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How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver?

Category Miscellaneous
Silver tea set on tray
When shopping thrift stores and garage sales, it is nice to be able to recognize if an item is made of silver. This is a guide about "How can I tell if something is made of silver?".


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By 1 found this helpful
June 8, 2010

I have heard that a sure way of checking whether an item has silver in it is by seeing if it will stick to a magnet when you touch the item. Is this true?

By Kathy from Tempe, AZ

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May 10, 20130 found this helpful
Best Answer

There are over 800 metals out there that a magnet will not stick to, so this is NOT the way to go. The law of the .925 stamp wasnt around when silver was popular from the 1860's to 1940's. Tarnishing is a sure fire method but not everyone has what they need on hand to test this method. Anything that has the words "plated" or "community" isnt real silver. Also markings like "xxs" "IS" or "co." Are not real.

Anything worth checking will have the word "sterling" but still not always real. Also really old silver will usually have random capatilized letters engraved in squares, standing for the country, year and ect the silver originated from. But a lion on its hind legs facing to the right is your best chances at "pure" silver. Even though "pure" silver is actually only .999%

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June 9, 20101 found this helpful

Silver will not stick to a magnet, but just because it doesn't stick, doesn't mean it is silver. It could also be copper or aluminum or zinc or some sort of alloy that does not contain iron. Steel and iron stick to a magnet. More things DON'T stick than do.

Silver tarnishes. That is one way to determine if an item is silver.

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June 21, 20101 found this helpful

Silver oxide (the tarnish on silver) has a distinct odor & I have used that "test" to determine if a thrift shop item is silver. (You can also look for a hallmark that says "sterling", but all items won't have them.) You also have to remember that there are items that are merely silver-plated (Trays, platters, sugar bowls and so on). Treat those items gently, because too much polishing will rub away the silver & expose the base metal beneath!

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April 28, 20170 found this helpful

Just because something looks like silver and tarnishes like silver does NOT mean it is solid silver. Silver-plated flatware tarnishes like crazy, but only has a few pennies worth of real silver in it.

If it is REAL solid silver (including sterling silver at 92.5%) it WILL be stamped as such.... either 'sterling' 'solid silver' or '925' are all legit.

Some countries like Thailand will mark their jewelry as being sterling but it will only be silver-plate. Italian necklaces are famous for have sterling clasps marked as sterling, but the rest of the necklace will be silver-plate. VERY sneaky!

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June 8, 20100 found this helpful

I have a very old "silver" sugar bowl from the Dollar Steamship Line. It isn't marked with the words "sterling silver", but it says it's from the International Silver Co. It is also marked with the inscription 8OZ. Any help?


By David from south TX


How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

A good way to tell is to try using a magnet on it. If the magnet sticks, it is not pure silver. This is also a good tip for people traveling and planning on buying silver jewelry from street vendors.

You might also take it to a local antique store and see what they can tell you about it. (11/05/2009)

By jess

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

My grandmother and great aunt worked for International Silver in Meriden Connecticut around the 1940s so I have quite a few of their pieces. A lot of their pieces were silvered glass (see photo), but they also have solid silver as well as silver plated pieces so your sugar bowl could be either one. All of them have been popular among collectors and if I remember correctly, International Silver (still in business as far as I know) is the oldest silver crafters in the U.S. As for the 8oz, sounds like it holds 8 ounces or 1 cup. (11/07/2009)


RE: How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver


How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

One sure way to tell if something is silver is to use a little diluted bleach on the item. If it turns dark then it is silver. I have some silverware that are silver. I discovered this when I accidentally placed them in dish water with bleach in it. By the way, the other pieces of silverware did not turn, only the silver pieces. Thanks. (11/08/2009)

By nunley10

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November 5, 20090 found this helpful

I cleaned what I thought was a sterling silver toe ring. It is still very dull. Does that means it's not really sterling silver?

Suzi from Central TX


How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

This may sound strange, but the next time your wearing foundation, rub the ring across your cheek. (gold works, too) If its real, it should leave a black mark. Only temporary, of course. I learned this when I played flute in school. (07/25/2006)

By halloweenfreak

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

What did you clean the toe ring with? Do you have a silver jewelry polishing cloth? You can get one at Wal-Mart. It has one side of the cloth you first clean with and then turn over and use the other side to polish.


Usually real silver has a "hallmark". Look on the inside, you may need to use a magnifying glass and see if it might have a marking. I think perhaps it will be marked 925. (07/25/2006)

By Debbie52

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

I was just told the other day, by an antique dealer, that like brass a magnet will not stick to silver. Haven't tried it yet. Let us know if you do.

By Judy

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

I read somewhere that it's a law that all sterling silver has to be stamped .925 somewhere on it or else the item can't be sold as "sterling silver". (07/25/2006)

By tiffanyau

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

Silver is usually stamped as to what kind and quality and is very heavy for what the item is. If you still have a problem most pawn shoppes will be able to tell you if it is. (07/26/2006)

By tlcdsfit

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

I have found out that the shine you see in silver is actually plating. The silver itself is quite dull.
If one uses a potent product like TarnX, then the plating will be gradually worn off. Better to use a different polishing cream and a little elbow grease. Steam has been recommended.
Hope this helps. (07/26/2006)

By cookwie

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

There are different levels on silver content mixed with other metals that can and will be called silver. Sterling silver is .925 pure silver. It should be marked on jewelry. It can be hard to read without a magnifying glass. (08/27/2006)

By Carol

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

I tried the foundation and that trick really works. Thanks. (01/06/2007)

By Myriam

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

I tried the foundation trick and it worked, but I tried it with some fake silver earrings, too and this also left the mark. So I don't think it's a reliable method, sorry. (06/24/2007)

By Clara

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

" How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver?"

Post By karrie (Guest Post) (03/20/2008)

I have a silver tray and the only markings on it is DSL does that stand for something? Thanks(/quote)

Hi Karrie,
I am also searching for the meaning of DSL on the back of my silver tray.
I took the tray to an estate jeweler today and was told the tray is silverplate.


By Sharon

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

If it's pure silver, when you drop it onto a solid surface, it should have a nice, clear ring to it, like a beautiful little bell. If it's sterling or other metals, it'll have kinda a "twank" kinda sound to it. So, if it's a clear bell sound, chances are it's real silver. (05/01/2008)

By red

How Can I Tell If Something is Made of Silver

You don't need to be wearing foundation to do that test folks. The mark you see on your skin occurs when certain metals, (i.e. gold, silver) come in contact with the copper that naturally is found in your body. The marks you see come from your skin reacting to the metal and the more copper you have in your body, the darker the marks will be.

Typically, cheaper metals don't react with the copper the same way that gold or silver does, however this is not a fool proof method because a few other metals with create the same results. This test is better used to rule something out since if its gold or silver it should always leave a mark.

How much of a mark something leaves doesn't determine the quality of the metal being tested, as much as it is an indication of how much copper you have in your body, which changes frequently due to nutrition, hormones, etc. (07/08/2008)

By ks727

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