3 Quick Ways to Help Tell Real Silver from “Fake” Silver

We are often asked by some of our readers how they can determine the authenticity of the silver they come across in their precious metal endeavors. While there are many methods of making this determination, for this post we list what we think are the three quickest and easiest.

1) The Ring Test

Silver has a nice ringing sound when it is tapped. If it is a coin, you can flick it into the air. Alternatively, you can gently tap it with another coin. In both instances, you should hear a high-pitched bell-type ring that lasts about 1-2 seconds. A fun way to try this is with a U.S. quarter from the years 1932-1964, which is 90% silver, and with a modern U.S. quarter (post 1965), which is 91.67% copper and 8.33% nickel. The silver quarter ring will be much higher-pitched compared to the dull ring of the copper quarter. Be careful when doing this with whatever coin you are testing so as not to ding or damage it.

2) The Ice Test

In addition to having the highest electrical conductivity of any element, silver also has the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. If you place an ice cube on a silver coin or bar, the ice will begin to melt immediately. Obviously, ice will melt if placed on anything at room temperature, for example, but if placed on silver it will melt much more quickly and impressively. Try it!

3) The Magnet Test

Silver is not magnetic. If you place a strong, rare-earth magnet called a Neodymium magnet on a silver coin or bar, it should not easily stick to it. If you are testing bars, you can angle one at 45 degrees and let the magnet slide down. It should slide down very slowly. If it sticks or it slides very quickly, it is not silver. However, keep in mind that just because the magnet does not stick does not necessarily mean that it is silver.

These three tests are not absolutely determinative, but they are quick ways to help you gauge the purity of your “silver” if you do not have a digital scale readily available or do not want use silver acid testing. Of course, they are especially useful if you have a piece of silver you know is pure and you are using it against a not sure pure “silver” coin or bar that has a highly imitative look and feel of silver.

Comments

  1. WD says

    Chris, your magnet test explanation is incongruent. if Silver is non-magnetic, why would a magnet sliding off of it quickly indicate that it’s not silver?

    • Bo says

      It’s like putting a strong magnet down a copper pipe or aluminum tube. The magnetic field induces a current in the conductor which causes an electromagnetic braking effect to be exerted onto the magnet.

      • ERIC says

        interestingly, i happen to have an extremely powerful maget, not sure of the metal it is but its not a regular one you find used for refrigerator decor. and i noticed after reading it has the slightest, practically none existent attraction to my so called silver in question. it doesnt stick or grab it, but i feel something. considering how strong this magnet is – it’s literally impossible to directly take off the refrigerator. thanks for the tip, now i dont know if this is silver and i have to research magnetism. thanks! lol

    • Marvin Mots says

      Silver slides slowly because it induces electric current in the highly conductive silver when it moves. A much less conductive material will transfer less mechanical kinetic energy (sliding movement) into electrical eddy currents (which quickly becomes heat). Any conductor that moves next to a magnet will get current flow in it but if the magnet is real powerful and the conductor real efficient (silver) you can begin to get some serious transfer of kinetic movement energy into induced electrical current.

    • says

      It’s known as paramagnetism. Simple premise, not well understood by most.

      If you drop a copper object, such as a US cent (pre-1982* so I don’t a bunch of ridiculous replies telling me ” Only the old ones are copper!”) it’s path will be affected by the magnetic field. Instead of simply being directed by gravity and trajectory, the object will move slightly towards the strong magnetic field.

      This works on all non-magnetic metals, but is more effective as the conductivity of the metals is increased.

      This effect can be used to cheaply, efficiently and accurately sort Cu from Z US cents as well.

      *Yes, I am aware that 1982 was split between some Cu and some Z cents. you can confirm whether it is Cu by dropping it, just as silver, it has a ring to it. This ring is very clear and very easily distinguishable from the dull tick of a Z cent.

      • EWB says

        The 95% copper pennies weigh 3.11 grams, while the copper-coated zinc ones weigh only 2.5 grams, and with a little practice it is easy to distinguish between them, by their “heft”. This is useful for sorting out the 1982 copper, from the zinc “slugs”.

    • says

      All metals are magnetic though the precise description for silver would be paramagnetc. It becomes noticeable with a very strong magnet.

    • christopher b says

      he put “quickly” and “slowly” backwards i think… read it with them reversed lol

    • tanis says

      I did that and a few other tests turns out I found a half pound of silver I almost cried tears of joy when this discovery was found

  2. Shang says

    I have heard of magnet test from a few sources, but am wondering how we can assume that all silver coins will not contain iron it their alloy. Can we really conclude that there is no silver in a coin if it fails the magnet test?

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  4. Kathleen says

    I just tried the ice test on a ‘silver’ jewelry box I have had for over a decade. I’ve had it all this time without ever knowing it could be silver. It’s quite heavy too, over 32 oz., If it IS real, I will make sure the kids have a nice Christmas this year. :) also tried it on an antique trivet, with the same results. Would a trivet really be made of silver?

  5. says

    I found a battered blackened men’s wedding ring buried in my garden today. After cleaning it up, I can read very faintly what looks like 99.9 on the inside.
    It is not magnetic. Looks very tatty as if it has been on a working man’s finger. Could it possibly be almost pure silver.?

  6. Brian S. says

    I just tried 6 rings on ice beside a 1956 silver quarter. One ring is known real silver (been worn daily for over 10 years) the other 5 are random purchases on ebay. All are stamped .925, coin silver is .900.

    The tone ring is slightly different on them all due to thickness and size and none sound like the coin.

    They all melt the ice at the same pace, faster if my finger is holding the items as opposed to precision pliers.

    Three of the rings had a slight drag only noticeable by a barely audible drag ringing, the others just kinda slid off. The coin slid audibly.

    So they all sound similar, they all melt the ice similarly, but half have drag magnetically.

    One of the 6 rings, the one in question that made me test, passes the first two but not the third. It was leaving a green ring on her finger, under magnification I see a coppery color but I filed away at the copper color to expose the underlying material and the copper color vanished exposing silver again. I just cut the ring in half and cant see any copper but the pocking and fine scratching on the surface show a reddish color that appears to only be superficial. I could care less about the ring, I’ll melt it down if I find its real, I just want to find a sure way to determine real from fake silver. I have no interest in selling fake rings and want to verify everything I sell.

    Is there a end all test method that doesn’t harm the ring?

  7. GC says

    Tried the magnet test, did not have the type of magnet you said, but used a common magnet. could not make the magnet slide slowly, but I could certainly feel the magnetic field as I moved it closer to the object

  8. louise says

    Would a nickel copper alloy melt an ice cube as quickly as silver? I tried the ice cube test on
    my silver? candlesticks and it melted very quickly but someone said they could be nickel/copper.

  9. Jessica says

    I have a metal dish from the late 1800s and i was just wondering what metals were used during that time. it has engraved initials on ir therefore it must have been a gift. what do u think it could ne made of?

  10. Melody S says

    I recently came across a large amount of old (what looks to be silver) forks, knives, spoons
    I was curious, so given the only information on the item itself I checked out each online. I read an article regarding a fake stamper of the 925 being stamped onto pieces of fake silver looking pieces in order to sell them at a higher rate….a friend of mine went through this…so given that there is a fake stamp out there. How can you tell just by looking at the item before purchasing it? I would really appreciate any thoughts or suggestions.

  11. Nancy says

    I would like to know if I have real silver or if it is silver plated. And how to tel the difference.

  12. zman says

    I was very impressed by the simplicity of the ice test it started to Melt immediately due to the conductivity of the silver metal it really worked !

  13. Bryan says

    I found a ” rock” type stone that apears to be silver. I did the ice test and melted really quick. The “rock” got ice cold. I only left the ice cube onit for like ten sec. Doesn’t stick to the magnet. Does this mean it’s silver? Or could it be something else? Thanks

  14. skylar a. says

    I just read and tried the ice trick on a block of silver, i think. My question for someone is does the block suppose to get cold?

  15. Matilda says

    Hello, I was just reading your ice cube mothod. I was just wondering that if you were almost convinced that you had fake silver would the water damage it? Please get back to me

    Cheers,

    Matilda .B.

  16. Josh says

    None of these will work for me. I found a hunk of iron whilst metal-detecting, but it has shiny rivers running through it that my metal detector doesn’t rule out even at highest discrimination mode. Unfortunately, the metal rivers are small, even though they run all around the surface, so I can’t use tests on it.

    • Mark says

      Josh, if its actually iron, not steel, it can have “veins” and other crystalline patterns, as well as occlusions, scattered all about. Google “sheer steel” and take a look at some of the formations. Even iron from meteors will have this as well as other elements, especially nickel.

  17. mike ramsey says

    I have heard that all silver coins of the world have indentations on the edge of the coin. Has anyone heard of this or is ij all bull?

  18. Daniel Ettinger says

    I tried the ring test on my 1 oz. coin. It rang good, but it was hard to maintain because of the weight. I couldn’t always flip it hard enough. The ice test worked well. I sat a cube on it straight from the freezer. It not only started melting quickly, the coin was ice cold with seconds. I’m satisfied my ounce is all silver now.

  19. andrea says

    Also , just use a soft clean piece of cloth , rub the jewelry, if it lets go of some black/dark”tarnish” you know it has a potential of being real silver . If you see little black specs , it is not real, but plated(look at clasp and conecting rings on the inside to notice “silver wear off” . But together will al other suggestions above , this will more then likely tell you weather or not your piece ( that you have not bought yet) is real or not, If someone refuses to let you do an acid test, all these will be a non-invasive way to tell real from fake or plate. Lets keep the suggestions ( authentic) coming so we can help each other from being ripped off, by China fake sellers on Ebay and Amazon ! Go to a reputable jeweler ,to have your silver authenticated.

  20. Dan says

    I like to use a less subjective test. Download SPECTRUMVIEW from App Store (Apple). It is free. For the Liberty Silver Eagle $1 it shows the ‘ring tone’ graphically at 3700 with an accompanying harmonic at 7300. Easy to remember too. 3700/7300. Very consistent coin to coin across many tested years. As for other similar sized coins, the tone is around 4400. Summing it up, like-kind coins need to show the same frequency on the graph.

  21. Morgan says

    l’m a little confused, you mention that “silver is not magnetic”, but the magnet should “slide down very slowly”, then wouldn’t that mean that it is slightly magnetic?.

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