Anyone with a passion for yard sales, estate sales and auctions knows that many sellers often have no idea of the value of their items. You may find priceless treasures among lots of junk and make them yours for a fraction of their actual worth. Sterling silver is one of the most collectable items often purchased second-hand. But you may wonder how to tell if that silver is the real thing or just a shiny imitation. If you have a goblet with questionable value, one of several tests can confirm or debunk its authenticity.
Look underneath the goblet base. Most genuine silver is marked with the type and weight. Also look for a maker's mark with a magnifying glass. Sometimes Internet research can tell you the maker associated with this mark and whether or not they are known for working with real silver.
Place a small, strong magnet on the side of the goblet. If the magnet sticks, your goblet is either not silver or has so little silver that the value is negligible. If the magnet falls off, there is a good chance that your goblet is genuine silver.
Identify genuine silver under tarnish. Buff the goblet gently with a silver polishing cloth. If the tarnish removes easily, the goblet is likely silver; if the darkness adheres to the goblet, it is probably some other metal.
Patch test the goblet as a last resort. Apply a tiny circle of nitric acid to the bottom of the goblet using a cotton swab. Green colouration means it is not silver, while ivory or yellow shades mean that the goblet is genuine silver.
Put on rubber gloves and protect your eyes with safety glasses when working with nitric acid.