Have you ever bought or been given a piece of
STERLING SILVER JEWELLERY?
Genuine Sterling Silver usually has a stamp: 925 or 925 Italy. Did you check it for a ‘925’ stamp?
Then, you can be SURE that you have a nice piece of genuine STERLING SILVER JEWELLERY–
or CAN YOU?
Just what is Sterling Silver?
This is one International standard for Jewellery products. There are others of course. It means that the piece of Jewellery is made from a material which is:
92.5% Pure Silver with the remaining 7.5% usually copper.
The resulting alloy/ mix is harder than pure silver and more suitable for making jewellery.
This material is made in a molten stage.
It is NOT one material moulded or plated on the other like much of the so-called 925 Sterling Silver for sale on the Internet.
Just because it is stamped 925 doesn't make it genuine.
How Reliable is that ‘925’ Stamp?
Usually found on the clasp of finer jewellery pieces, sometimes on a specific tag included in the item. The original purpose of the ‘925’ stamp was to identify a piece as a genuine Sterling Silver item. Some people, even Jewellers, when presented with a piece of Jewellery first check for that stamp and, if present, immediately say it is genuine Sterling Silver. If only that were true. Unfortunately, this stamp, among many others (9ct, 14ct, 18ct etc) no longer is an indication of the pieces genuineness. Anyone can buy a ‘925’ stamp and produce his/her own jewellery – illegal in some parts of the world – but then so is what is intended by using it. This stamp is now found on Jewellery made from just about any base material, which is coated in ‘silver’ or some other ‘silver look-alike’ to disguise its true nature and these items are then sold to unsuspecting buyers as genuine ‘sterling silver’.
It used to be that this type of fake jewellery was mainly from sellers overseas. But because of greed and ignorance this fake sterling silver is now sold all over the world. Market stalls, on-line sellers, auction site sellers, gift shops and Yes, even Jewellery shops are known to sell this jewellery – sometimes inadvertently – sometimes knowingly. I am in no way suggesting that every piece is fake nor that everyone selling it is knowingly trying to rip you off.
RULE # 1 - DO NOT RELY ON YOUR JEWELLERY BEING GENUINE JUST BECAUSE IT IS STAMPED.
What is Plated Jewellery?
This in itself is a misnomer. Almost all jewellery is plated. Yes, even the best sterling silver and gold items are plated!
In the production phase, a typical sterling silver item is fashioned, polished and then plated or finished in one of many plating materials (more commonly silver itself) to give that extra shine and, in some cases, a protective layer to help fight corrosion. Some manufacturers call this a ‘flash finish’. This same finishing process is used on other base metal items too – typically a piece referred to by an honest manufacturer as ‘silver plated’, or ‘gold plated’.
The difference between real and fake sterling silver is the metal from which the item is made. You can have silver plated silver, gold plated silver, Rhodium Plated Silver – and of course, ‘silver’ plated base metal – copper/brass etc.
Does Genuine Sterling Silver discolour / corrode?
You bet it does. Remember Grandma’s Sterling Silver Dinner service? Well, again this may have been just silver-plated, unless your grandma was a lot richer than mine. But, remember how poor old Grandad had the almost weekly job of cleaning it? Most times it would just go back in the cupboard – too good to use lol.
In fact, real sterling silver will probably discolour / corrode more than the newer fake stuff. There are coatings now, none of which I can name here because they are proprietary, that are very hard and virtually never corrode.
Does the Silver / Rhodium Plate wear off genuine sterling silver items?
Certainly does. Some manufacturers even recommend a periodic refinish on your good quality jewellery. A friend of mine has a white gold bracelet finished / plated in platinum. She has had it refinished twice in the last 5 years.
Silver plate will be the shinier but rhodium is the harder and will not wear as quickly as silver. Usually a genuine sterling silver item will have been coated a little more thickly / efficiently than a fake one, so the plate will last longer. And, if the plate wears off a genuine piece of silver you don’t have yellow showing through. You have more sterling silver showing through and while it may not be quite as shiny as the ‘flash finish’ it still can be polished up to near it’s original shine. Not so a base metal item.
Is genuine sterling silver OK for everyone to wear?
No. Not neccessarily. I have heard people say: “ I can’t wear fake stuff. I have to have genuine”. Many people cannot wear genuine sterling silver items because of their body chemistry. That is why items are made from such hypoallergenic materials as stainless steel, titanium and tungsten – especially body jewellery where piercing is required. That’s also why some sterling silver earrings have stainless steel hooks or posts and backs.
How can you tell if your item is genuine sterling silver?
You can scratch a small mark on an inconspicuous area of your piece. If it is yellow underneath a thin coating of ‘silver’ then it is definitely fake. But not all copper is yellow. Some manufacturers use white copper or some other silver looking cheap material to manufacture their jewellery, so the scratch-and-look test will not work. Can you use the magnet trick? No, not with any degree of accuracy – some base metals are magnetic and some are not.
The only sure way is to use an acid test kit OR to err on the side of safety take your piece to a reliable jeweller and have him/her do the acid test for you. It doesn’t cost too much and it will give you peace of mind.
If it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
Are there genuine bargains out there? Of course there are. People have jewels box clear outs all the time, and sometimes you can pick up a real bargain - but that is getting very rare.
Keep in mind that Fine Silver price changes daily.
Sterling Silver, being a derivative of Fine silver is subject to the same price fluctuations. Currently, silver is $0.94c US a gram. So, if you are buying something Sterling Silver, have the seller weigh it and tell you how much it weighs - kitchen scales are near enough for our purpose - not all sellers will have access to digital jewellery scales. If the total weight multiplied by the value per gram is say $6 and the seller wants $10 BIN you can be SURE that it is fake. Unless, of course, the seller is going out of business and selling stuff off to clear his stock.