How to Tell Sterling Silver from Plated

If you see a beautiful set of silverware or silver jewelry on sale at an amazingly low price, you want to make sure that you are getting the real deal.

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You Will Need

  • Jewelry or other silver piece
  • Knowledge of imported silver markings
  • Professional jeweler or metal exchange dealer

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Look for markings indicating sterling silver

    Examine your silver piece, and look for markings that indicate it is sterling silver. Check for stamps that say STERLING, .925, or 925/100.

  2. Examine the clasp of a necklace and the inside of rings and bracelets to find a marking of sterling silver.

  3. Step 2

    Look for British silver markings

    Identify sterling silver from England, Ireland, or Scotland by looking for other stamps. These markings are small, and often look like a lion or a coat of arms.

  4. Step 3

    Look for markings indicating silver plating

    Look for markings that indicate that your piece is silver plated. These include stamps of single-digit numbers, stamps starting with the letters EP, and words like "heavy plate" or "triple."

  5. Know that silver-plated pieces are actually coated with a very thin layer of silver. They have little monetary value because they contain very little precious metal.

  6. Step 4

    Consult with an expert for other foreign silver

    Speak with a jeweler or metal exchange dealer if your silver is not from the U.S. or Great Britain. Other areas have different silver markings and different levels for measuring the purity of their silver.

  7. Step 5

    Have your silver examined by an expert

    Consult with an expert if you cannot find stamps to help you tell sterling silver from plated. They can help you determine the authenticity of your silver and help you figure out a value.

  8. The process of electroplating, used to make a silver-plated piece, was invented in 1805 by an Italian chemist. It wasn't until the 1850s that it was used to make costume jewelry.

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