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How to Test Sterling Silver at Home

Old US coins contain silver
Ancient silver coin ruble made of pure silver image by Olga Sapegina from Fotolia.com

Today, many people who own objects made of silver prefer to test these items themselves, to avoid paying a substantial fee for this service to a commercial jeweler. If you have silver and want to test its authenticity, you can do this fairly easily yourself.

Testing Sterling Silver

Sterling silver jewelry
silver rings image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com

Check your item for markings. Use a magnifying glass if needed. Pure sterling silver has markings such as: "sterling silver," "ster," or "sterling." You may also see numbers such as 925; these numbers indicate the amount of pure silver the item contains. Keep in mind that a lack of markings does not always indicate a fake.

Silver is not attracted to magnets
magnet attracting dollar signs image by Steve Johnson from Fotolia.com

Next you can perform the magnet test. Hold the magnet near the item; if the magnet attracts the item, then you do not have genuine silver. Magnets do not attract silver.

Use caution when handling Nitric Acid
acid image by charles taylor from Fotolia.com

Jewelers will also use nitric acid for testing silver. If you choose to perform this test yourself, be sure to handle the nitric acid with caution. For example, always wear gloves and goggles. Find an inconspicuous spot on the silver item and place a drop of nitric acid on it. Watch the spot for color changes; green indicates a fake while a creamy color means you have authentic silver.

A soft, light colored cloth
wrinkled cloth image by Roslen Mack from Fotolia.com

Using a soft, light-colored, cloth, rub the item and check the cloth for black marks. Black marks on the cloth would indicate the authenticity of the silver. When exposed to air, silver tarnishes. When you rub the cloth on it, the tarnish comes off.

Things You'll Need:

  • Sterling Silver Item
  • Magnifying Glass
  • Magnet
  • Nitric Acid
  • Soft, Light Colored Cloth


When in doubt, consult a professional jeweler. A jeweler will have more tools and equipment to verify the authenticity of the silver. In addition, the jeweler may be able to determine the degree of purity of the piece.

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