How to Find Silver Coins – The Easiest Way

Easily tell which coins are silver by viewing them from the side.

Whether it’s in jewelry, bullion, or coins, I’ve always been drawn to silver. So naturally, I like to find silver where ever I can. One of my favorite places to find silver is in old silver coins. Not only do old silver coins contain much more silver value than the face value of the coins, they’re a fascinating piece of history. Plus, you can either sell the coins for a profit, use them for jewelry, or add them to your personal collection and have something of real value to pass on.

In this article, we’ll look at the easiest way I know to find silver coins, and you can still do it today!

The Secret: Look at the edge of the coins

This may seem obvious for those familiar with silver coins but even if that’s the case, this one little trick has great value. Not only can you determine if a coin is silver within a split-second, you can also use this method to sort through hundreds or even thousands of coins in no time at all.

The reason being: When the US Government removed silver from US coins like dimes and quarters, the new metal composition consisted of of 75% copper. The copper is sandwiched in the coin in such a way that it’s easily visible on the coin edge and when viewing a stack of coins it is simple to tell which ones contain mostly silver and which are mostly copper.

In fact, nowadays, that’s where the real value is, since finding silver in pocket change is all but a thing of the past. If you want to find silver coins (and pay face value for them), you’re gonna have to sort through a lot of coins. This means getting rolls from the bank. It’d be a nearly impossible task if you had to check each individual date but you don’t… You can just stand a bunch of coins together on edge and glance at them to instantly know which ones are silver and which aren’t.

This makes it possible to find any silver coins from within big batches almost instantly and that’s exactly how people who still find silver in change are doing it today.

Granted, you have to get the coins from somewhere… this means one or more trips to the bank and having a decent amount of extra cash that you can cycle into coin rolls. At $5 for a roll of dimes, or $10 each for a roll of quarters or half dollars, this can quickly add up to several hundred dollars or even a thousand bucks or more in change. The good news is you now know how to cherry pick the silver coins quickly. The bad news is that silver coins are few and far between and there are no guarantees that you’ll even find one, let alone several… Plus, once you’ve sorted through the coins, you’ll have to cash the clad (non-silver) coins back in. Depending on your bank, this may or may not be extremely painful.

So in the end, there are still silver coins floating around out there, waiting for someone savvy enough to snag them up. But the time and effort involved means it’s not economical in the least bit and is better suited as a hobby.

Of course, if you REALLY want to find silver in pocket change, it’s tough to beat getting a job as a cashier. 🙂

Minimum Shipment Amounts and Approximate Payout When Refining Silver Jewelry

If you buy (or find) a lot of silver jewelry and other silver items, eventually you’ll want to earn more than the local gold and silver buyers are willing to pay. And if you buy/find enough silver, you’ll be in a position to make more money than the local buyers can pay. What a good situation to be in!

While the minimum requirements can vary greatly depending on which refiner you choose, most refiners will agree on one thing… they want you to send them as much silver as you can get your hands on… usually a reasonably large PILE. The reason is simple, it’s not cost effective to recover and refine silver unless it can be done on a large scale, and the larger, the better. While other factors play a role (like cadmium content and silver purity of the “unprocessed” scrap), the amount of silver you send to a refiner in a single shipment is not only their primary requirement, it’s also the largest factor in determining how much you will be paid in relation to the current silver value.

Generally speaking, most refiners require a minimum of around 5 (troy) pounds of silver scrap in order to be considered for refining. This would be scrap silver in the 80-95% purity range, including a lot of silver coins along with sterling flatware, hollow-ware, and silver jewelry. Silver that is less than 80% pure (or thereabouts) may fall into a different category, lower pay-rate, and possibly higher minimum shipment weights, again, depending on the refiner.

Once you get to 50% silver purity and below, the number of silver refiners willing to work with you is drastically reduced. Why? It’s even more difficult to economically recover this silver and as a result, quite a few refiners either don’t want to deal with it, or aren’t equipped to do so. So if you’re busy buying and stockpiling silver and hope to cash in by sending it off to a refiner, keep this in mind and be sure to give a healthy preference to items with higher silver content.

So… most refiners are looking for around 5 pounds of silver scrap and they want that scrap to be at least 80% pure. The good news is that precious metals are weighed in Troy Pounds… which weigh around 20% less than the common (avoirdupois) pound that most of us are familiar with. Still, at 373.24 grams per troy pound, we’re looking at almost 1,900 grams of scrap silver in order to meet the minimum requirements of most silver refiners.

If you don’t know… THAT’S A LOT OF SILVER!

But it’s far from an impossible amount. Hundreds of precious metals buyers deal with many times more than this amount on a daily basis. If you’re an individual, it may seem like a lot, but it’s still very possible.

Now that you know the minimum amount required by most refiners, the next question is how much you’ll get paid.

Unfortunately, refining silver isn’t as easy as refining gold, and silver sometimes has some extra challenges in the form of other metals used to create the different silver alloys.

All said, refiners don’t pay as much, percentage-wise, for silver as they do for gold. The standard amount for a standard silver shipment is around 90% of the silver value. If you’re getting paid less, either the type of silver-alloy you’re sending is difficult to work with (ex, those that have high cadmium levels), or the refiner you’re sending too isn’t paying enough. If you’re getting paid more than this, it’s likely due to the AMOUNT of silver you’re having refined. Some refiners will pay upwards of 95% for large silver shipments but even that amount isn’t the norm.

How to Find More Silver – Look at Coin Jewelry and Old Foreign Coins

Here are two more ways I personally use to increase the amount of REAL silver found every year.  And once you know how, you’ll be able to increase the amount of silver you find as well.

Each of these techniques is simply one aspect, one small nugget of knowledge to add to your precious metal finding toolkit.  By themselves, their value is quite effective, but still limited.
One key to becoming a superstar silver finder… the key to consistent silver finds and making way more money than you thought possible… is to learn as much as you can.  Each time you run across a juicy nugget of silver-finding goodness, study and learn it, and add it to your silver-finding knowledge kit!   As time goes on and you learn new ways to find silver, previously unknown sources, new ways to spot it or new places to look, you’ll realize that finding cheap silver gets easier and easier… you just gotta LEARN IT and DO IT.

Two New Ways to Find More Silver

I call these methods “new”, simply because they’re new to our discussion on how to find more silver, but the methods themselves are tried and true and have proved themselves to be very valuable in my personal experience.

Look at Coin Jewelry

The first method for finding more silver is to look at coin jewelry.  While this may seem simple and obvious, don’t dismiss it so quickly.  It’s true that a lot of coin jewelry uses fake coins, but some don’t.  Some use real coins, and a few use real silver coins.  Everything from beads to clasps, pendants to charms, bracelets, and necklaces have been made from both real and fake (or “simulated/copied”) coins.  The point I’d like to stress is that you PAY ATTENTION to coin jewelry because SOMETIMES IT’S REAL.

Perhaps my favorite example of real silver coin jewelry is a Native American “Squash Blossom” (silver necklace) a gold buying friend sold to me several years ago.  The beads on this necklace were made from silver US Mercury dimes.  Each bead was made by rounding two silver dimes into small domes, drilling a hole in the center, then soldering them together into a bead.  The whole necklace contained over 50 silver dimes and sold for $410 US!

One more note on coin jewelry, that also happens to tie in well with our next silver-finding method, is to make sure you take a close look at coin jewelry made from old foreign coins.  These often get overlooked because people assume the coins aren’t real, they “can’t be” real.  Well, sometimes they are real, and sometimes they’re silver as well.


Find More Silver in Old Foreign Coins

Another great place to look to find more silver is in old foreign coins.  Most of us realize that old foreign coins can contain silver, yet not many people look here.  Either we feel like we don’t know enough to tell which ones are silver, feel like we won’t find anything anyway, or feel like there are so many different foreign coins that it’s too overwhelming and we’ll never figure it all out.

Let’s dispell that non-sense right now, finding real silver in a massive sea of old foreign coins is quite a bit easier than you may think… and there are many “untapped” local resources where you can take advantage of this knowledge and start finding more silver right away!

The first thing to keep in mind, is that finding silver in foreign coins is much like finding silver in US (or ANY) coins… that is to say, silver is found ONLY in the OLDER coins, at least when it comes to coins meant for “general circulation”.
So when you’re looking for foreign silver coins, the first thing to be conscious of is the date range of the coins you’re looking through.  Many collections of foreign coins get grouped together in somewhat confined date ranges.  Usually the dates correspond to when a family member visited the country and/or acquired the coins but it can also be because the coins looks similar so they get grouped together.
In any case, to find silver, you gotta look at the old coins, and the older the better.  Along these same lines, if you’re thirsting for knowledge, a good place to start is learning the “silver cut-off date” for various countries.  That is, the latest year each country made coins from real silver.  Learn a few of these dates, and the next time you run across foreign coins, you know that the silver coins must be earlier than a certain date.  If all the coins come after that date, it can save you a lot of time searching.

Several silver Cut-Off Dates:

United States – 1964 was the last year the US put silver in dimes and quarters and the last year that half dollars were made with 90% silver.  1965-1969 US half dollars contain 40% silver.

Canada – 1967-1968 this can be slightly confusing so just remember that 1967 and earlier Canadian dimes and quarters contain silver, and they MIGHT contain silver in 1968.  The 1968 dimes and quarters that do not contain silver will stick to a magnet.
In 1967, the Canadian dime and quarter changed compositions… some are 80% silver, some are 50%.
In 1968, the dime and quarter changed again, only this time some of them are 50% silver and the others have no silver content.

Great Britain – 1946 is the last year.  I really like this one because you can run across old silver British pence quite often (for the price of “junk” foreign coins).  From 1920 until 1946, silver British coins contained 50% silver.  Before that, they contain 92.5% (sterling) silver.

Australia – 1964 is the last year for silver, except for the 50 cent coin, which was 80% silver in 1966 (but was withdrawn due to silver value being higher than face value).  I like finding old silver Australian coins and it’s another that happens frequently because people miss the fact that they contained silver up until the 1960’s!

So now you’re armed with enough knowledge to find some silver foreign coins (and hopefully enough of an appetite to learn more).

If you’re looking for places to search, try the local coin shops and antique stores and be sure to visit the next coin show that comes to town as these shows usually have a multitude of dealers with literal tons worth of cheap foreign coins they’d love to unload.

Happy Hunting!

What is “Nickel Silver” and Does it Contain Any Real Silver?

These questions come up all the time… What is Nickel Silver?  Or, How much silver is in Nickel Silver?  You can substitute the term “Montana Silver” or “German Silver” or a whole slew of names for “Nickel Silver”.  They’re all the same when it comes to a misleading name for a metal with NO SILVER CONTENT AT ALL.

Nickel Silver, Montana Silver, German Silver, New Silver, Electrum…
These are all confusing terms so let’s end that confusion… names like this refer to the COLOR of the metal alloy, and NOT the metal CONTENT.  At least, that’s the technical reason that manufacturers can legally produce something and call it “Silver” when it contains NO SILVER whatsoever.

The REAL reason names like this exist (in my humble opinion) is because they are deceptively misleading, and persuade many to believe that a combination of shiny base metals contains far more value than it does.  There’s no silver in nickel silver.  There is no silver in German Silver.  There’s no silver in Montana silver…

What is Nickel Silver?
That begs the question… if it isn’t silver, what is it made of?

Nickel (Montana, German…) silver is a COPPER alloy that commonly contains nickel and zinc.  It was created in the 1800’s by metalworkers in Germany who were trying to mimic a nickel-alloy from China.

Typical nickel silver contains 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc and all modern nickel silver contains so much zinc that it’s classified as a subset of Brass.

So yeah, nickel silver has used, just as lots of base metals and alloys have uses… and the next time you run across nickel silver, you can be very confident in assessing the (lack of) precious metal value.

Two Types of Solid Gold that Hide in Silver Jewelry – And How to Find Them

I’m sure there are more “types” of solid gold you can find amongst silver jewelry, but here are two common ones that I seem to find on a consistent basis.  Whatever the “type”, nothing beats the rush of realizing the piece of silver you’re holding is actually gold!

White Gold Hides in Silver Jewelry
This may sound obvious but it’s more common than you think, even amongst those experienced enough to “know better”.  I’ve done it myself, and though on accident, it was a couple months later before I realized one of my silver necklaces was really a white gold necklace.

This is good news for anyone who has a collection of silver jewelry, or those of us who buy and sell silver and other jewelry.  Even the “urban treasure hunters” can benefit from this tidbit… as it means that once in a while you’ll find white gold instead of silver.

First things first… check the jewelry markings.  This is a dead giveaway, but lots of times we don’t take the time to read the markings (or more often, they’re too small to easily distinguish).  So get a good jewelers loupe or magnifier… make sure you can read what’s stamped on the jewelry.
If the marks are worn too much to read, this could be a good sign… gold is softer than silver, which means that most gold allows wear faster than their silver counterparts.  If the markings are worn to the point you can’t read them, always test the item for metal content and purity.

One more thing to keep in mind is that white gold usually looks different than silver jewelry.  By itself, you likely won’t notice… but white gold usually stands out when mingled with silver jewelry.  So when you’re looking, keep in mind that gold pieces will look different.

Gold & Sterling Silver
The second type of solid gold that is commonly found with silver jewelry are the combination pieces… where both yellow gold and sterling silver are soldered together on one piece.  These are much easier to spot than white gold in silver, though it can be much more troublesome to separate the gold from the silver.

These pieces are usually made from silver, and thin sheets of solid gold are cut and shaped then placed over the silver in the form of design accents and the like.  Don’t confuse these with gold-plated items… the gold-plating is super-thin and impossible to recover while physical “scraps” of gold soldered to sterling silver are a different matter entirely.

This could be anything from a pendant, to a ring, to a money clip, and even belt buckles.  One giveaway is if you look close, you can actually see a layer of gold sitting on (or in) the silver.  The other giveaway is the jewelry markings…

Gold & Sterling Markings
When you find one of these pieces, they’ll likely have two markings in close proximity… one silver marking and one gold marking.  The marks are normal enough, something like “10k   Sterling” is commonly found on solid gold and sterling belt buckles.  What’s not common is having both a gold and silver marking together.  When you find a marking like this, you know that the item is silver but also has enough solid gold to be worth your attention.

Removing Solid Gold from Sterling Silver
Since these pieces were made by soldering (welding) gold to silver, a very similar process can be used to de-solder the solid gold.  First, the piece is covered in gold flux, a mixture used to help solder flow when heated to the right temperature.  Next, a torch is used to properly heat the gold and silver jewelry “just enough” to turn the solder into liquid but not so much that the gold and silver themselves melt.  When the solder is in a liquid state, so is the bond between the gold and silver metals and they will easily fall (or slide) apart.

So now you know a couple new tricks for finding gold jewelry and maximizing the value of your silver jewelry (by finding gold in it).

Stay tuned, much more to come…

How to Test Silver Jewelry – Two Methods Without Using Acid

I’ve tested thousands of pieces of jewelry over the years to see if they contained precious metals or not.  One thing I’ve learned from testing silver jewelry is that quite a bit of it can be sorted and eliminated without using test acids.

The two methods described here work best when:

You have a piece of jewelry that looks like silver but is not marked

You have a marked piece of silver jewelry but are not sure if it’s real

You have a lot of jewelry items to sort through, and want to quickly remove everything that is not real silver


Use a Magnet

The first method is easy but it will eliminate a ton of silver-colored jewelry that would otherwise require an acid-test to see if it is real silver or not.
In fact, the hardest part about this method is probably finding a suitable magnet.  Ideally, you want to use a rare earth magnet because they’re extremely powerful in a very compact size.  These can be found on Amazon and eBay, or at your local hardware store in some Magnetic Pickup Tools (Collapsible wands, pens, etc).

Once you’ve got a good, powerful magnet, simply place each piece of jewelry by itself on a flat surface then slowly move the magnet closer to the jewelry and observe any reaction.  Iron-based items will literally JUMP onto the magnet, the attraction is so strong.  Some other items, the attraction is not as apparent, which is why having a strong rare earth magnet is important.
With necklaces and bracelets, it may be easier to dangle the piece of jewelry in the air with one hand while moving the magnet with the other.

The magnet won’t tell you what IS silver (or gold), but it will tell you WHAT IS NOT.  If it sticks to a magnet, it is not made out of precious metals.


Use a Test Stone

This is a just a small, unglazed tile that provides a rough enough surface to remove small bits of metal that are rubbed against it, and also a resistant enough surface that the metal bits can be tested for precious metal content by placing drops of nitric acid on it.

But you don’t have to use test acids to get value from a test stone.  Simply rubbing a piece of jewelry back and forth across the stone’s surface a few times is enough to remove some metal from the jewelry and get down to the base metal on most plated items.  This is extremely handy for pre-testing silver-colored jewelry that isn’t marked.

Why?  Because quite a bit of silver-colored jewelry is plated, and the base-metal underneath the plating is a completely different color (usually copper).  By rubbing the jewelry in question on a test stone, you’ll often see a copper-colored line appear on the stone, instead of the expected silver color.  This is a fast and easy test to eliminate the majority of silver-plated items.

Test stones can be found on Amazon or eBay, sold individually in various sizes or included in gold testing acid kits.  Some of the local hardware stores and hobby shops have also started selling test stones for a couple bucks or less but most any unglazed tile will work.

Happy Hunting!

Keys to Acquiring a Mountain of Sterling Silver Jewelry – One Piece at a Time

It’s funny but true that with an ample supply of knowledge, determination, and patience, you can start with almost no money whatsoever and go from one underpriced sterling silver necklace like this…

Underpriced Sterling Silver Necklace – Less than $1!

To a small mountain of sterling silver like this…

Mountain of Sterling Silver Jewelry – Found One Piece at a Time

I know it’s true because the images above are of actual sterling silver jewelry I’ve found over the years.  In fact, that first image is of a necklace I found only a couple days ago.  Sure, the pendant isn’t silver but a nice long sterling necklace more than makes up for that… especially for LESS THAN A DOLLAR!

That first image gives away one key point on how you can amass a huge pile of sterling silver and make an amazing profit doing so.  The key is FINDING UNDERPRICED SILVER.

That brings up my second key point… finding real silver priced way cheaper than the silver melt value is actually a lot easier than you might initially expect.

First, get educated, like you’re doing now by reading the info on this site.  This is a CRITICAL FIRST STEP as you won’t find any silver if you don’t know WHAT you’re looking for, WHERE to look, and WHAT to look at (plus you run a huge risk of wasting money on non-silver items and ending up in the hole).

Learning all you can about silver will help in more ways than I can cover here, the goal with this excercise is in becoming proficient at two things…

Learning to spot real silver

Learning to tell when real silver has been substantially underpriced

In that first photo, I knew as I saw the necklace that it was real silver, didn’t even have to look at the markings (though they’re there, plain as day).  I also knew (from past experience plus hefting the necklace in my hand), that the silver contained in the necklace was easily worth more than a dollar.  I didn’t need to know an exact dollar amount, just an educated guess to arrive at the conclusion that this piece of silver jewelry was way underpriced and I should buy it.  If you’re curious, the necklace weighs 6.8 grams, which is roughly $3.44 at today’s silver price.  Not a huge win, unless you consider that I more than tripled my money.

That brings us to my next point, and another key… patience.  Cheap silver jewelry is everywhere, but it still takes time, determination, and persistence to find it.  In other words, you can’t decide today that you’re going to find all the super-cheap, underpriced silver around and have a mountain of inexpensive silver to drool over tomorrow.  You can find cheap silver, you can find lots of cheap silver, but it still takes time and constant searching.

Now to my final point in this article…  Learn what to look for, start looking for it, buy it when it’s cheap.  That’s it… nothing pretty, just build your silver mountain one piece at a time and it won’t take long before you’re surprised at how quickly it adds up.

Happy Hunting!

How to Test if Silver Jewelry is REAL – Using 18K Gold Testing Acid!

Let’s face it, if you’ve ever tried using that dark red, toxically nasty “Silver Test Acid”, then you’ll probably agree there is much left to be desired.  The silver test acid that you find Online and in most gold testing kits is really gnarly stuff!  Dark red in color, it’ll leave stains on your skin that last for weeks, it’ll discolor and chew through clothing, and when stored for any length of time, the fumes disintegrate the plastic cap on it’s container and can damage other nearby testing tools… especially metal.  But the biggest problem of all… it’s really tough to tell anything from silver test acid.  Sure, it works, but not very well… and even the most experienced scrap gold and silver buyers have trouble reading what this acid is trying to say.

Luckily, I’ve found an awesomely simple and highly effective solution, one I’ll share with you now!

Use your 18K gold testing acid to test silver jewelry…

No, seriously!  It works!  Not only can you learn to test real silver with 18k gold test acid, it’s surprisingly simple and the results are much easier to read and more readily defined.

Using 18k gold test acid is something I heard a fellow gold buyer mention years ago, although no elaboration was offered.  It was then that I started doing my own testing to see if there was any validity to the claim.

I started off easy, with items of KNOWN silver content.  Among the first items tested included a 1952 Washington Silver Quarter (90% silver), a sterling silver ring that was known to be real (92.5% silver), an old fork from the Netherlands stamped “830” (assumed to be 83% silver), and a 1944 US War Nickel (35% silver).

For control pieces (non-silver), I grabbed random stuff laying around including some pocket change (a copper penny and a clad quarter), a piece of non-silver jewelry and silver-plated jewelry, and a silver-plated fork.

Then it was just a matter of scratching each item on a test stone back and forth a few times (any unglazed ceramic tile will work) until a sufficient metal line is on the stone then testing each metal with 18k gold test acid and observing the results.

Things to Note:

As expected, 18k test acid reacts well (sometimes energetically) with the non-precious metals like copper, nickel, tin, etc.  The metal lines either disappear or bubble, change colors, and disappear.  For the most part it is pretty easy to tell what is NOT silver by using 18k gold test acid.  hah!
The only metal that stumped me was aluminum, it didn’t seem to react with the test acid at all.

What happens when you test REAL silver with 18k gold test acid is where things get interesting.  The acid reacts beautifully with real silver, producing a creamy, milky white or off-white/blue color and most of the time the silver will expand, giving the effect of watching a cloud form.

This is a very distinctive reaction and once you see it first-hand, your ability to distinguish real silver from fake/non-silver items will instantly rocket to a new level.  There will be no more questions in your mind when testing whether items are real silver or not.

The best part of this test (besides being easy and having killer accuracy) is that the reaction is more pronounced with higher silver contents (more pure) and less pronounced when there is less silver.  The way to see the difference is by using this method to test two items side by side that have greatly varying silver contents.  Ex/ Test a 35% silver war nickel and a 90% silver coin at the same time.  You’ll be able to see a slight reaction with the war nickel and a much more impressive reaction with the 90% silver coin.

So, break out your gold test acids and a few silver and non-silver items and start testing them and observing the results.  I guarantee that by using this method it won’t take long for you to be a silver sniffing pro!

Happy Hunting!

How to Find More Sterling Silver with this Secret Source

Sterling Silver Handle – Butter Knife Set

There are lots of ways to find more sterling silver.  You can visit more stores and sales, go more often, and be persistent.  But most of the obvious ways to find more scrap silver also require investing more time and effort… this is ok to an extent, but that only works to a point and doesn’t always produce the desired results.

Instead, I like the idea of working smarter, not harder, and a little bit of knowledge and the curiosity to look where others don’t (or won’t) has paid off handsomely over the years.  I also like to maximize each “prospecting trip”, and this tip will definitely help you find more scrap silver even in locations that are already “picked over”.

That being said, here’s one of my all-time favorite ways to find more scrap sterling silver when I’m out looking at thrift stores, estate sales, etc.  While it’s really not a “secret”, it might as well be since what I’m about to share has added hundreds of dollars to my bottom line on more than one occasion and is a proven strategy for finding more scrap sterling silver in less time.

Sterling Silver Knife Handle Marking

So what’s the secret?

Easy… look at knife handles.  And not just carving knives or fancy knives (although you should check these too) but even stop and look at the old BUTTER KNIVES and plain flatware.  You might be surprised to find that some of the older flatware pieces have sterling silver handles.  In fact, a lot of them are even marked “Sterling Handle”, though the marking can be small, worn, and hard to see.

Don’t discount any pieces of older flatware because ya never know…

This “secret” works especially well if you’re like me and haunt the thrift stores, estate sales, and yard sales looking for cheap precious metals.  Let’s be honest, there are tons of people who frequent these places on a daily basis, all pretty much looking for the same stuff (aka, items of value).  So quite often these places are “picked over”, and good deals seem few and far between.  I’m telling you the good deals are still there… but sometimes we gotta change WHERE we look and WHAT we’re looking at.  If a store feels like it’s been hit hard by resellers, I automatically switch modes to look for the hidden treasures like sterling silver knife handles… and often times, I find them.  I’ve even have good success looking at the local antique shops, where the antique dealers “should know better” (than to put real silver out for super cheap).

But they don’t… either they don’t know to check knife handles for silver content, don’t take a close enough look, or are too busy to care for “such a small amount of silver”.  The same is true for the majority of resellers who vulturize the local shops and sales on a continued basis… most of them don’t know or don’t care to check TONS of items, including sterling silver knife handles.

All this means more underpriced scrap silver for you and me!

In a future article, we’ll discuss how to identify these hidden gems, the different markings used, marking locations, and most importantly… approximately how much silver content the knife handles have along with value.

Until then, happy hunting…!

Silver Markings Explained – What is Weighted Sterling?

Weighted Sterling Silver Marking Closeup

If you search for real gold and silver at yard sales and thrift stores, it doesn’t take very long before you run across an item marked “Sterling Weighted” or sometimes “Sterling Reinforced”.  You might have seen this marking already.

When beginning, this can be a confusing term, but don’t let it scare you.  It’s simply another way of saying, “This item has a thin REAL SILVER shell over a hard, NON-SILVER core… usually plaster or resin.


The outer metal shell is just what the marking says it is, Sterling Silver, 92.5% PURE.  Now that you know these items contain real silver, don’t go crazy just yet, we need to cover the second part of the marking…


Resin core inside a Sterling Silver “weighted” candlestick.

As you can see from the candlestick photo above, items marked “Sterling Weighted” have a silver shell over a non-silver core (in this case, resin).  The same is true for items marked “Sterling Re-enforced”, “Sterling Reinforced”, etc, etc…  Some similar markings you might run across include “Cement Loaded” or “Base Loaded”.  They all mean the same thing.

The shell is always thin,  and sometimes it is unbelievably thin, depending on the company that made it.  In a nutshell this means you can run across “Sterling Weighted” items that are large and impressive and appear to contain mountains of sterling silver only to find the silver shell weighs only a fraction of your original estimate.
I’ve seen shells on candlesticks that are so thin, they make excellent razors… and I’ve sliced my fingers on these thin shells more times than I can count.
At some point I’ll put up a general guide to how much silver you can expect to recover from Sterling Weighted items but until then I can tell you the answer is “not much”.

The company “Duchin” is one of the worst offenders when it comes to skimping on sterling silver in their items.  I’ve seen “weighted” candlesticks made by this company where the entire sterling content is under 12 grams.  Not much silver when you consider the “before” weight is usually over 3 ounces.

On the other hand, several years ago I scrapped a pair of “weighted” candlesticks that contained over 110 grams of sterling silver… EACH.  They were a similar size to the Duchin candlesticks of skimp-ville, but the sterling silver shells on these heavy suckers was several millimeters thick and took some heavy duty dremel action to coax apart.

So while most of the weighted sterling silver items you find will have thin shells that can almost be peeled off by hand, there is definite value in these items, sometimes SURPRISING value.

Marking Commonly Found On…

The “Sterling Weighted” and similar markings are most commonly found on the following items (though certainly not limited to only these).

  • Candlesticks
  • Candy Dishes / Compotes
  • Knife Handles / Serving Utensil Handles
  • Sugar & Creamer Sets, Teapots, Various Other Pieces of Silver “Hollow-ware”


Key Points to Remember

The next time you run across an item marked “Sterling Weighted”, buying it (to make a profit) is a no-brainer when you keep the following in mind:

The item contains REAL sterling silver, so it HAS VALUE, BUT… the silver is in the form of a thin shell coating so when estimating value, view the item in the same way you would treat a FULL can of soda versus and EMPTY can.

In other words, don’t get stuck paying silver value for the SODA and you’ll do just fine!  🙂

Happy hunting!