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Topic: Is there a way to know if something is sterling if it is not marked?  (Read 960 times)
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« on: July 11, 2009 10:13:07 AM »

I bought some chain a while back that was sterling. Then later I bought some of that same style chain that was NOT sterling. But the two are identical. I can't go by weight because one is longer than the other and I do not want to cut it yet. Is there anything I can do to figure it out? I figured the sterling would have tarnished by now, but it is still shiny and new!
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2009 11:16:25 PM »

If they're the same shade of shiny white metal, then presumably they are both silver. But then one would be plated. One way to check if something's plated is to tarnish a little bit of it. The plating will wear off quick, leaving a different shade of metal underneath. You can do this with sulfurous chemicals, such as Liver of Sulfur, or a boiled egg left sealed overnight with a bit of the chain from each. Unfortunately, sometimes silver things are coated with rhodium or other things to stop tarnishing, so it isn't a surefire guarantee, but silver plating tends to be on cheap stuff and probably doesn't go so far as to plate the plating. If the chain is real silver then tarnishing it won't do much, you can just clean it again with stuff like potato water, or baking soda + salt + aluminium foil (do a search).

I don't have any other suggestions, sorry! I presume the chain is fine enough that you can't get a gander at a cross-section of a link for a different coloured metal underneath.

« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2009 03:23:37 PM »

My understanding is that the difference can be made with a magnet.  Silver plated items will attract the magnet, but sterling will not.  I've tried this with several items and it has been a true test each time.  The problem with this method is that some items are metalized (or some similar name) plastic.  The magnet test does not hold true with plastic. 

Try the magnet thing with pieces that you know are silver and pieces that are not for a trial.  I've heard folks say to take a magnet to yard sales for this very reason.

I have one bead in question and asked my bead store staff and it was suggested that it might be plastic.  The "bead lady" said that if i had more than one, we could smash it and see, for sure.  I suppose plastic will shatter.  I'm tempted to try the smash test.

One jewelry maker told me that all silver should be marked, though.

good luck

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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2009 10:50:58 PM »

if it's sterling and not artisan made it's extremley unlikely the chain would not be marked. (Gotta justify that price tag!)

The magnet thing will work on pieces that are either iron or nickle alloys.

<< I'm on Etsy!  www.magpiehouse.etsy.com >>
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2009 11:39:26 AM »

everyone made some great suggestions. I think the truest way to test out Sterling Silver is to cut through it. If you don't want to mark your piece, try it on a jump ring or what not.

There are sterling silver chemical testers that will let you know if it's truly sterling silver but that will also require you to mar your piece.

There is a machine also that will test it for you without having to damage your piece...but i heard it's extremely expensive. A few G's or so.

Another thing is the price. That should also indicate whether or not your piece is silver or not.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2010 07:43:22 AM by rackycoo - Reason: to comply with Craftster rules » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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