considered as true sterling silver, it should be at least.925 pure silver, and the remaining.075 may consist of other types of metals.
Sometimes a particular item have an overlay of real silver on top of other non-silver metal. This is referred to as silver plating and it isn’t considered sterling silver. The silver coating will be worn away in years of use, exposing the metal underneath which is lesser quality.
So if you are thinking of investing on sterling silver jewelry or want to get one as a gift for your loved one, keep in mind the following guidelines to determining true sterling silver from silver plated:
1. The first thing you have to look for when you are identifying genuine sterling silver is the authenticating mark. When true silver is created, often it is engraved with a marking like Sterling 925, 9.25 Sterling, or S/S. On jewelries, such marking is normally etched on the clasp; on flatware, the marking is engraved on the utensil’s underside. An item without such marking is rarely the real thing.
2. Closely examine the colouring of the item. Typically, real silver is shiny and cooler in colour compared to silver coating. If you notice certain spots or areas where the silver appears to have flaked off or worn away, the item is perhaps not the real thing.
3. Rub the item using a soft, light coloured cloth. If you see black marks on the cloth, the item is most probably true sterling silver. This is because genuine silver tarnishes and oxidizes when exposed to air, and the smear will be rubbed off onto the soft cloth when the item is polished with it.
4. Your last resort is to take the item to a pawn shop or a jewelry store. Ask to have it tested. They normally use nitric acid, a harsh industrial chemical that will discolour materials that are not silver, because it contains a high level of copper. Since the substance will create a permanent green spot on a silver-plated item, make sure you have the chemical applied on an inconspicuous spot.