Silver is a type of material that’s usually prized for its beauty.
While it tends to be second place to gold in terms of value and appeal, there are still some people who prefer silver over gold.
If you’re buying something made of silver, then you may wonder if it’s real or not.
That might then make you wonder if silver has magnetic properties or not.
Here’s what you need to know about silver and whether it’s magnetic or not.
Is Silver Magnetic?
No, silver is not magnetic.
That’s because silver is diamagnetic.
It’s similar to copper in that it repels magnets if anything.
However, it takes a considerably powerful magnet to see this property take effect.
Since silver isn’t magnetic, you can often use magnets to determine if something is really silver or not.
Is Sterling Silver Magnetic?
Sterling silver is a bit different from pure silver.
Pure silver, as its name suggests, is only comprised of silver.
Sterling silver uses about 92.5% silver with the remaining percentage made up of some type of alloy.
In most cases, it’s either copper or zinc.
If the object contains copper, then you’ll find that your sterling silver piece isn’t magnetic.
That’s because both silver and copper are diamagnetic.
They repel magnets.
The only time a magnet might stick to your sterling silver piece is if it contains nickel or iron as its secondary alloy.
Sterling silver, usually, is not magnetic.
Will A Magnet Stick To A Silver Item?
No, a magnet will not stick to a silver item.
That’s because silver doesn’t attract magnets.
As such, sometimes people will use magnets to test if the silver is real or not.
How To Tell If Your Silver Is Real
If you received some silver jewelry or something else made of silver, then you may wonder if it’s the real deal.
Even when you’re out shopping at a flea market, you may wonder if something is too good to be true.
To ensure you don’t fall victim to a scam, here are a few things you can do to tell if the silver is real or not.
1. Authentication Stamps
One of the first things you should look for is an authentication stamp or some form of authentication label.
Oftentimes, when you buy a commercial silver product, it comes with some sort of label stamped on it.
The label will indicate the purity of the silver and the silversmith who created it.
This isn’t always the case, however.
Some jewelry pieces, for example, might only include the purity of the silver and leave out the smith.
Some might do the opposite.
Others will include the date that the silver product became manufactured.
A lot of international sellers will stamp it with the numbers 925, 900, or 800.
This indicates how pure the silver is.
For example, 925 means that the silver piece has 92.5% silver in it.
Sometimes the stamp can be very small and difficult to see.
If it’s an old piece, then there’s even a chance that it might have become worn down with use.
However, for brand new pieces, you can often find the stamp with ease.
If you see such a stamp, then you know it’s real silver and just how pure it actually is.
If you don’t see the stamp, then there’s still a chance that it might be real silver, but the chances aren’t good.
2. Smell Test
You might feel a bit silly smelling your silver jewelry or other silver items, but this is a method you can use to determine if something is real silver or not.
Silver doesn’t have an odor.
At least, it doesn’t have an odor that’s detectable to the human nose.
If you smell your jewelry, then you shouldn’t smell anything.
It’s when you do smell something that indicates a problem.
A metallic smell, for example, indicates that the silver jewelry isn’t pure silver.
It might have silver plating or have some silver in it, but it also has something else that’s giving it the metallic odor.
If you’re familiar with the scent of copper, then you might even be able to tell if it’s copper that you’re smelling.
Iron also has a particular smell to it.
If you smell something, then it means your piece either isn’t silver at all or only uses a bit of silver with something else.
3. Polish Test
There’s a reason that silver jewelry isn’t always made entirely out of silver.
Silver tends to tarnish rather quickly.
This can make your silver jewelry start to turn black which isn’t the most attractive display.
To avoid this, some jewelry makers add other metals to silver to help minimize how quickly it tarnishes.
While this prolongs its appearance, it also means that the piece is no longer purely silver.
Because silver tarnishes rather quickly, you can use the polish test to determine if it’s real silver or not.
All you need to do is take a clean white cloth and a bit of polish.
Clean the piece with the cloth, then inspect it.
If you see a bit of black residue on the cloth, then you have a real silver item.
If you don’t see black residue on the cloth, then there’s a good chance that it isn’t real silver.
It may have reduced silver with a strong alloy of something else.
It may only contain silver plating.
If that’s the case, then the amount of silver in the piece may be so minimal that it doesn’t tarnish quickly enough for you to notice.
The polish test can be an easy way to determine if something is real silver or not.
4. Flake Test
A problem that you often run into when buying silver pieces is that they’re silver-plated.
This means that there’s a thin coat of silver on top of the piece with the rest of the piece containing some other type of material.
While this is ideal for budget shoppers, it isn’t ideal for those who are looking for real silver jewelry or other silver items.
To determine if something is real silver or silver plated, you can perform the flake test.
Keep in mind that this will ruin the piece since you’re removing bits of it.
If you don’t mind that, then you’ll want to test an area that isn’t visible to the viewer’s eye.
For example, you should test the inner side of a ring or the back of a pendant.
To perform the flake test, you will use your fingernail or something else abrasive.
Using that tool, you should carefully scratch at a piece of silver jewelry.
Your goal is to remove part of the surface to take a look at what’s beneath it.
Once you flake off enough of the surface, you should be able to see the color beneath it.
If it’s the same color as the flakes, then it’s real silver.
If it’s a different color than the flakes, then there’s a good chance that it’s only silver-plated.
5. Acid Test
After performing the flake test, another test you can do immediately is an acid test.
An acid test will reveal if the jewelry piece is real silver or not based on whether the color of the acid or the item changes.
To perform an acid test, you’ll need the flakes that you removed during the flake test.
You’ll also need to wear safety clothing to ensure the acid doesn’t come into contact with your skin or eyes.
As such, wearing safety gloves and goggles is a necessity.
It’s also worth knowing how to dispose of the acid when you’re done with it.
It isn’t as simple as dumping the acid down the sink or toilet.
You can’t simply pour it into your garbage either.
Take some time to learn where and how to dispose of the acid safely.
Once you’re ready, you’ll want to take the flakes from the flake test and put them in the acid.
After a few minutes, you should inspect the acid to see if it’s changed color.
If it hasn’t changed color, then it’s real silver.
If there is some discoloration, then there’s a good chance that the piece isn’t real silver.
At the very least, it might indicate that it’s sterling silver or some other impure form of silver.
It may not even be silver at all.
If you don’t have flakes available, then you can also perform an acid test on the actual piece.
This might potentially ruin the piece, so it’s a good idea to test in a small area that isn’t visible to the viewer’s eye.
If you can remove a small section of the piece, then that’s even better.
Otherwise, you’ll want to drop a bit of acid on the piece and watch for discoloration.
Like the flakes, if you don’t see the piece changing color, then it’s real silver.
If you do see discoloration, then it’s not pure silver.
6. Ice Test
An interesting test that you can perform to determine if something is real silver or not is with ice.
Silver has the highest thermal conductivity of any known common type of metal.
This means that it’s able to hold onto heat well.
Because it’s able to hold onto heat well, the way it reacts to a cube of ice can help you determine if the piece is real silver or not.
To do so, you will take a cube of ice and hold it against the piece of jewelry.
Because the ice might also melt in your hands, it’s a good idea to wear gloves or handle the ice with some sort of tool.
This ensures your body temperature doesn’t tamper with the results of the test.
Contact with the silver should make the ice melt at a fast rate.
You can compare this rate by holding another ice cube of similar size and shape to a metal that you know isn’t silver.
This can give you an idea of how fast a different type of metal will melt ice.
You can then perform the test with the silver and see a noticeable difference in the rate of melting.
Because silver can hold onto heat well, it also melts ice faster.
The ice doesn’t chill the silver as fast as it does with other types of metal.
Instead, the silver’s heat melts the ice.
If the ice melts relatively quickly, then there’s a good chance that the jewelry piece contains real silver.
If it’s slow to melt, then this means the piece either has only a silver plating or isn’t silver at all.
The ice test is an easy and affordable way to test if something is real silver or not.
7. Sound Test
If you have a good ear, then you might also be able to use the sound test to tell if something is real silver or not.
Before you perform the test, it’s a good idea to first know what you’re listening for.
To help you distinguish the sound of silver from other metals, you’ll want to find a quarter that dates before 1965.
The quarters used before 1965 are 90% silver.
The quarters made after 1965 contain a copper and nickel alloy.
The best way to get the right sound is to hit the quarter with another piece of metal.
The sound you’re looking for is a high-pitched bell-like ringing sound.
If you hear this type of sound when you strike your questionable jewelry piece, then there’s a good chance that it’s made of silver.
If you hear more of a duller, lower-pitched sound, then there’s a good chance that it might be copper with a silver plate over it instead.
The sound test can be a good way to get an initial idea as to if the jewelry piece is pure silver or not.
8. Bleach Test
If you tried the polish test and didn’t get any results, it might be because the piece hasn’t oxidized enough yet.
You can speed up this process with the bleach test.
Silver tarnishes quickly on its own, but when exposed to an oxidizing agent like bleach, it tarnishes even faster.
Keep in mind that covering a jewelry piece in bleach is a good way to ruin it.
To test your jewelry safely, you want to use a Q-tip or something similar.
Dab the tip in the bleach, then press it against a small area on the jewelry piece.
Let it air dry.
After a few minutes, you should see a black mark on the silver.
If you do see it, then the silver has tarnished and you can be pretty sure it’s real silver.
If you don’t see a black mark, then the material isn’t real silver.
9. Magnet Test
A final test you can perform to tell if something is real silver or not is a magnet test.
This is a great way to test if something is real silver because you can easily take a magnet with you anywhere.
Whether you intend to shop at a jewelry store or a flea market, you can have your magnet with you and be ready to do some testing.
Real silver is not magnetic.
As such, a magnet should not stick to the item that you’re testing.
Run the magnet slowly over the item and let go of it.
If the magnet falls, then you know it’s real silver.
If the magnet sticks to it, then you know it isn’t real silver.
Of course, a magnet test might also indicate a false positive.
For example, if the item is only silver plated and covers copper, then it’s going to have the same effect.
That’s because copper and silver share the same sort of properties.
That’s why it’s worth performing some of the other tests to further determine if the item is real silver.
That said, the magnet test is a good way to get started with determining whether something is real silver or not.
Silver is similar to copper in that it is not magnetic.
Because it’s not magnetic, you can use a magnet to determine if an item that appears to be silver is real or not.
You can then perform some of the other tests listed above to determine its purity.