Making Sure It’s Real: How to Test Silver

silver bars

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When it comes to safe investments, precious metals offer you a reliable opportunity. They are physical items that will never significantly drop in terms of value. During times of financial crisis, the values of precious metals increase, often substantially. So, if you think you have a substantial amount of silver, you’ll want to know how to test silver to make sure it is real.

During the Great Recession of the early and mid-2000s gold reached record highs. Silver, since it is not as expensive as gold, offers investors an easier entrance into the world of precious metals. As silver is a less expensive precious metal, it is easier to find the material available for sale at locations such as garage sales and flea markets.

With more opportunities to purchase silver, that also means there is a greater chance for it to be fake. Before you start investing in a precious metal, you need to know how to test silver. If you’re purchasing the silver from a reputable dealer or financial institution you should be fine, but in other instances, you’ll want to keep in mind how to test silver so you can know for sure whether it is real or not.

To see some of the most popular silver testing kits just click here.

What Are the Qualities of Real Silver?

Silver comes in many forms. It is often used in a less than pure form, such as for silver-plated coverings, where silver is basically painted in a thin layer over a less expensive material. When looking at how to test silver there are ways to test if it’s authentic silver and not just silver-plated.  

The .925 Imprint Is Not on All Silver

While you look over the silver for specific qualities, you’ll discover that some kinds of silver may not have the telltale signs, such as the .925 print, especially if the silver has been mined and manufactured in a different country.

The .925 imprint is a newer feature and is not found on older silver. Therefore, it will be absent from an older piece of jewelry that is an antique. There are also bars of intricately carved Chinese silver that do not come with the imprint, so you cannot always rely on finding this feature for verification.

Does Silver Tarnish?

Antique silver will tarnish. Whether it is silverware, jewelry or just an antique bar of silver, it will tarnish over time.

As silver ages, if it is not polished and kept up, it loses its silvery shine. In fact, if it is not maintained, then the silver will look dull.  The real test, then, lies in when you polish it back up.

If you notice the silver is tarnished it means it is old and hasn’t been taken care of. With a soft rag polish the silver. If your skin (or the rag) turns green it means, at best, it is silver-plated.

Real silver will return to its original color. Even if it hasn’t been cared for over a long period of time and does not clean off completely, as long as it doesn’t turn colors it may still be silver and just in need of further cleaning.

Silver Doesn’t Smell

Chances are, you know the smell of change in your hand. There is a nasty, sulfur smell that makes your hands stink. Silver does not smell. In fact, pure silver has an almost clean water smell to it. It doesn’t absorb nasty smells.

When you smell silver, it won’t have much of a distinctive smell, if any.


Experts telling us how to test silver explained that one way is in real silver’s feel when we hold it. There’s a slight bend to it, they explained. Silver isn’t a hard metal. Instead it is a bendable metal.

It also shouldn’t feel scratchy or bumpy. It is a smooth, soft metal that will feel nice in your hand.

What Is the .925 Imprint On Silver?

Modern silver, whether it is in the form of silverware, jewelry or ingots will be stamped with a .925 mark. This number regards the percentage of silver found within the metal. Much like gold, you will not find pure silver bars or jewelry.

Pure silver is too soft and would bend and break.

Due to this, it is necessary to add a small amount of other material into the metal to make the silver more rigid without reducing its purity too much. This is what the .925 imprint signifies — that the piece of metal is 92.5% silver, with the 7.5% used for the rest to solidify the metal.

There will be times when the silver is 100% pure. This happens if the silver has not been refined and it comes straight from a mine. If you have mined silver, it will come in chunks. It may also be in small, pebble-like shapes (similar to what mined gold might look like).

If the silver has been melted down from another source, then it may not have the .925 imprint on it either. However, if you are purchasing authentic silver from a reputable jeweler or precious metal dealer, then it will probably have the .925 mark.

If there is another number printed into the metal, then it probably is because that metal has a higher amount of other metal in it. Additionally, if you have jewelry that is not an antique, and it is supposed to be silver but does not have the imprint, there’s a good chance it is silver-plated and is just silver painted over nickel or steel.

If the silver is silver-plated, then you may want to look for a labeling that says “IS.” This means it is international silver, which is another way of saying “silver-plated” (in order words, silver painted over steel, nickel or another cheaper metal.) 

How to Test Silver

If you are considering a purchase of silver you have found, but you want to make sure it is authentic, then you most definitely need to know how to test silver. when it comes to how to test silver, there are actually several ways, but it all depends on what you’re able to do.

Depending on the situation and where you’re located, you cannot perform some of these tests. With that said, you should avoid any retailer who does not let you test the silver in a way that does not damage the piece in question.

Chances are, if the retailer does not approve or agree with you on how to test silver, then the silver is probably fake. (The exceptions, of course, would be if you’re purchasing it from an authentic retailer or jewelry store.)

Test Silver Using Ice

Perhaps you’re out and you have a fountain soda in your hand. You come upon a flea market shop selling what the vendor says is silver. It looks, smells and feels right, but you want to make sure you’re buying the real deal and not getting duped.

One way we know how to test silver is to check it with an ice cube. Place the ice right on the silver. If the ice melts fast, then it means the silver is real. If the ice melts slowly, then the “silver” is fake. Real silver, much like real gold, is an excellent conductor of heat, and so it will melt faster.

You can place a piece of ice on the table next to it to use as a comparison.

Test Silver Using A Magnet

One of the easiest ways we know how to test silver to see if it is real or fake is with a magnet. You’ve probably already seen this method used. With a magnet, place it on the silver. If the magnet slides down and doesn’t stick, it means it is real. If the magnet sticks, then that’s a sure sign the “silver” is fake.

While silver conducts electricity and heat, it does not have a positive and negative side to it. That’s why a magnet should not stick to it.

Silver Liquid Testing

Chances are you will not have these liquids with you by chance when you’re out shopping, but you can conduct additional tests for authenticity using certain liquids, especially if the silver is passing other tests.

(When purchasing smaller amounts of silver, you may not feel inclined to move forward with multiple tests. However, if you’re spending a large amount of money on silver, you will want to be sure what you’re buying is real and a worthy investment.)

Bleach is one liquid you can use. If you place bleach onto silver, it will tarnish quickly (don’t worry, you’re not damaging the silver as you can polish it back to normal). If the silver is not real, it will not tarnish.

The acid test will turn exposed silver to a brown or red color. If you apply acid to the fake silver, it will turn to a blue or a dark brown (almost black.)

Another liquid you can use includes nitric acid, which turns fake silver green but real silver to a creamy white.


Silver is an excellent material to purchase as it is a safe investment and will hold its value, slightly more or slightly less, over time. If you’re purchasing silver from a third party and not from a reputable retailer, you need to know how to test silver so you can be sure you’re not being scammed and that the precious metal is, in fact, real silver worthy of your investment.

Using the few easy methods we’ve explained here, you should be able to do that. And, once you know how to test silver, you’ll always be able to check if it is real and feel confident that what you’re receiving is authentic.

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