Sterling silver is a favorite to many buyers, and that’s because of the elegance, shine, and flawlessness. However, we have different types of silver, and the silver-plated is another one of them.
So when you are going to buy the jewelry, you should know the difference to make a perfect choice. If you don’t see the difference, sorry the jewelers may lie to you posing a plated silver as sterling silver.
I must mention that these pieces look the same, especially to the untrained eye. This is why we are showing you the differences between them.
The difference by definition
What is sterling silver?
Some people call it genuine silver. The real sterling silver often contains 92.5% of silver then 7.5% of other metals. Notice that pure silver can’t make jewel pieces that is why most jewelers use the sterling silver. Often it’s the copper that’s added, but you can have others that add nickel, zinc, and other metals.
Notice that this type of silver is durable and perfect looking that’s why it’s prevalent in the jewel market. One thing about it though, is that it’s costly but not like the pure silver gold or platinum.
It’s the same one that makes the coins only at 90% silver. You see, the sterling silver is versatile, elegant, and fashionable among those who like jewelry.
What is silver plated?
First off, such jewels or pieces will deliver the same shine and beauty you have with your pure silver. Often it features the use of base metal, and then a thin layer of silver covers the metal. It makes it appear as though it’s a silverware, but then the layer of silver is so thin that within a short while it peels off.
So the metal beneath the silver can be anything from the copper, brass, nickel, and white metal. This is why if you have sensitive skin when you use such jewels, you develop some allergic reactions. Notice that the metal forms tarnish just like the sterling silver, but then the plated silver tarnish is permanent. Often they are cheaper than any other silver jewel.
How to tell the silver plated from sterling silver
I know what you are thinking, then how will I know the difference?
The stamp will tell you.
Depending on where you are buying the silverware, you will know whether it’s an authentic piece. They should have a hallmark showing you the amount of silver in pieces.
For sterling silver, expect to see the words sterling silver or the numeric 925, 92.5, 92.5%. Sometimes they also have a hallmark sign to show that it’s sterling silver.
So, before you take it, check the silver jewel’s bottom and see a stamp use a magnifying glass to tell the quantity of silver. This means that if it doesn’t have a mark, it may not be as authentic. If you can, don’t buy the piece without a stamp.
For the silver-plated options, you should expect the following letters: EP, EPNS, or Silver on Copper.
The true silver composition
Unlike the pure silver and the sterling silver, there’s a big difference between sterling silver and plated silver. Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, mostly copper, nickel, zinc or brass. Of course, the most commonly used one is copper, though. The essence is to make the silver manageable because otherwise, it’s very soft and hard to mold.
On the other hand, silver-plated features the use of another metal but with just a thin layer cover of the silver. The layer we are talking about then is very thin.
Anytime you are buying the jewelry, the first thing to consider is how long it will last. The jewelry is better if it will last longer.
Silver-plated jewels are made using different kinds of metal with just a fine layer of silver. Although the silver will wear off sooner, the harder metal does not, and this is why it’s said to last longer but not in shape. It may take weeks to a few months for the fine silver layer to rip off.
On the other hand, the sterling silver is very soft, and although you can wipe it clean to keep it looking new, it doesn’t last as long as harder metal. With proper care, though, you will have the sterling silver options serve you longer. It’s no wonder the pieces are more expensive than other options.
The appearance and the weight
It may be hard for you to know the difference based on this point if you have never seen the real silver. Notice that the plated silver looks as good as the pure silver. Often it has the same perfect shine and brightness, but if you look at the color, then you will notice that plated silver is lighter than the genuine sterling silver.
If you are going to check on the weight, you will make it even easier to know. As you would expect, the silver-plated jewels are heavier, and this is because it contains larger quantities of heavy metals. The fine layer of silver on the plated silver though is light, and the sterling silver is light. Remember, sterling silver contains only silver.
Let‘s talk about the price in comparison to the value.
As you would expect, the silver-plated options are cheaper since they contain just a layer of silver. It’s the most affordable compared to the other silver jewels. For the sterling silver, as you will expect, are costly. This is because it features the use of a higher percentage of authentic silver.
Also, the fact that you can melt the sterling silver and refine it to make another jewel out of it makes it a costly type. You can’t refine plated silver, remember. Of course, though, if you are on a budget and are looking for a day jewel, you can use plated options.
I can imagine when you are going out to buy the silver jewel, you don’t want to be lied to by jewelers, so check the stamp to guide you. Always be vigilant to keep off scammers online. The plated silver is not sterling silver and don’t fall for the lies.
You may come across a term saying the jewel is ‘layered in precious sterling stone.’ This is not sterling stone. Be sure you don’t buy the brass jewels that are silver plated posing as sterling silver.
The guide to knowing the authentic silver for you
Of course, the stamp test is the first one you have to use. Remember, the brands aren’t allowed to mislead the market. So before you buy, check the stamp to tell you the quality.
How about the magnet test?
There are unique magnets that will help you know whether you got authentic silver. If you are testing the genuine silver, then expect it only to show very weak magnetic effects. This is to say that if the silver you have sticks tight on the magnet, then it’s not real silver.
Nonetheless, the fact that it doesn’t stick is the first guide that could be real silver. You could have another metal with the same properties as silver; it’s not always a guarantee that its silver.
Ice is some homemade method to use
You will most probably have the ice in your freezer, and this then is a method to find out if its real silver.
If it’s real silver, then you expect it to get very cold in less than a minute. This is easier to work with if you can compare the silver-plated and the sterling silver. The difference will be that sterling silver gets cold quicker than the plated one.
You can clean it
Well, worry, not this shouldn’t be hard to do. If you have a soft white cloth, you should find this out quickly. Gently wipe the surface. If the silver is genuine, you will have a black tarnish on the clothing. This often occurs due to silver oxidation.
The difference is that even though the tarnishing occurs when you have any silver, it won’t show on the cloth if its fake. You won’t have a smudge or black mark if the silver is fake.
Although it works, I would recommend that you take the piece to a professional. They will use nitric acid on the jewel without damaging it. The green coloration that occurs when you are testing shows you that the silver is not genuine.
The piece could be evaluated.
This is the real method you can use to know whether the piece you are buying is real silver or a plated one.
There are professionals out there who know how to test your minerals and jewels. They can always give you real insights into the value of the silver. If you know an antique dealer, auctioneers, estate sale companies will know the composition.
Now to you
There you have it, so buy both types to test them and know other differences. Remember, though, that the sterling silver is more valuable and, therefore, more expensive. Notice that this is because of the purity, and the genuine silver is shinier and glossy to look at.
But check, and if you notice flakes or that some parts are turning green, this could be plated silver.