How to test sterling silver at home

Written by lisa van dam
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How to test sterling silver at home
Old US coins contain silver (Ancient silver coin rouble made of pure silver image by Olga Sapegina from

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 jeweller. If you have silver and want to test its authenticity, you can do this fairly easily yourself.

Skill level:

Things you need

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

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  1. 1

    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.

    How to test sterling silver at home
    Sterling silver jewellery (silver rings image by Alexey Klementiev from
  2. 2

    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.

    How to test sterling silver at home
    Silver is not attracted to magnets (magnet attracting dollar signs image by Steve Johnson from
  3. 3

    Jewellers 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 colour changes; green indicates a fake while a creamy colour means you have authentic silver.

    How to test sterling silver at home
    Use caution when handling Nitric Acid (acid image by Charles Taylor from
  4. 4

    Using a soft, light-coloured, 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.

    How to test sterling silver at home
    A soft, light coloured cloth (wrinkled cloth image by Roslen Mack from

Tips and warnings

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

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