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How Sterling Is Your Silver? How To Figure Out What Type Of Silver You Have

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If you have some silver jewelry, coins, or flatware in your home, you can often convert those items into extra money at a gold and silver buyers. However, it is important to know that all silver is not created equally, and that some silver isn't worth anything. Below, you can learn more about the types of silver and how to identify the silver you have.

Genuine Silver: Sterling Silver and Fine Silver

Typically, gold and silver buyers are interested in only genuine silver. There are two types of silver that are considered to be genuine: Sterling silver and fine silver.

  • Sterling Silver is composed of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent base metals like copper. Sterling silver is commonly seen in jewelry, flatware, and sometimes in coins. The copper alloy lends strength to the silver, making it ideal for items that are used or worn frequently.
  • Fine Silver is 100 percent pure silver. It is much less commonly used than sterling silver due to its softer nature. Fine silver dents and scratches much more easily than sterling. It is sometimes used in jewelry, particularly in European nations. Fine silver is also commonly seen in collectible coins.

Fake Silver: Silver Plate and Silver Tone Metal

There are two general categories of silver that are considered fake. Gold and silver buyers are typically not interested in purchasing these metals since they have no resale value.

  • Silver Plate does actually contain some genuine silver, but only as a layer atop base metals like copper. Silver plate is often seen in flatware and in jewelry. This is a cheap way to produce items that appear identical to genuine silver items, at least initially. The layer of silver plate will wear away over time, leaving only the base metals behind.
  • Silver Tone is not actually silver, but it can often be confused for it. Silver tone is actually made from base metals that are mixed to create the right hue. While it might fool the eye initially, silver tone has very little longevity and has no real monetary value.

Silver Markings To Look For

Genuine silver is virtually always marked in some way. Typical markings include:

  • "92.5" markings signify that the metal is sterling silver. This number corresponds to the purity of the silver, as mentioned above. This is by far the most common mark in genuine silver.
  • "Sterling" markings also signify sterling silver. This mark is not typically used in sterling from the U.S. today, but may be seen in older pieces.
  • Fine silver, antique silver, or silver from foreign countries may have any number of different hallmarks, numbers that relate to metal purity. Sometimes silver marks appear as initials. These are known as  maker's marks and are more common in English and French silver. In some cases, the silver is marked only with a symbol that is identified with the maker.

If any of the markings described above appear on your silver, it is best to have the pieces evaluated by a gold and silver buyer to confirm that they are genuine. Your silver can give you a very nice payday if you take it to a silver buyer, so have it evaluated as soon as possible!