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!

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!