How Can You Tell The Difference Between Solid Silver and Silver Plated Wedding Rings?
Solid silver is often used in high-end jewellery, tableware, and utensils. These pieces are usually more expensive than silver plated items. If you are considering buying silver wedding rings, then here are a few ways on how to tell silver from silver plate.
It is difficult to detect whether something is made of solid or plated silver unless you have the opportunity to take an up-close look at it. You can’t always see the details from afar, which makes it hard to tell without touching and inspecting the item further. But the good news is you don’t need to be an expert in metallurgy the know the difference between silver and sterling silver, and silver plated jewellery.
Read on in this article to learn more about spotting the tell-tale signs and how to tell if something is silver plated or solid silver
How can you tell if something is solid silver or silver plated?
There are two types of silver items. Sterling silver, the most popular silver alloy, is made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper.
Plated silver consists of a thin layer of silver coated on top of a base metal that is heavier and less expensive.
Pure silver is a precious metal found in the Earth’s crust in its pure form, known as “native silver,” and known by the chemical symbol Ag after the Latin Argentum. It is almost exclusively found as a by-product of mining for other metals, including copper, gold, lead, and zinc.
Because it is gentle, silver is often mixed with a small amount of other metals to make it more long-lasting and durable, particularly if used on Diamond engagement rings.
An item must be at least 92.5% pure to be described as solid silver, and while sterling is often called pure silver, it’s technically not and still an alloy. Nothing can be pure unless 100%.
So in summary sterling silver has a high amount of pure silver which explains the higher price, while silver plating is a thin coating on top of a cheaper metal alloy.
When purchasing wedding rings you can determine whether it’s sterling silver by checking its markings and by testing the magnetism of the metal. Manufacturers’ marks can be found on the reverse or bottom of an item. The ring is made of pure sterling silver if the mint mark “Sterling Silver,” “Ster,” “925,” or a lion picture is present. An object bearing one of these phrases as a mark, “EPNS,” “EP,” “EPS,” or “EPC,” signifies that the object is silver-plated and not solid silver.
If the silver mark on your ring is not clearly solid or plated, then you look up the Online Encyclopaedia of Silver Marks to find out. Select the first letter of the manufacturer’s name from the menu, and then look for a manufacturer’s mark that matches the mark on your item. The item’s information that is displayed includes the manufacturer, production location, and time period during which the item was produced.
If you’re looking to investigate further then there are a few ways that you can tell that require a simple check. If the piece is not stamped sterling, it is most likely silver-plated. Check the colour of the material carefully; genuine silver is usually less shiny and has a colder colour than a silver coating. If the silver appears to be peeling off or turning green, the item is silver-plated.
A real silver object might tarnish after being rubbed. You can test this by wiping the item with a soft white cloth. Tarnishing does not occur with fake silver, but real silver oxidizes with friction, leaving black marks on the cloth.
Also, to immediately detect whether an object is made of solid silver or silver plate, apply a magnet to its surface. If a magnet sticks to the object, it indicates that the object is made of metal coated with silver, since pure silver is not magnetic. If a magnet is not attracted to the object, the object is probably sterling silver.
Just keep in mind that when a silver object’s surface is to be tested, typical tests, such as the ones using nitric acid or oxidation, are not useful because the outer layer is real silver in both solid and plated objects.
While most jewellers may give you strange looks for bringing a magnet in with you when shopping for wedding rings, any reputable shops should be very open to proving the quality of their work. If you find the price is lower than their competitors, it can be that the ring is hollow and used less silver in the manufacturing.
And while retailers cannot miss-sell their items, it doesn’t mean that there is a universal rule on what is considered heavy or light weight. Two identical described rings can be different at each jeweller but if one is hollow but you will be able to feel the difference by hand.
There are plenty of reputable high-street and online shops to buy cheap wedding rings in confidence of the quality.
What is a hallmark?
Articles made of gold, silver, or platinum that are stamped by the British Assay Offices will be marked with a hallmark certifying their standard of purity. A hallmark comprises the maker’s mark, the standard mark, the assay office mark, and the date the item was made. In other words, you may discover when and where the item was made, as well as who produced it. In recent years, the date letter has been optional.
The British Hallmarking Council oversees Assay Offices in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Edinburgh. The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office in London certified gold and silver wares as early as the 1320s, making it the oldest surviving UK Assay office.
The hallmark is the clearest way to see the difference between solid silver and silver plated rings.
The Sterling Silver Hallmark Explained
The Sponsor’s Mark – includes at least two letters within a shield and no two marks are the same
The Purity Mark – displays the product’s content of precious metal. E.g. 925 parts per 1000 is sterling silver
The Assay Office Mark – The product is identified as having been tested and hallmarked at a specific British Assay Office.
The Date Mark – denotes the year of hallmarking.
What Does s925 Mean On A Ring?
The term “s925” on a ring refers to the type of metal used to make the ring. “S925” stands for Sterling Silver 925, which means the ring is made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metal alloys so as value as is mostly pure. Sterling silver is a popular choice for jewellery as it is durable, affordable, and has a bright, shiny appearance.
You may also see the stamp 925 EC, which is the same composition but the EC references the manufacture in a European country.
The EU countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and potential when the UK was a member of the EU.
Another thing you may see is SU, which stands for silver units.