How to Tell Real Silver From an Electroplate

Written by michael elkins
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How to Tell Real Silver From an Electroplate
Just because it's shiny doesn't mean it's pure silver. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

You can wrack your brains trying to guess whether a piece is pure silver or plated, and basing your judgment on the weight and appearance of the piece may lead to some inaccurate discernment. Fortunately, most silver manufacturers stamp the backs of their pieces with their brands or with hallmarks that identify the silver quantity in the piece. With a little study, you can learn to recognise silver and plate markings on the spot.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Familiarise yourself with the common silver hallmarks. 800, 813H, 925S, 935, 980 and "Sterling" are all hallmarks that indicate the purity of the silver in the piece. If the piece has any of these marks, it is silver. There are more hallmarks than those listed here, but knowing these marks will get you off to a good start.

  2. 2

    Familiarise yourself with common electroplate markings. A1, EP and EPNS are all marks that indicate the piece is electroplated.

  3. 3

    Look for any wear on the piece. If you see another metal beneath the silver anywhere on the piece, it is likely electroplate, or another type of silver plate.

  4. 4

    Use a magnifying glass to look for the hallmark on the piece that you are trying to identify. Some pieces may not have a hallmark, or only a manufacturer's mark. This doesn't mean that your piece is not silver, but you will need to do some legwork to find out. Write down the manufacturer's

    mark, and any numbers or letters on the piece.

  5. 5

    Consult a directory of silver hallmarks. There are many directories available online, as well as print books that contain hallmark and manufacturer mark information. Search for your marking in a directory to see if it is silver or plate.

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