how to test silver with an eraser

how to test silver with an eraser

how to test silver with an eraser

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How do you test silver with an eraser?

One way of testing if silver is real, or just silver plate is by rubbing it with a pencil eraser.

How could that possibly work, I hear you ask! Well, it’s quite simple actually. Both Sterling silver and silver plating tarnish equally, but Sterling cleans up so much better.

By rubbing the eraser lightly on the surface of the silver, you rub off the tarnish. With silver plating you will find it takes much more work to get the tarnish to rub off.

Does silver tarnish in water?

The question does silver tarnish in water depends on three things. 1. What is the content of the silver, is it 100% silver or is it an alloy? 2.What is the content of the water, is it pure distilled water or is it seawater or somewhere in between? 3. Time: how long is the silver going to be in the water? Depending on these issues, the speed of tarnishing will be determined. Silver has a proclivity to oxidize in almost any environment.

Does silver tarnish in water
Does silver tarnish in water


How do you clean sterling silver?

Buy some silver polish ( Goddard’s is excellent if you can get it) or if you can’t find any grab a tube of toothpaste. Apply a gob of polish or toothpaste (about as much as a pea-sized dollop) to a soft cloth – a microfibre cleaning cloth is good, an old T-shirt is great. Use that cloth to clean the silver all over with your polishing substance for two or three minutes in small circular motions. It should turn dark grey or even black.

Then use a clean bit of cloth to buff the silver until all the polish is removed and the surface has a brilliant, bright shine. Clean under the tap with a small amount of soap if you want to be absolutely sure that the silver is free from polish residue.

If your piece has a lot of nooks and crannies, do the first step of the process with an old toothbrush with polish or toothpaste on it. Be advised however: this will remove the antique-y blackening that you get in the creases and details of ornate old jewelery, which is great if that’s what you want, sad if it’s not! Use a cloth if you want to preserve that effect.

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how to test silver with an eraser
how to test silver with an eraser

How to Test Silver for Authenticity

Silver, alongside gold, is considered to be one of the most precious metals in the world.

It has served as a major currency during the Age of Exploration and the galleon trade in the Pacific. It’s even mentioned in the Bible as a revered currency and is highly valued in Jewish culture.

Silver has also been used in the production of coins in the early years of the 20th Century until the arrival of the Great Depression. Since then, currencies all over the world have been replaced with banknotes and coins minted with more common metals like aluminum, nickel or brass.

Today, though slightly still lesser in value in comparison to gold, many still invest in silver in the form of jewelry, family heirloom, bars, and bullion coins. Silver has taken many forms, even as everyday objects.

But this can be disadvantageous as well with the proliferation of fake silver items.

For the untrained eye, distinguishing real from fake silver can be very confusing and misleading. Counterfeit silver items resemble real silver items a lot so don’t be fooled easily. If you really want to invest in silver, make sure you test it for authenticity. Here are some things to consider on how to test silver.




Ice Cube Test

the ice melts fast

ice melts slow

Ring Test

beautiful ringing sound

dull and blunt sound

Magnet Test

the magnet slides down

magnet sticks

Bleach Test

tarnishes quickly

does not tarnish

Acid Test

brown or red color

dark brown or blue


device does not tilt

device tilts

Nitric Acid Test

creamy white color

green color

how to test silver with an eraser
how to test silver with an eraser

Physical Ways of Testing Silver

  • Checking the label goes first. If the item has an inscription of “ster” or “sterling” that means the silver content in the item is at 92.5 or very close to being pure silver.
  • Items that say “IS” mean that that the item is “international silver” or silver-plated.
  • If testing for bullion coins, strike two coins together. If it makes a nice ringing sound, it is real. If it generates a dull sound, one of it is fake.
  • ​Use a neodymium magnet. Tilt object 45 degrees, place magnet on the tilted surface. If it slides down, it is real. If it sticks, it’s fake because real silver is non-magnetic.
  • ​Get two ice cubes. Place one on top of the silver item and the ice cube on a regular pan. If the ice on the item melts faster than that of the pan, then the item is real silver as silver is a heat conductor.
  • For coins, using a Fisch device can be helpful too. Slide the coin in the device slot. If the device tilts, this means the coin is fake silver. If the device remains steady, the coin is real silver.
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Chemical Ways of Testing Silver

For more complex and accurate testing, certain chemicals can be used to clearly determine the purity of silver of an item. It can help distinguish silver-plated from real silver items in which physical testing could miss.

The downside of chemical testing though, despite being more accurate, is that it may devalue the item partially or totally. Chemical testing however still works best in larger items like silverware.

  • The Nitric Acid Test is used to check if silver is pure or plated. To do so, file a small part of the item in a discreet area where it cannot be seen. Apply a few drops of nitric acid. If the area turns into creamy white, the silver is pure or sterling. If green, it is probably fake or silver-plated.
  • Simply apply bleach to a silver product. If it tarnishes quickly, then it is real silver. Otherwise, it is fake. Bleach however may damage your item and devalue it greatly.
  • Use the silver Acid Test to see the amount of silver content in the item. A few drops on the item will reveal some details based on the color. If the acid turns bright or dark red, it is likely that you have fine or sterling silver. If acid turns brown, silver is 80% silver. If acid turns green, silver is only 50%. Both already mean they are silver-plated. Other colors will reveal a different metal is used and is just plated with silver.
test silver
test silver

Things You Should Know

  • Look for a stamp, then evaluate the international silver stamp rating by examining the silver piece with a magnifying glass.
  • Test the silver with a magnet or grab some ice and place it on the silver to see if it melts. Apply a drop of bleach to the silver and watch for a reaction.
  • Do the ring test with a coin by dropping it and analyzing the sound. Try a chemical test by applying silver acid to a scratch on the silver.

The Magnet Test

Most precious metals-like gold and copper-are nonmagnetic, and silver is no exception. Grab some magnets and see if they are drawn to your object. “Silver is not noticeably magnetic, and exhibits only weak magnetic effects unlike iron, nickel, cobalt, and the like,” says Martin. “If your magnet sticks strongly to the piece, it has a ferromagnetic core and is not silver.” Fake silver or silver-plated items are generally made of other metals. This is an easy test that can give you a good idea on whether your item is real silver or not.

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The Odor Test

Sterling silver is odorless, so go ahead and smell the piece in question. Does it have a noticeable odor? If you can smell sulfur or a distinct metallic fragrance, then it is not sterling silver. The item could be silver-plated, but a scent indicates that it is not made entirely of sterling silver. This is a great test to conduct for those of us who have a strong sense of smell.

The Polish Test

Silver needs to be polished on a regular basis. “After checking for stamps and markings and using the magnet trick, pull out the soft white cloth you brought with you!” says Whitney. “Silver also oxidizes and tarnishes. Rub the tarnished piece as if polishing. If no black residue appears on your cloth, it’s not silver.” Polishing the silver item is a very good indicator of its authenticity. Rust or a lack of oxidation indicates that the item is made of a different material from silver.

how to test silver with an eraser
how to test silver with an eraser

The Flake Test

Some items may be silver-plated, which means that they are covered with a layer of real silver. Does the item have flakes that reveal a different metal underneath? Can you scratch it with your finger nail and see another material below it? The item is plated with silver, but is not sterling silver. You can also take a few of the flakes and put them into acid. The acid’s color should remain the same if it is pure silver. Of course, this is not a test that you can do while at the store, so only do this test on pieces that you own.

The Ice Test

You will need to have access to ice in order to do this particular test: take a cube of ice and put it on top of the silver item. “Silver has the highest thermal conductivity of any common metal or alloy,” explains Martin. “Even at room temperature, authentic silver products will melt the ice at an exceedingly rapid rate. If it melts fast(er), it probably is silver.” It’s a simple, neat little trick that can tell you if you are dealing with sterling silver or a clever fake.


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