How to Tell if Jewelry is Real Silver (6 Super Easy Tips and Tricks That Take Less Than 5 Minutes)

Wondering if that piece of jewelry is the real deal? Let's find out!

What's ahead:

  • 6 Quick Tips to Tell if a Piece of Jewelry is Real Silver

  • What is Silver Plated Jewelry?

  • How to Clean Silver Jewelry and What's the Best Silver Cleaner

  • Can Silver Jewelry Turn My Skin Black?

  • Why Does Silver Jewelry Turn Black?

  • How can I keep my silver from turning black?

  • In Conclusion...
  • Video with Demos!

 Is it real silver jewelry

6 Quick Tips to Tell if a Piece of Jewelry is Real Silver

  1. Look for a Hallmark Stamp: Look for a stamp or mark on the piece that says "STER," "925," "800," OR "999." 925 or STER means it's 92.5% pure silver, which is traditional sterling, 999 means 99.9% pure which is fine silver, and 800 means it's 80% pure silver or a lower quality than sterling silver. For flatware, the rules are WAY more confusing and I recommend looking up the brand or maker.
  2. Hold a magnet up to it, but not the clasp! Magnets are drawn to iron and real silver jewelry should not have any iron in it, with 1 exception! Clasps will often have a steel spring in them and can attract the magnet.
  3. Smell it! Yep! Know how a handful of coins smells? Your silver jewelry should not smell like that! It might have a slight odor is it is heavily tarnished, but other than that, there should be no metallic smell.
  4. Put ice on it. This is how I test large pieces. Silver is an excellent conductor for heat and it will become cold very quickly and melt the ice so fast it'll look like it is heated up. This works especially well if you have a piece you know is silver or a piece you know isn't silver next to it and put ice on both at the same time. It's like a fun little race. If the piece gets cold all over very quickly, it very likely is silver.
  5. Polish it with a new polishing cloth. Real silver will turn the cloth black.
  6. Take it to a jeweler. Many jewelers can help you figure this out with a simple acid test or just by looking at it.

What is Silver Plated Jewelry?

Plated jewelry is trash. That might sound harsh, but it's the truth of the matter. The plating doesn't last and the material underneath is cheap and most likely toxic to wear. I know there can be fun plated pieces of jewelry out there, but the way they're made is highly toxic and almost always the people making them are in extremely hazardous working conditions with little pay. 

You can only get a few wears out of a plated piece, especially rings and bracelets, before they break or wear through to the toxic material underneath. Since jewelry is worn in direct contact with your skin, why risk it?

How to Clean Silver Jewelry and What's the Best Silver Cleaner

The biggest thing here is to be mindful of any gemstones in the piece that might be sensitive to chemicals. To be safe, avoid getting any cleaners on gemstones, especially Opals and Pearls!

You can get a silver specific liquid jewelry cleaner to help remove tarnish, but I have found that I like using silver cleaners made for cleaning sterling silver flatware (spoons, bowls, forks...) I've had GREAT results with these and they are non toxic because they're meant to clean things you'll be eating on! 

Can Silver Jewelry Turn My Skin Black?

Just because a piece of jewelry turns your skin black or green, doesn't mean it isn't true silver or gold. I know people that can wear a 14k Yellow Gold ring and have it turn their skin green! Crazy, huh? Why? Well, even though pure gold or silver won't do this, they are both alloyed (or mixed) with other metals to make them strong enough to be used in jewelry. You would be reacting to these other metals.

Although everyone is different, sometimes the same person can have no problem wearing a gold ring, then the next day their finger turns black! This can happen due to stress, diet, or not drinking enough water. I have a friend that knows she's not drinking enough water when her gold band turns her finger black.

Sometimes you'll have more sensitive areas then others. For example, I have no problem wearing silver, unless it's my nose ring. I have to wear a gold nose ring or it will react. Piercings are usually more sensitive to metals than other pieces, like a necklace.

Why Does Silver Jewelry Turn Black?

Sadly, there's no way to completely have a totally tarnish free sterling silver. The alloy will always react with chemicals and oxidize (turn black.) The sterling silver reacts to sulfur in the air. The more humid the environment, the faster your silver will tarnish.

How can I keep my silver from turning black?

The cardinal rules are don’t sleep, exercise, swim, shower, or lather up in beauty products while sporting your jewelry. While this is the ideal scenario, I understand that life happens. I make my jewelry to be strong and durable, but, just to be up front, it is best to follow these guidelines.

Certain beauty products and pool chemicals can be bad for the metal, and sleeping in your jewelry does increase the likelihood of damage and increase the wear. If, by chance, you find your jewelry blackened by the hot tub or squashed from snoozing in it, feel free to ship it back and I will likely be able to restore it for you at no cost… or at least be able to advise you on how to do it yourself.

I also recommend keeping it in a safe place when you aren’t wearing it, ideally not in the open air where more sulfur can turn it black. If you have a plastic bag, that is ideal!

I've heard that put a few fresh chalk sticks in with your jewelry and switching them out every couple of months helps to absorb the sulfur and keep the jewelry from oxidizing, but I haven't personally tried it.

In conclusion...

Real silver jewelry is leaps and bounds better for you than anything plated. You can usually find a sterling silver stamp to confirm and there are a few other ways to figure out if it's silver, but you can always take it to a local jewelry for confirmation.

A little preparation can go a long way to keep your silver jewelry looking great, but if it does get tarnished, I recommend using a sterling flatware cleaner or simple polishing cloth to get it looking like new!

Every piece of Mettle by Abby if handmade with Argentium Silver, the highest quality silver alloy available to provide anti-tarnish and stunning shine, as well as 14k yellow, rose and white gold. If you ever accidently wear your piece in the hot tub or something to turn it black, you can send it back and I will refinish it for you and send it back looking like new!

For more helpful tips and loads of exclusive offers, sign up:

* indicates required
Back to blog

Shop the newest Mettle earrings