I like to look for deals on jewelry in thrift shops. Years ago silver was an inexpensive metal, so there is actually silver jewelry which ends up there. You can tell it is silver rather than nickel by the distinctive smell of the silver oxide. (Put your nose to something silver you have at home to recognize the odor.) I have gotten a beautiful silver bracelet (which was black with tarnish) at a thrift shop for $1! (the better sterling silver pieces also may be marked as such.)
Hey, someone who likes doing as I do! I found a heavy 'knot' sterling silver ring in our local thrift shop. It was in a basket with tangles of beads etc, and I got the ring for only 50 cents!
Also don't forget garage sales. Sometimes someone wants to get rid of Grandma's 'junk' jewellery without knowing it's worth. My friend Shirl was at a garage sale and saw this big, intricately carved silver locket on a chain. She asked the vendor about it and he said she could have it for $15. She had a feeling it was more valuable than that, so she bought it for the $15 and later took it to a jeweller for appraisal. It turned out to an antique locket from the Victorian period and worth around $800! What a buy!
Carry around a small magnet. Real silver is not attracted, base metals are. This also works well travelling overseas where vendors may try to sell plated instead of pure silver. Do not be fooled by a clasp saying the percentage (could be only the clasp that is silver).
Also, you can find great silver jewelry at garage sales for next to nothing. I have found some lovely pieces! You just have to know what to look for and I know when I see silver, even if it is black with tarnish. My favorite find was a beautiful hinged bangle bracelet for .25! It wasn't so beautiful when I found it but I came home and cleaned it and viola, a gorgeous new bracelet practically for free!
You should also carry a magnet as it won't stick to silver.
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