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Testing for silver with household chemicals


Q. Are there any household chemicals that can used to test a piece of metal for silver?

Je Bell
- Pulaski, Virginia


A. Silver is 10 percent heavier than copper and more than 15 percent heavier than tin or iron. So while its weight would not be proof, it would be a general indication of whether something probably is or is not silver. As for spot tests there are two difficulties: first, there are so many metals that you need a series of spot tests rather than a single spot test to tell one from the other; second, the reagents you need are not likely to be household chemicals.

There is a 200-page book available on spot testing for metal identification, but it's probably not well suited to most hobbyists.
pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. So, here's a question....IS THERE a more or less efficient way to test silver. I'm not looking for anything scientific (eg. the diff between .925 and .950), but something I can take along with me to South America and buy gifts that I can give with confidence they're not totally fake!


Trevor Norris
- Madrid, Spain


A. Simple test for silver:

25 gm potassium dichromate
25 gm nitric acid
Silver= red or reddish brown colour

(only oxide and grease free objects can be tested, one drop is sufficient, rinse well immediately!)

Goran Budija
- Zagreb ,Croatia

August 19, 2008

Q. I am a silver smith, and I want to check purity of silver at my factory each time when we are melting the same. Please suggest me some possibilities.

manoj kumar
- delhi, india

June 10, 2011

A. The simple way to check silver ornaments is to scratch the item on the rough flat rock and pour some sulphuric acid on it and then salt water. If it shows pure white in colour then its 100 percent pure. If it shows dirty white then 85 to 60 percent. And if its green then its below 60. Maybe low tech! Hope this could help out.

rajesh khanna
- coimbatore, Tamilnadu, india

March 15, 2012

Q. I was wondering if there is a simple test for gold like the sulfuric acid and salt water works for silver?

James Koopman
- Yakima, Washington, USA

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