by Alex Francis

Sterling silver antiques are incredibly valuable and silver jewelry is undeniably timeless, so it’s no wonder that such items are very commonly faked and forged. So before you find yourself buying jewelry that will turn your skin green or paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for what you think is a set of antique silver flatware, we recommend that you take the time to learn how to distinguish real silver from fake.

Of course, the most effective way to do this is to take the piece to a jeweler or familiarize yourself with the weight, look, and feel of real silver, but sometimes you just need a quick way to get some extra assurance.

Silver Hallmarks

An example of hallmarks on silver.
Photo by: Mat Price |

1. Check for Hallmarks

A hallmark is a symbol that has been stamped into a sterling silver object to identify both its purity and its manufacturer or silversmith, and sometimes the date and location of its production. Different countries and producers use different hallmarking standards, so it’s important that you do your research before you spend any significant amount of money on an antique object. For example, the Irish purity mark is a crowned harp, and sterling silver in the United States is stamped with either the word “sterling” or “925.”

Curtis Dowling, the forgery expert of CNBC’s Treasure Detectives who has over 25 years of experience in the antique-dealing and forgery-detection fields, recommends paying close attention to the location of the hallmarks as well. Using an antique silver teapot to demonstrate, he explains that if the hallmark is too far from the base of the object, it’s possible that it was taken from a different object added at a later date.

As far as jewelry is concerned, the “925” hallmark is usually located on a hidden part of the piece, such as the inside of a ring or the clasp of a necklace.

2. Perform the Ice Test

Silver has the highest thermal conductivity of any metal, which means that it is extremely effective in transferring heat. So before you let anyone sell you a silver coin collection or a silver spoon at an antique shop or yard sale, one easy test you can do is the ice cube test.

Because silver is such an effective thermal conductor, an ice cube will melt much more rapidly on silver than it will on another metal. To perform this test, all you have to do is put one ice cube on the silver object that you want to test and another on any other piece of metal, like a stainless steel bowl. If both objects are at room temperature, you should be able to see the ice cube on the silver melt much faster than the other one.

3. Hold a Magnet to It

This one is fairly straightforward. Silver is not magnetic, so if a rare-earth magnet is attracted to your jewelry, coin, spoon, or other supposedly silver item, there’s a good chance that it isn’t sterling silver.

None of these tests are definitive, but they will all be able to give you an idea of whether or not the silver items that you have are real or fake, and they can help give you an idea of how much cash you can expect in return when you sell silver coins and jewelry to Our prices are based on the weight and purity of your products, so it’s in your best interest to know what you have before you sell it. For more information about how to sell your silver for cash, visit

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