Precious Metals: Real or Fake?

Have you ever spied a deal on a piece of fine jewelry at an estate sale or flea market that seemed too good to be true? Or, do you wonder if a piece of heirloom jewelry handed down to you has more than sentimental value? There are many ways you can test silver or gold jewelry at home which will help you determine if you possess the real deal or just a pretty bauble.

Obviously, we recommend taking your pieces to a jeweler to 100% determine whether your jewelry is the real thing.  There are also at-home chemical testing kits available, but we’d recommend leaving those to the experts (lest you damage your jewelry).  These tips below, however, will help to give you some idea if you’re doubting great-grandma’s ring or are just curious about a particular piece you found/have.

Want to learn more about precious metals? Check out our blog post “Good as Gold” for more information on silver, gold, and other precious metals!

Silver or Faux?

When testing a piece of silver, it’s always best to start by looking for the “925” mark.  This stamp will let you know that the piece in question is sterling silver (and is made up of 92.5% silver).  However, some silver pieces may missing this mark.

The next step would be to give your silver piece a closer look.  If the silver looks to have flaked away in some spots, it’s probably not the real thing or, at the very least, is only silver-plated.  Plated silver also looks shinier than real sterling silver.  You should also try tapping on the piece with another metal.  Silver emits a bell-like ring when tapped (which typically lasts a second or two).

It’s important to note that silver is not magnetic.  If you find that your silver sticks to a refrigerator magnet, it’s not real.

While you’re at the fridge, you’ll want to scour the freezer for an ice cube.  “Silver […] has the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. If you place an ice cube on a silver coin or bar, the ice will begin to melt immediately.”

If you don’t have any ice handy or it’s a hot day and the ice will melt quickly anyway, you may want to try the bleach test.  Put a drop of bleach on the silver item in question.  Real silver will tarnish quickly as it reacts “…to a powerful oxidizing agent such as common bleach.”

Next, you should try polishing the silver with a soft cloth (if you’ve already tried the bleach test, this will at least help clean up your silver piece!).  “If you see black marks on the cloth then the item is more than likely real. Real silver tarnishes and oxidizes when it is exposed to air. What you’re rubbing off is tarnish from that process.”

Fools Gold

Like silver, gold is not magnetic, making the magnet test a great place to start when testing your gold pieces.  You should also look for the stamp marking gold purity (10kt, 14kt, etc.) on the piece before testing.

Check to see if the gold is wearing or flaking away anywhere on the piece.  This will indicate that the piece is faux or, at the very least, plated as real, solid gold will not wear away.  True gold will also feel rather hefty and will sink when submerged in water.

If you’re not worried about scratching the piece, you can try scraping it against an unglazed ceramic plate or tile.  Real gold will leave a gold streak across the ceramic; fake gold will leave a black mark.

Still unsure of your gold pieces? Howcast has a terrific video on testing your gold.  Check it out below or click here to view directly on YouTube.

3 Quick Ways to Help Tell Real Silver from “Fake” Silver –
How to Test Silver –
How To Tell If Something Is Real Silver –
How To Tell If Gold Is Real with Five Simple Gold Tests –
How to Tell if Gold is Real –


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