HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR SILVER IS REAL?

Silver Bars

Traditionally, silver has been viewed for many generations as a great and stable source of wealth. Over the last couple of years, silver has grown in popularity as a great hedge against inflation. However, with silver changing hands more frequently, the probability of dealing with a fake has increased.

In this article, we’ll break down the different techniques that experienced bullion professionals use to test silver. You can conduct several different tests using items as simple as ice or magnets to more sophisticated tools like official electronic testers. Read on to learn more about silver, its properties, what to look for when inspecting silver’s purity levels, and how to conduct easy silver tests at home!

 

SILVER PROPERTIES

The periodic table symbol for silver is Ag with an atomic number of 47. Pure silver is lustrous, very malleable, and nearly white in color. It is also an amazing conductor of heat and electricity - silver is notably rated as the highest electrical conductor of all metals.

SO HOW CAN I TEST SILVER AT HOME?

Now that you understand silver’s properties, the following tests will assist you in determining if your silver product is real. Below are some common methods to test silver. These include simple procedures from how to test silver at home, to using professional-level silver testing machines for getting the most accurate results. You should conduct multiple tests to determine if the silver in question is legitimate. 

STAMP

Many precious metal products carry markings or stamps. Unlike postage or other surface stamps, these are branded directly into the metal itself. Internationally sold silver products are usually stamped based on their silver content. If you find a silver product lacking a stamp, proceed with caution. The product might still contain silver, but further testing is likely needed. 

Silver producers will stamp their products with 800, 900, 925, 958, or 999. These numbers indicate the percentage of silver within the piece. A stamp of 999 means it is 99.9% pure silver, while 900 means it is 90% silver.

ICE TEST

The ice test might seem too simple for a precious metal product, but it can help to point you in the right direction regarding your item’s authenticity. Ice is an inexpensive and easy way to prove if silver is real or fake since silver is a great thermal conductor. If you place a piece of silver on top of an ice cube, you will notice that the ice cube will begin to melt pretty quickly as opposed to using copper or iron.   

Metal

Thermal Conductivity

Silver

406

Copper

385

Gold

315

Aluminum

205

Rhodium

151

Iron

79.5

Palladium

71.2

Platinum

69.1


PING TEST

One very interesting attribute of silver is the high-pitched ring it produces when hit with another metal. The silver ring frequency measures at about 6145 Hz. Many numismatists can easily identify if the piece they are inspecting is silver just by “pinging” the silver product. To perform this test, just tap a silver product on another metal and you should hear a nice high-pitched ringing sound.

MAGNET TEST

Silver is a paramagnetic metal, meaning its atoms contain electrons that mostly spin in the same direction. Therefore, it is not noticeably magnetic. Testing silver with a magnet will definitely help you rule out if the precious metal has a ferromagnetic core (having a high susceptibility to magnetization). For this test, use a strong magnet, preferably made from neodymium. Place the magnet on the piece of silver. If the piece of silver strongly sticks to the magnet, it isn’t pure silver. Make sure to conduct a couple more tests on other nonmagnetic metals such as copper and gold.

ACID TEST

CAUTION: THE ACID TEST CAN SLIGHTLY DAMAGE YOUR SILVER ITEM. IF YOU ARE TESTING A POTENTIALLY HIGH-VALUE SILVER COIN, YOU SHOULD AVOID THE ACID TEST.

The acid test uses a corrosive chemical that will react in various ways depending on the contents of the silver. Many online retailers like eBay sell silver acid test kits. An acid test is great to test on pure silver, but if the item you are testing is only silver-plated, you will need to make a filed mark on the surface. This will allow you to reveal the underplating. If your testing kit arrives with a black stone plate, take the piece of silver and scratch it against the surface. Make sure to leave a thick mark of silver residue on the plate if using a black stone - about a one-half inch thick straight line will suffice.

Next, you will need to apply the acid to the marked area on either the silver piece or plate. The acid will react and produce a color that will help you identify if it is silver or not. 

The Following Colors You’re Looking For:

Blue (Nickle)

Dark Brown (Brass)

Yellow (Tin or Lead)

Green (500)

Brown (800)

Darker Red (925)

Bright Red (Fine Silver) 

BLEACH TEST

Using bleach is an extremely simple way to test if silver is fake. Bleach is an oxidating agent and silver is highly sensitive to oxidation. When bleach makes contact with silver, the precious metal will quickly tarnish and turn black. If the silver does not tarnish, then you have a fake.

ELECTRONIC TESTER

The most precise technique for testing silver is using an electronic or XRF Thermo testing machine. Professional appraisers use this method to find out the exact contents of silver products. This test is great for those wanting to authenticate a silver bar or coin. 

Electronic precious metal testing machines are pricier than an acid test kit, but if you plan on testing items often, then investing in an electronic precious metal testing machine might be a great option for you. One popular machine is the Sigma Metalytics Precious MetalVerifier. This device is battery-powered and easy to use, but make sure it’s in good working condition because it can give you inaccurate data otherwise.

Follow the device’s instruction manual, if available, to get the most accurate information from your testing machine. Another popular testing machine is the XRF Thermo Scientific Analyzer. You can use both the Sigma Verifier and the XRF Analyzer to also test gold, platinum, and palladium.

SIGMA METALYTICS MACHINE

The Precious Metal Verifier from Sigma Metalytics is an excellent choice for authenticating silver bullion bars and coins at home. The silver sample is evaluated in less than a second, without incurring damage to the coin or bar. The Precious Metal Verifier uses electromagnetic frequencies that measure the metal beneath any plating or other surface attributes. The frequencies will penetrate deep into the coin or bar, bypassing the surface and evaluating the core of the silver piece. This also means you do not have to remove the silver from plastic protective holders or packaging.

The Sigma Metalytics electronic tester is equipped to measure a variety of sample types and sizes. The basic Sigma unit comes equipped with the biggest sensor for large precious metal samples, like 1 oz bars and coins. For measuring smaller silver items, you will have to connect a cable to the main unit with one of three external wands:

NEW Bullion Wand - penetrates the surface of silver to a depth of .08in (2 mm).

Small Wand - for small silver samples, such as 1 gram bars, CombiBars, 1/10 oz coins, etc.

Large Wand - for coins and bars that weigh between 1/4 and 1 oz.

When you place the silver piece on the corresponding Sigma sensor or when placing a wand onto the metal, select the silver sample according to its expected purity. For example, pure silver (.999+) or 90% for certain older coins. Then, wait for the “Ready” message to appear and press “RUN/CAL.” The Verifier will show the result on the display.

If the black cursor appears between the frames, your item corresponds to the fineness of your silver sample. If an arrow appears on the display or the cursor goes outside the frames, this indicates that the item is not consistent with silver’s properties. 

Watch Our How To Test DIY Below 

XRF THERMO SCIENTIFIC

The most accurate testing machines operate with the use of x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers but are relatively expensive to buy. An XRF Thermo Scientific™ testing machine transmits x-rays through the silver piece, which momentarily excite the metals atoms which produce higher states of energy. The testing machine then allows the atoms to return to their ground state, which enables the atoms to release radiation. Then, the XRF precious metal tester reads the radiation to determine the material. Although this is a low level of gamma radiation, you should still handle any kind of radiation with care.

The  XRF Thermo Scientific™ analyzer arrives with the unique AuDIT™ gold-plating detection technology. AuDIT™ stands for “Au (Gold) Detection & Identification Technology”. AuDIT™ warns you if the item is plated and can easily identify advanced counterfeits or items with lower purity levels.

TAKEAWAY

This article revealed some of the most popular techniques to tell if silver is real along with various simple DIY tests you can complete at home. However, the best way to get an accurate appraisal is by leaving it to the experts. Here at Bullion Exchanges, we will provide you with a free, quick, and accurate appraisal of all your silver, gold, platinum, and rhodium investments.

You can call us at 212-354-1517 (toll-free at 800-852-6884), or email us at [email protected]. Also, you can visit our store at 30 West 47th Street, Store 1, New York, NY 10036. We will be happy to assist you with a free silver appraisal, as well as offer assistance with any other precious metal inquiries.