No doubt during your time treasure hunting there will be times you come across a coin, antique or piece of jewellery that you are unsure of.
Unsure as to what that special item is made from and whether it’s really silver, silver plated, EPNS or made from a completely different metal.
Luckily you don’t need expensive equipment and acids to test if silver is real, plated or fake.
The following simple ways will allow you the most simple ways for testing silver at home to determine if its real or not.
Check for hallmarks
What you’ll need – 1 x Loupe
To begin with and before carrying out the proceeding home silver tests its wise to check thoroughly for hallmarks.
If you’ve got a loupe handy then you should most definitely use it, as hallmarks can be very tiny at hard to see with the naked eye.
Hallmarks will vary and largely depend on the country of origin.
They are usually made up of numbers and symbols for example if you see a hallmark number of 925, this means your item is made up of 92.5% silver.
In the UK hallmarks will usually have tiny icons to identify the makers mark, the date it was made and the place it was made.
If you see EPNS this means unfortunately your item is not silver, it is an abbreviation of electro plated nickel silver.
To identify any hallmarks you find on your item you can visit this website – 925-1000.com
With all of that being said just because your item doesn’t have a hallmark doesn’t mean it is not silver. Coins do not have a hallmark, older items don’t and some countries do not stamp their silver. Also some handcrafted silver will not be marked.
So we need to carry out other simple home tests to determine if your item is in fact silver or not.
Spit and foil silver test
What you’ll need – Cooking/Aluminium foil and Spit!
Yes you read it right! Spit. Gross right?
However this is a very common and popular home silver test to give you a good idea if your object is made from silver.
Before you carry out any tests you should remember home tests may cause damage to your item so if its something you’re planning on selling or attached too, then take it to a specialist.
This is especially important for collectible coins as spitting on the coin or even handling it could cause spotting which will significantly devalue the coin.
The spit and foil silver testing method will not determine the exact silver content of the item but will give you an indication.
- Get some aluminium foil.
- Take the item you want to test and spit on it. No need to cough up your lung. Just a little spit will do.
- Now take the item and wrap it tightly in the cooking foil.
- Rub the wrapped item gently for around 5 – 10 seconds.
- Bring the foil and item close to your nose and unwrap.
- Smell the foil, can you smell rotten eggs? If so then your item has a good chance of being silver.
Again this test is not a guarantee that your item is silver, as heavily plated items can still cause this chemical reaction smell. This home silver test is just a good indicator.
Testing silver with ice cubes
What you’ll need – Large ice cubes
Silver is a very good heat conductor.
Which is why the following test is again another simple way to test silver.
This home test does not guarantee your item is in fact silver, but when combined with all of the tests on this page can be a great indication.
- Take an ice cube from your freezer.
- Ensure that your suspected silver item has been left at room temperature.
- Take the item and place it on top of the ice cube.
- If after a few minutes the ice-cube has started to melt then your item could quite well be silver.
Its worth noting that there are other metals that are great conductors of heat that could quite possibly cause the same melting effect on the ice-cube. So this is not a given!
Using bleach to test silver
What you’ll need – Domestic bleach
PLEASE NOTE: Before carrying out the bleach test on your silver, you will need to have a way of cleaning or polishing your item, the reaction from the bleach will leave a visible mark on your item if it is silver.
Bleach is one of the most effective home tests for silver that you can carry out, the bleach from your bathroom will do!
As bleach is a very strong oxidation agent when it comes in contact with real silver it will tarnish very quickly. This is because real silver is highly susceptible to the oxidation process.
- Place the item within a container or in a place that can be cleaned after the test has been carried out.
- Now take your domestic bleach and put a single drop of bleach on the item.
- Observe carefully, if your item is silver the area in which you placed the drop of bleach should start to get dark very fast, until eventually losing all lustre and original silver color. It will eventually completely change to a very dull grey shade.
Testing silver with a magnet
What you’ll need – A powerful magnet
One of the most simple tests to determine if your silver item is fake is to use a magnet.
Both silver and gold are NOT magnetic, therefore if your item sticks to a magnet it is NOT silver.
Many fake silver items are mixed with other metals which are magnetic.
For this home silver test you will need a strong magnet.
- Place your item on a smooth flat surface.
- Take the magnet and slowly move towards the object.
- Take note of the reaction. If your item is drawn towards the magnet or outright sticks to the magnet your item is not silver.
Again this test is not a direct indicator that your item is silver, sometimes metals like stainless steel are used which again is not magnetic.
Size & Weight Test
The weight test really applies to only coins and medallions.
Most coins and medallions will have their size, thickness and weights documented on the internet.
To determine if your coin or medallion is real or fake silver you should research what the official weight and sizes should be and then compare your item to this.
- Find out what the size and weight of the coin/medallion should be by research.
- Take an accurate set of scales and tape measure.
- Weigh and measure your item and compare to the official weight and dimensions.
- If yours item is the same weight and size then there is a very high chance it is real.
A lot of reproduction coins and medals will use a different metal, which in turn has a different density so your item may weigh more or less if it is a fake.
Testing Silver With Acid
What you’ll need – Official silver testing acid
The most accurate of all tests is the acid test.
This will require you to purchase official silver testing acid.
Silver testing acids are a mixture of nitric and muriatic acid so will require caution and for you to wear chemical resistant gloves and safety glasses.
Using acids to test your silver item is the most accurate way however it is also a very harsh way and will cause damage to your item.
So if you plan on selling or the item is collectible please do not carry out this test and instead ask an expert to authenticate.
The acid silver test will require a good eye and is determined by the color the acid changes to after applied to the item, so get ready to watch out for it.
- Put on your safety gloves and glasses.
- Take the item you want to test and place a drop of your testing acid onto the surface.
- Watch for the color change. (you can see the silver acid testing results color chart below)
- Wipe the acid from your item.
In some cases and if you are in doubt that your item is silver plated only, then you will need to file through to the core of the item for the test.
This is because some items that are heavily silver plated will show as silver if you test on the surface.
Here’s the results color chart:
Solid silver: Blood red
925 or 92.5% Silver: Dark red
800 or 80% Silver: Brown
500 or 50% Silver: Green
If you are going to be using the silver acid test quite often then you can buy what they call a silver testing stone.
With a testing stone you rub the silver item onto it (This will cause scratches to your item)
You then test the silver scrapings that are left on the stone.
Home testing silver conclusion
When testing silver at home it really should be approached with caution, extreme care and thought.
I can’t stress enough that you should never carry out any of the above tests if your item is historic, rare, collectible or important to you.
The damage you may cause is irreversible and can significantly decrease the value and desirability of your item.
When using acids or bleach for testing ensure you wear the correct protective clothing.
All of the home silver testing methods we have spoken about in this article, other than official acid tests, are not 100% accurate.
They should only ever be used as an indicator, carrying out more than one test will help you confirm the “probability” that your item is not fake.