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.