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"Testing Silver at Home for the average consumer"



Please see also --

Topic 42765 "Confused about 'acid test' for silver and other precious metals"

Summary of this thread:
Simplest tests include magnet, Archimedes test, heat conductance, bell-like ringing, mustard stain test, and vinegar test -- but several different tests must be done. Acid test is best!

Current question and answers:

March 30, 2021

Q. I have inherited a completely black tea service from my husband's 85-year-old-mother who, in turn, inherited it from her 101-year-old mother from Virginia. Each heavy, octagonal, footed piece of the 5-piece set has ONLY the number "1629" impressed into the bottom...but no maker's marks or hallmarks, no "Sterling" nor "silverplate" nor "IS" etc. I can find no similar style represented on e-Bay. I have successfully cleaned and polished one of the teapots as well as the last unknown item, so I am confident that they are at least silverplate. What is the significance of the 1629 number? Is there anything that the above description and the number 1629 indicates about the maker or the age of the pieces? Thank you for any help you can give.

Update: I am chagrined. When I turned over the newly polished teapot, I could see a maker in the stem of the foot: Apollo! All other items were also numbered 1629 except the item with the beveled glass tray and domed lid, which is marked "1640". I will research now Apollo, but do you know what that item is?

36471-7b   36471-7a   36471-7c  

Bev Oliver
- Sioux Falls South Dakota
^


March 2021

A. Hi Bev. Maker's marks have been around for centuries, so I wouldn't assume age from lack of seeing one on a piece. Similarly, despite the age of your husband's grandmother, I don't see a reason to believe this set is truly old. "1629" and "1640" are surely just pattern numbers. That unknown item might be a 'tea caddy' which I'd guess was probably used the same way a sugar bowl is, except holding loose tea instead of sugar. These days you might put tea bags in it.

It doesn't sound like your interest is actually in the techniques for testing this silver. So for further info, I'd suggest taking it to a "We Buy Gold" store (they are everywhere) and asking them to test what it's made of. If it is in fact sterling silver it has intrinsic metal value. If it's not sterling (and I don't think it is), it doesn't; only sentimental value or -- very very rarely -- resale value. So you could see what an antique store says if you wish, but odds are poor.

I'd suggest just keeping it in the family because to say the current market for silver plated tea service is depressed these days is an understatement; the stuff is in every 2nd attic and even Goodwill often doesn't want it. And if that's a monogram on the caddy, it helps the sentimental value but not the resale. Styles oscillate and it might be very interesting to a grandchild or great grandchild 50 years from now, and maybe even moderately valuable.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

^


March 31, 2021

thumbs up sign Thanks, Ted! You are correct, the items are quadruple-plated. No one in my family wants them, so I have been researching hubby's grandma's Munden family to see if any of them do.

Bev Oliver [returning]
- Soux Falls South Dakota
^




Previous closely related Q&A's starting in:

2005

Q. I am trying to figure out if this particular item is real silver or plated silver or plated gold and silver on the inside. It's a very unique item. I was wondering if there was any particular quick or simple test that I can do here at home before I take it to someone and pay them to test it. If there is such a way I would really appreciate it.

Julie Barnum
consumer - Florence, Colorado

^


affil. link
Neodymium magnets



wikipedia
Sterling Silver

2005

A. Hi Julie. First test it with a neodymium magnet, since iron and steel are magnetic whereas most other materials are not. (If you buy neodymium magnets, please read all the cautions; small children and animals need immediate major surgery if they swallow one).

Then determine the density of the object using Archimedes' principle (compare it's weight to how much water it displaces). If it's at least 10x as heavy as water and non-magnetic, there is at least a chance it's silver; otherwise it's not, so don't waste money on further testing.

If it says "Sterling" or .925, and it's not counterfeit, it's solid 92.5% silver. It's hard to tell what's inside an unopened package, so if you don't let the jeweler scrape through to expose the innards for an acid test, you're probably limited to x-ray fluorescence testing, which is expensive. Good luck!

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


December 14, 2011

A. If it's stainless steel plated with silver, a magnet test won't work. Stainless steel is non-magnetic.

Morley Robertson
- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
^


December 14, 2011

thumbs up signHi, Morley. Your statement is very helpful -- thanks! And it's a good reminder that no single test is conclusive, but if you test several different parameters, your assurance level rises.

(For the record, readers: while type 3xx stainless steel [18/8 & 18/10] is almost non-magnetic, type 4xx stainless steel [18/0] is strongly magnetic.)

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


April 27, 2012

A. In reading this post I wanted to add something. Please do not consider the magnet test to be a reliable test for silver. This especially applies to jewelry. You will find that silver is often plated with Rhodium. Rhodium itself is not magnetic but in order to plate a piece with rhodium it must be plated with another metal first. These metals can be magnetic. You will find the piece to be slightly magnetic whereas if you have a piece of plated steel it will be very strongly magnetic. This applies to white gold as well. I have seen many people pass up on sterling and white gold for this reason.

Tina Simpson
- Chicago, Illinois USA
^


November 2013

A. Hi again. Strangely, silver is apparently very very weakly magnetic. So weakly magnetic that even a powerful neodymium magnet can't approach picking it up. But there is a great youtube video where the presenter slides a powerful little neodymium magnet down the face of a coin and the slower it slides, the more silver =>

These magnets are very strong, so if there is any iron in the coin, it will lock on very strongly instead of sliding.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


May 29, 2014

A. A clarifying statement in response to the posted video about sliding a magnet next to a coin.

Silver is what is known as "diamagnetic". That is to say, if a magnet is moved near it silver will produce an opposite field to the magnet. If you were to drop a magnet through a silver tube it would slow down due to the magnetic fields resisting each other. Copper is the same way, and there are some great videos on youtube demonstrating the effect.

Unfortunately this compounds the whole issue. If you have silver plated copper then the diamagnetic effect will be the same.

WARNING!!! With coins (or sculptures) never ever rub a magnet on them or you will (potentially) drastically lower it's value without even trying. For example: A Newfoundland 1900 50 cent coin is valued at $4000 in MS60, $1100 in AU50, and $200 in EF40. You can change an MS60 into an AU50 simply by sliding the coin on paper or soft cloth. And you can drop it from MS60 to EF40 or worse by a moderate scratch, especially if the scratch is on the face of the person on the coin. Tea sets and such might not be so price sensitive, but if you do a magnet test make sure to pick a spot where an accidental scratch won't show.

John Williams
- Portland, Oregon, USA
^



Silver is good conductor of heat

2005

A. My favorite test method is crude but quick. Using the fact that solid silver is an excellent conductor of heat, I place an ice cube in or on the object and see how quickly the article becomes cold to the touch. For something like a teaspoon with ice in the bowl, the handle becomes cold in about 5-10 seconds. A plated spoon takes about 30 seconds. I have not tried silver plated copper pieces, however.

James Chunn
- Theodore, Alabama
^



Silver rings like a bell?

2006 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I have the same concerns about distinguishing silver (WHETHER STERLING OR PLATE) from other metals.I WILL SOON BE TRAVELING TO A PART OF THE WORLD where the locals mine silver, make silver jewelry, perhaps even sell silver ingots. It could offer some real opportunities, but obviously there are opportunities for getting scammed.

Any ideas about how to test the "product" for genuineness?

Mygnon Evans
- Lakeland, Florida

^


February 27, 2009

A. Balance the item on your finger and strike it with a pencil or similar. Pure silver rings like a bell with a high frequency that does not fade quickly. If it gives a dull thud, it is some base alloy -- even if it has a plating of silver over it.

Andy Maybury
home energy adviser - Hawick, U.K.
^


February 6, 2012

thumbsdownThe method of tapping a silver coin while balancing on your finger is not legitimate. Many other metals have the ringing property when hit by a pencil.

Robert Flarence
- New York, New York, USA
^


February 7, 2012

thumbs up signThanks, Robert, but lots of tests are multi-part, and I think we can only say a test is "not legitimate" if it produces false negatives as well as false positives. Do you feel that that is the case? Thanks.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^



affil. link
Silver Test Kit

Only the acid test is reliable? -- how about mustard or vinegar?

May 8, 2009

A. There is only one true way to test silver and, that is with acid =>

Not a magnet as this will give a false positive due to the fact silver can be plated over copper / brass / bronze etc. almost any metal known to man can be plated or be used as plating over one another ....

D Man
- Ormond, Florida
^


November 19, 2009

A. Use French's mustard. Place a small drop on the silver item and use a small amount of heat either sunlight or even a lighter, The silver sulfide will show as a black stain on the surface of the item, This won't determine if its solid silver, but will tell you if it's silver, I would ping test it and use Archimedes' principle with weight along with the stain test. Don't worry, the stain will wipe away with vinegar.

David Champy II
- Milton,New Hampshire
^


January 4, 2012

A. To test, simply make a small scratch somewhere inconspicuous on the item, and put a drop of ordinary household white vinegar on the scratch. If it turns green, or any other colour, you have a plated metal and not the genuine article.

Billy Higgins
- Galway, Ireland
^


February 17, 2012

A. You will need to be cautious with the vinegar test. I didn't have any silverplate quickly at hand, but I did have some some nickel silver out of China and some sterling. The vinegar showed no colour on either scratch test, so will not identify nickel silver as not being sterling.

As an aside: There are a lot of fakes coming out of China these days - bullion bars and necklaces as a couple of examples. The necklaces are marked as 925 but both acid testing and density testing confirm they are fakes. I expect it won't be long until it is filtering through eBay as scrap. Buyer Beware!

Valerie Kistner
- Okanagan Falls, BC, Canada
^



Testing silver powder from film

October 7, 2010

Q. My husband was in the printing business and has collected pure silver which was extracted from photographic film through the development process. How can the silver powder be tested it's quality?

Karen Freedman
- Reisterstown, Maryland, USA

^


December 23, 2010

A. If you have silver powder this could be smelted into solid silver. You would need some specialist items as this video shows (not me by the way just found on you tube :),
youtube.com/watch?v=yFekwsmIzTQ
so may not something that you could do at home but I am sure there will be someone local to you that could help out.

Christian Hirlemann
- Canterbury, Kent, England
^



affil. link
Rare Earth Magnet

March 12, 2011

Q. What is the best way to check if an item is silver and what is the silver content of an item within reasonable limits? Also, buying silver coins from a dealer in the UK -- how safe is it as the dealers do not Mint their own coins but buy from out of house sources? Am asking this because I have not seen a dealer yet stating who mints the coins they sell except for Britannias which of course I trust been Minted by the royal Mint, I also bought a few american eagles from Ebay and they do look different from the Britannias; they look very dull. Is this because they are not polished? The finish not as good -- and WHO Mints the U.S. Eagles?

Unfortunately they are more expensive, but coins like the Canadian Maples or the Austrian Philarmonicas, the dealers do not state which Mint minted them. Are they as safe to buy as the ones minted by the Royal Mint? I have a few Britannias but like to buy some of the others too.
Thanks guys

takis sozou
hobby - greater London UK

^


April 11, 2011

Q. I pulled some silver coils out of a big electric box. When testing for silver it turned a turquoise color. My chart says 50% is green, 80% is brown 92.5% is dark red. Do you know what type of metal it could be?

Jimmie Penney
scrapped my whole life but now scrapping from electronics - Hawley Texas

^



Testing silver grains in granite

September 22, 2011

Q. I am a Filipino but working in South Korea as granite stone cutter for tile making. I noticed that there are so many silver grains in the granite rock. In the other department in our co. they crushed the rocks to extract iron and some metals appear to be white shiny metal. But I used magnet to test those white metals and they were magnetized...are these metals are silver that were already mixed with the iron. how can I test them to know if it is silver mixed with iron. Thank you for giving attention to my question....

brentano Ison
hobbyist - iksan chollabukdo south korea

^



The appearance of silver

May 21, 2012

Q. I am trying to figure out if my candlesticks are silver or might be stainless steel, they are not magnetic ... I needed to know if stainless steel tarnishes.

Trisha Smith
- Cleveland, Tennessee, USA

^


May 21, 2012

A. Hi Trisha.

All metals except gold and the other precious metals tarnish ... but it is a matter of degree. You probably have stainless steel flatware or serving utensils from which you can judge what stainless steel looks like. And if you also have Sterling or silverplate flatware, the difference should be pretty apparent.

Of course, your candlesticks could be made of other things than silver or stainless, like pewter or nickel plate; and appearance is just one, rather weak, test for silver :-)

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


August 19, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi, I recently bought a silver cigarette case and the outside is definitely silver and the inside (where the hallmarks are--strange hallmarks that don't look current at all, but hallmarks) is shiny yellow-ish. I am wondering what it could be made out of. It's like the inside of a silver chalice.

ida rand
hobbyist - portland Oregon USA

^


August 19, 2012

A. Hi Ida.

There is no particular no reason I can think of to believe it isn't silver with gold plating. Or brass with silver plating. But you'll need to take it to a gold buying service or test it yourself. Guessing solely from the appearance isn't going to cut it, unfortunately. Good luck.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^



June 6, 2012

Q. I came across a silver serving tray in my deceased parents' attic. It may have come over from England in the early 30's. It is 22" x 16" not including the handles. It has feet, weighs 8 1/2 lb. and has ornate scrollwork. It is not magnetic and is only slightly tarnished. There are no identifying marks whatsoever on it. Should I try the vinegar test? What else would you recommend? Thank you for any consideration you may give me.

Noel Triplett
- Charlotte, North Carolina

^


October 2013

A. Hi Noel. If it's not stamped "Sterling" it's unlikely to be silver. Sorry.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
^


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