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Real silver vs. sterling silver


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March 1, 2010

Q. Can you tell if a piece of jewelry is 925 Sterling silver by holding a magnet close to it? If it is not attracted to the magnet it is 925, if it is attracted it is not. Is this possible?

Phoebe Strain
- Foremost, AB, Canada


March 2, 2010

A. Hi, Phoebe. A magnet will tell you very little. Only iron (steel) is magnetic, so if the item is magnetic then it is silver plated steel, but jewelry is almost never a steel base, but rather a copper or nickel alloy. So it being non-magnetic is no indication that it is solid silver.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


April 16, 2010

Q. Omega 6 mm Italian Sterling Silver? What is difference between this type of silver and a necklace that is stated to be solid silver.925?

Cecilia Dutcher
hobbyist - Oak Ridge, New Jersey


May 13, 2010

Q. Hi there, I have a question about silver content in jewelry. I was wanting to buy some silver jewelry online and when I asked about the silver content they told me that it was 60% silver and 40% alloy. is this something that I should be weary of? they said that their stuff is good quality, but is it comparable to 925 silver pieces? I love to wear silver jewelry on a daily basis, is this percentage of silver a good choice? will it last?
Thanks for any advice you can give me.

Brandi Daugherty
- Courtenay, bc, canada


May 17, 2010

A. Hi, Brandi.

925 / Sterling silver is 92.5% silver. That's a lot more than 60%. The 60/40 stuff should wear fine and last indefinitely, but I would be concerned about it turning green from having so much non-silver (probably copper or nickel) content in it.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey

Silver Jewelry Collectors Guide


July 17, 2010

Q. My wife has bought a ring with 925 marking inside, but no other hallmarks. Is there any significance in the lack of other marks?

John T

John Thompson
Just Interested - Lincoln, United Kingdom


August 11, 2010

A. Since 4000 BC, people from Anatolia (Turkey) had started using silver for making handicrafts and living-wares. Nowadays, besides jewelry and silverwares, silver has many industrial applications such as photographs or electric contacts.

Pure silver is too soft for handicraft making. So, it will be alloyed with other metals to increase the strength and hardness. Since 13th century, the fineness of the sterling silver has been standardized to 925.

Pure silver is too soft for production. Conventionally, copper is added to increase strength and hardness of the resultant silver alloy. Due to fire-scale problem raised from copper, many other metals are also added to improve the production quality

Copper have long been using as a complementary metal for sterling silver.
Nowadays, many manufacturers shifted to use master alloys for sterling silver production.

Copper is hard , has fire scale problem, ability to tarnish soon, cheaper and has fair performance in usage.

Sterling Silver alloys have various hardness from 55-70 Hv. Various workability, Less fire scale problem, Anti Tarnishing, Good performance in usage, Relatively more costly than copper.

To cope with the different demands, master alloys with various properties and functions are developed for the markets. Some of them have better hardness and some of them may have better anti-tarnishing abilities.

roshan nair Roshan Nair
Sr. Manager - jewelry mfg. machine & tools division
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

August 31, 2010

Q. Several years ago, I agreed to clear the lot of a recent two story house fire for the scrap, mostly the brick and stone, etc.. Would not recommend it Anyway, I discovered what must have been a Silver Service set in the rubble some forks and spoons are somewhat recognizable although twisted and the designs are melted. Also, there is a big "Blob" of melted metal with pieces sticking out. A magnet does not react to anywhere I place it, I hacksawed about a quarter of the way through the blob until I noticed all of the shiny dust I was wasting. Any advice on testing it for purity?

Jack Cawthon
Broke and wanting to sell salvage - Wolfe City, Texas, USA

October 14, 2010

A. For determining if a piece is actually sterling silver and possibly the percent silver or if it is silver plated, you should be able to use the object's mass and density. I would assume any self-respecting high school or college chemistry instructor would both have the knowledge and equipment to help a person out with this. It would also be a great way to demonstrate to students some useful aspects of the subject matter.

Felice Troutman
- Paragould Arkansas USA

October 27, 2010

Q. I found a set of six silver goblets, they have black oxidization on them but no markings, they clean up well but I'm wondering how to determine their silver content if any.

adin ellison
buyer - kansas city, Missouri USA

January 4, 2011

Q. I have an old set of spoons I inherited in a presentation box-it has a ribbon that identifies it as K Uyeda Jeweller, Imperial Hotel, Tokyo--the stamp on the back is written in Japanese and was translated to me "made of silver"--this is a very reputable jeweler still in Japan. Do you think this is silver and not sterling or plated?

Carol Uyeda
hobbyist - Modesto, California USA

----
Ed. note -- Readers: This site is about metal finishing. As we talk about markings, and how they relate to metal finishes, we're moving towards the fringes of our topic although that's probably still okay.

But we don't trace hallmarks, or print histories, evaluations, assessments, offers to buy, offers to sell, or anything of the sort. Sorry, this is not a hallmarking or antiquing site, nor Ebay or Craigslist -- it's a narrowly focused metal finishing site. Apologies.


January 14, 2011

A. YOU ARE RIGHT, Silver never goes black. It gets dirty and it is very easy to clean.
SAME THING IN EPNS. IT IS ALSO A PURE SILVER PLATED PRODUCT NOTHING ELSE. SILVER IS LONG LASTING BUT SILVER PLATING IS NOT.

KAPIL AGARWAL
- MORADABAD,U.P.INDIA

February 15, 2011

Q. Hi. I recently purchased a mens bracelet for my boyfriend and wanted to know will it change in water or out in the sun.

Shawata Blackman
hobbyist - Hampton, Georgia, USA

February 16, 2011

A. Hi, Shawata. The sun won't hurt his jewelry, but jewelry is not meant to be worn in the water.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


April 12, 2011

Q. I have an antique ring that was my grandmothers. My grandmother was born in 1886. I am not sure when she acquired the ring. The ring has a large amethyst and 2 small diamonds. It has always been my understanding that the band & setting were sterling silver, but I cannot find a mark. It has the look and feel of sterling. I know it has been resized at least twice over the last 100+ years. Is it possible it never had a mark? Is it possible that the mark would be lost by resizing? How can I know for sure if it is sterling or not without using acid on it? It is a very old and beautiful ring and I don't want to damage it.

Julie Harrell
- Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

June 2, 2011

Q. I HAVE ACQUIRED AN ANTIQUE BROOCH THAT HAS THE NUMBER 1000 ON IT. THERE ARE NO OTHER MARKINGS ON THE PIECE. IT LOOKS LIKE SILVER BUT HAS VERY LITTLE TARNISH ON IT FOR BEING SO OLD. IT DOES NOT REACT TO A MAGNET. COULD IT BE PLATINUM WITHOUT THE PLT. OR PT. ?

Christina Crowthers
COLLECTOR - Maple Shade, New Jersey, USA

June 7, 2011

Q. Dear All: I am in Bangkok, Thailand. With silver up so high I decided to sell an old set of sterling silverware called: Royal Danish by International Silver. This is a very common pattern dating from the late 50's early 60's. You can see it on Ebay all the time. Anyway, I went to the local dealers and no one would buy it because silver is now so high right now. They said I could get good money right now, if I sold it for scrap. I decided to go to some of the metal "smiths" in Chinatown here in Bangkok. On the back of this silver it is clearly marked "Sterling Silver" International Silver Company USA. ---- In all my research, sterling silver from USA is 92.5% silver if marked---it is the law. When the man looked at the silver he made several tests with chemicals and then said he must melt down one to see if it is pure sterling. As I wanted to sell it, I decided to let him melt down a salad fork..... Long story short: He melted a fork, tested again and came back and said it was only 78-80% silver ... and I was shocked! He tested it several times and he would not budge even after I told him it was a law in the USA and the company is too famous to not make their sterling 92.5% ... I decided not to sell and I am TOTALLY confused. He tested it and told me the level of green color indicates the %. Could this be true? And if I have a set of International Sterling silver that is below 80% silver this would be fraud by a major US silver company. ----- Can anyone advice? ---- I went to two places and both tested it and came back with about 78%.... silver. Thanks for the advice.... USABKK

Claude Harris
- Bangkok, Thailand

June 11, 2011

Q. Hi,
I have what looks like an old Victorian child's silver bangle. I want to know more about it and if it is actually silver. It has a fern patten and is hallmarked with WD and the words 'silver band' Any help would be appreciated as I have been searching for ages. Thank you.

Angela Newell
- United Kingdom

----
Ed. note -- Readers: This site is about metal finishing. As we talk about markings, and how they relate to metal finishes, we're moving towards the fringes of our topic although that's probably still okay.

But we don't trace hallmarks, or print histories, evaluations, assessments, offers to buy, offers to sell, or anything of the sort. Sorry, this is not a hallmarking or antiquing site, nor Ebay or Craigslist -- it's a narrowly focused metal finishing site. Apologies.


June 14, 2011

Q. HELLO. MY NAME IS LORI AND RECENTLY I BOUGHT A RING A A YARD SALE IN A JUNK JEWELRY BOX IT HAS 925 LA STAMPED INSIDE THE RING WHAT DOES THE LA STAND FOR? I THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE SILVER LAYOVER. THANK YOU FOR ANY INFO YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO GIVE ME!

LORI ECK
HOBBYIST - LINWOOD NEW JERSEY USA
June 21, 2011

Q. I have two larger pieces of what I believe to be silver, a teapot and sugar bowl. They are stamped on the bottom with 123 S6 (or SG) and 123 S, respectfully. What to these stamps signify?

Lyn MacArthur
- Aberdeen, Maryland USA

----
Ed. note -- Readers: This site is about metal finishing. As we talk about markings, and how they relate to metal finishes, we're moving towards the fringes of our topic although that's probably still okay.

But we don't trace hallmarks, or print histories, evaluations, assessments, offers to buy, offers to sell, or anything of the sort. Sorry, this is not a hallmarking or antiquing site, nor Ebay or Craigslist -- it's a narrowly focused metal finishing site. Apologies.


August 3, 2011

Q. My husband just purchased a ring for me made of recycled flatware while on our vacation to San Francisco. It has beautiful rose-like flowers on both sides of the item. The artist told me that it was sterling silver from around the 1800's. I have tried to look for the marks but, since the ring was made from only the upper portion of the handle, the only identifiable marks I see on the inside of the piece are two individually boxed letters: S I. I have gone to the www.925-1000.com/americansilver_I.html website and still cannot figure it out. Pictures to follow. Thank you for your response.

Cybele de Moura Cerchio
hobbyist - Bountiful, Utah, USA

----
Ed. note -- Readers: This site is about metal finishing. As we talk about markings, and how they relate to metal finishes, we're moving towards the fringes of our topic although that's probably still okay.

But we don't trace hallmarks, or print histories, evaluations, assessments, offers to buy, offers to sell, or anything of the sort. Sorry, this is not a hallmarking or antiquing site, nor Ebay or Craigslist -- it's a narrowly focused metal finishing site. Apologies.


August 8, 2011

Q. What markings will be on I guess sterling silver spoons forks, etc.

Steve Christian
HOBBYIST - Elberton Georgia USA

August 2011

A. Hi, Steve.

"Sterling", most likely.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


September 12, 2011

Q. I have some pieces of flatware, Gorham English Gadroon and Kirk Repousse, that got some salt crystals from a pewter salt cellar on them when I moved. When I looked at them some months later I noticed the salt and that it had left a dark gray mark on the silver where it had landed. I polished with a silver polish but it won't come off. Does this mean my silver is plated? What can I do?

Dan O'Raghallaigh
Home owner - Baltimore, Maryland, USA

October 4, 2011

My father had a lighter he picked up in Japan when we lived there in the mid 1960's. The top of the lighter has "Kobe, Japan". The bottom has "SILVER" stamped into it. The lighter insert is an older model Zippo. My question is, since it does't have 950 or 925 stamped into the bottom instead it has silver, can it still be sterling silver?

Micheal Cain
Researcher for sales - Las Vegas, Nevada
October 5, 2011

Q. Hello, I recently purchased a new plain silver band from a kiosk selling only silver jewelry at a local Ontario mall. I believe the jewelry originated in the Middle East. Over the next few weeks the tarnish on the ring got darker and darker with many scratches and pit marks. It looks more like sterling with a dash of copper than silver, even after using metal and jewelry polish. I cannot get it back to it's original luster like other silver rings. Coincidentally I wear it right next to another silver ring that remains bright and lovely like the day it was made by a Canadian First Nations artist more than 40 years ago. No scratches, no pit marks, no tarnish. That ring doesn't have any markings, but the new ring is stamped 925. Could I have been duped by a 'silver plate' or counterfeit ring instead of solid silver? Is there a way to check to be sure? Any advice you can give is greatly appreciated.

Sheila R.
consumer - Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

October 12, 2011

A. Hi, Sheila.

Although people need to be wary of counterfeit hundred dollar bills, the likelihood of being stuck with a counterfeit one or five dollar bill is small because the savings to the counterfeiter aren't worth the risks. Although sterling silver is valuable, it is only a semi-precious metal, not a precious metal; the implication being that counterfeiting of a sterling silver ring by an established business sounds very unlikely to me.

Tarnished is the natural condition of sterling silver. Silver that is untarnished is either rhodium plated, clear coated with a lacquer, or perhaps very high purity rather than Sterling (92.5% pure). You are probably correct about the copper; there is probably approximately 100 - 92.5 = 7.5% copper in your ring, and that does promote tarnishing. Sorry, I can't really account for pitting and a propensity towards scratching.

It is possible to non-destructively test the silver content with a very expensive device ($35,000) called a scrap-sorter X-ray fluorescence machine, if you have a friend in the junkyard business. Otherwise, acid testing is relatively easy but somewhat destructive as described in the postings above. I'd probably suggest continuing your quest for a better metal polish. But you may need to power buff the ring as opposed to simple hand rubbing with a cloth and polish. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


October 15, 2011

Q. I have flatware that I brought home from Germany shortly after the war. It has a marking "Bader 100" and then what looks like a copyright marking. It is tarnished and has not been used for some 60 years.

DanV

Dan Verdino
curious - Casselberry, Florida, USA

----
Ed. note -- Readers: This site is about metal finishing. As we talk about markings, and how they relate to metal finishes, we're moving towards the fringes of our topic although that's probably still okay.

But we don't trace hallmarks, or print histories, evaluations, assessments, offers to buy, offers to sell, or anything of the sort. Sorry, this is not a hallmarking or antiquing site, nor Ebay or Craigslist -- it's a narrowly focused metal finishing site. Apologies.


November 5, 2011

Q. I have a set of what I would call Irish coffee mug holders. The holders are of a delicate filigree style and marked 510MMET on the bottom. That is the only mark that I can find. I think I that mark may be Russian. Any information would be appreciated.

27488

Tina Whitfill
owner - Euless, Texas

February 22, 2012

Q. I have just bought an old swiss watch (1890). The seller said said it was 'solid silver', but there are no hallmarks on the inner lid, just JC FINE SILVER in a small rectangular box. As fine silver (999) can't be used to make watch cases, I suppose it is a silver plated case. Am I right?

Jaume Bonnin
- Campanet, Balearic Is, Spain


March 28, 2012

Q. Hello -

I have a heavy choker/necklace marked Taxco Sterling. No other mark? Can you tell me if it's vintage, and its worth? Sending photos! Thanks! gracie

Gracie Lynn
- Ottawa Lake Michigan

----
Ed. note -- Readers: This site is about metal finishing. As we talk about markings, and how they relate to metal finishes, we're moving towards the fringes of our topic although that's probably still okay.

But we don't trace hallmarks, or print histories, evaluations, assessments, offers to buy, offers to sell, or anything of the sort. Sorry, this is not a hallmarking or antiquing site, nor Ebay or Craigslist -- it's a narrowly focused metal finishing site. Apologies.


April 20, 2012

Q. The only marks I find on my silver tea pot are LS Co.". Can't find those letter marks anywhere. Has anyone heard of them or know anything?

lillian ibbs
- warren, Pennsylvania USA


May 15, 2012

Q. Hello I bought a silver plate at a garage sale, about 12" dia, it has 'Viking Plate 43' stamp, no other markings, other than gouges and scratches, it is very heavy for the size, it is also bendable/pliable (can easily be folded in half or any other shape), there is little tarnish a little around the rim, is it solid silver or would it be plated? Would it be made of lead and silver plated?

sara gold
- moose jaw, canada

May 22, 2012

Q. Hi, I bought a bracelet that the owner said is sterling silver. I thought that real sterling silver is suppose to have a stamp somewhere to confirm that it is indeed sterling silver.

27488-2

This bracelet does not have any stamp or other identifying marks on it. It is from Jaipur, India, which is known for it silver jewelry. Is it possible that this bracelet is real sterling silver even though there are no indicating stamps on it? Thanks.

Steve Bogdanoff
- Santa Fe, New Mexico USA


May 23, 2012

A. Hi Steve. Yes, it's possible.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


June 3, 2012

Q. I recently bought a belt buckle that looks like it is .680 silver...is there any such thing?

27488-3

Cambrian Caruthers
I own this item - Corning, California

July 12, 2012

Q. Hi, I want to know if there is a difference between 925 Sterling Silver from Italy and .925 Sterling Silver from India. I bought 4 necklaces and the 3 chains from Italy are not as bright as the one from India - and yet they are both marked .925 Sterling Silver. Hope you can clear this up ... Thanks!

Lisa Gasperini
- Mine Hill, New Jersey


June 12, 2012

A. Hi Lisa. It's probably not the silver that is different but the coating on the silver. Silver is very prone to tarnishing and many manufacturers, in an effort to forestall tarnishing, treat it in one way or another. One fairly common treatment is a thin flash of rhodium plating, and I would suspect that this was done on the bright necklace. Other possible treatments include a dip in a preservative, or a clear coating.

Also, remember that 92.5% silver contains 7.5% something else, and the color and other properties may vary slightly depending on what that 7.5% is.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


July 19, 2012

Q. I have silver tea set that has no markings of any kind. The set has plenty of tarnish on it. Would like to find out if is silver and the value if any.

Jerry Palen
- Moses Lake, Washington U.S.A.


July 22, 2012

A. Hi Jerry.

Your choices are to take it to someone who can do that for you, or to try to evaluate it yourself. An antiques dealer may find that it has collector's value, although the odds seem to be about 1000 to 1 against you. Alternately, you can get to a library and see if any of the antiques guides start leading you anywhere; but to spend days of study against very long odds may not appeal to you.

If the tray has no collector's value, then you can take it to a precious scrap dealer ... "We buy gold" signs are on almost every city street corner these days. If you want to test it yourself before you do that, look for the threads about "testing silver" -- but you are back in the position of having to spend a lot of time learning a subject for the evaluation of one single item which probably has none. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


August 11, 2012

Q. I have a set of 8 salt and pepper shakers on the bottom it says sterling VS. Is this plate or real sterling silver?

Stacey Drinnen
- Pt. Charlotte, Florida USA


November 30, 2012

A. Hi Stacey. If they say "sterling", that's what they are (omitting the possibility of counterfeiting).

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


September 11, 2012

Q. I have a small piece of tableware that looks like silver and looking at the bottom of it I noticed, amongst other marks, a clear and distinct number 400. I would like to know what that means. Does it refer to the amount of silver in the piece?

Ivo Contesini
- London, England, U.K.

November 27, 2012

Q. The marks left behind from silver testing, are they permanent or can they be cleaned away?

Teresa Offutt
- Kerrville, Texas, USA


January 12, 2013

Q. Hello,
I have a pair of earrings that are marked 925 SF. What does the SF mean? Thank you.

Nancy Nesmith
- Savannah, Georgia, USA

February 24, 2013

Q. Can you please tell me what you know about German silver. I bought an old belt buckle,and the stamp on the back says solid German silver!

Greg Endress
- Berwick, Pennsylvania USA


February 24, 2013

A. Hi Greg. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but there is no silver in "German Silver", which is is "60-70 percent copper, 20 nickel, and some zinc and maybe tin and lead" (see Paul Tibbals in letter 3616). Likewise, no silver in "Nickel Silver", which is "55-72% copper, 10-18% nickel, and 10-27% zinc" (see Lee Gearhardt in letter 22524). The names come from the fact that these alloys are strong and look like silver, so they are a good base for silver plated flatware.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


January 12, 2014

Q. Why does some silver still look yellowish or dirty, even though it's been polished? There are some old pieces of "sterling" for sale that just don't look shiny or polished, despite the cleaning. Can they be brought back to a beautiful silver luster or not? thanks

Alison Pots
- Lowell, Michigan, US


March 30, 2014

Q. Hello Sir,

I wonder if you can help me. I recently purchased a St Christopher pendant from the US and it has  MEH 55  stamped on the back. What does this mean?

Please can you help.

Actually, er, read "MEH SS". So possibly solid silver?

dan mcloughlin
- London, UK


April 2014

A. Hi Dan. I have never heard such an abbreviation for silver; more likely it stands for stainless steel. Sorry.

"There ain't no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box" -- Meatloaf

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Brick, New Jersey


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