Is it Real? Top Tips to ID Sterling Silver

Danish abstract sterling necklace
I like to buy sterling silver jewelry. I love the soft sheen to it, if feel I look better in it and luckily it's cheaper than gold!

At first I was kind of intimidated to buy it. But at this point I've purchased several pieces (some people might say a LOT of pieces) and these are my tips:

First, really look at it. The sheen of sterling seems softer, not as glaring as chrome or other finishes.

Further, look for worn edges. Silver plating (a thin layer of silver laid over another metal) wears off after time. So if you sees a different color metal coming through, know that it is plated. Nothing is wrong with silver-plated jewelry unless you are paying sterling prices!

Sterling abstract flower necklace
Also look for a stamp. Mostly what you want to find are the number 925. This is true for modern sterling, not antiques. Sterling silver contains 92.5% pure silver. To me that is the easiest way to tell. But it can still be sterling and not marked 925. But it is usually marked (stamped) in some form. Some older pieces will be marked sterling.

Antique silver is a whole other category. It should have maker's marks and other marks, but they can be faked so I wouldn't invest in those pieces without an appraisal.

Other ways to tell if it is silver is if it is tarnished and the tarnish leaves black marks on a cloth when rubbed. Also, it shouldn't have an odor.

Other recommendations I've read say to bring a magnet because sterling silver shouldn't be magnetic. Be really careful carrying around magnets and do not hold them up to watches! Some say to tap the piece with a coin and listen for the pure ring (I can't hear this) and another one is checking to see if the piece is malleable because silver is soft. I know this is true but it sounds to me like a good way to ruin jewelry!

Finally, you can use readily-available sterling testing kits to test on-the-go or at home.

No matter what, bring a jeweler's loupe when hunting for sterling. The maker's marks are extremely small and often difficult to read.

More examples of thrifted sterling silver below.

My husband's double snake sterling belt buckle and keeper

Sterling belt buckle from my
husband's collection

Sterling steer head belt buckle found years ago in Tucson


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