How to Test Silver

Do you need to know how to test silver? Whether you have inherited a loved one's silverware or are verifying the authenticity of your silver coins or commodities, knowing how to test silver is important. You'll need to know the value of your item if you ever decide to sell your pieces in the future. You may think that testing silver is a complicated process, but you have a variety of easy options at your disposal.

Look For The Stamp
If you have a piece of jewelry or silverware, you may find a special stamp on the item. Any item that is silver is required by US law to indicate its status. Pure silver is indicated with a .999 stamp on the piece. For sterling silver, look for a .925 stamp (sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper). For coin silver, look for a stamp of .900.

Mustard Test
As strange as it sounds, you can test the authenticity of your silver with French's mustard. The reason this works is because mustard contains sulfur, which always reacts with pure silver. To perform this test, heat the mustard to activate the sulfuric reaction. Next, find an inconspicuous spot on the silver piece. Drop the heated mustard on the silver piece. If it is authentic silver, the hot mustard will cause the silver to turn black. This is called silver sulfide. The black spot can be wiped away with vinegar.

Cool Down
Use an ice cube to test the purity of your silver. This process works best with smaller pieces, such as silverware. Take a small ice cube, and place it on your silver item. If the entire utensil cools down within 10 seconds, you are working with real silver. If it takes closer to 30 seconds, it may be silver plated. This test is not the most scientific, but it will be a broad indicator and will help you decide whether you would like to test further.

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