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How to Know if You Have Real Silver

October 17, 2011

The price of silver is at an historically high price, making right now a great time to get rid of unused and unwanted items made of silver or silver plate. The cash for silver exchange rate is still at a high point and is still a great deal. And we are not just talking about silver coins or jewelry. Anything with silver content, including silverware and serving sets, can be converted to cash easily and quickly.

Like gold, pure silver is very soft and malleable, which means that in its pure form, silver is not very useful. However, by combining silver with a harder metal like copper, useful items can be made, such as silverware. Sterling silver, which represents the highest quality of silver that can be used to make silverware and serving sets, is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.

Almost always, anything made with sterling silver will be marked by the maker somewhere on the item that will be viewable but out of sight when the item is in use. In addition to being marked “Sterling,” items may be marked “Ster” and many items may be marked “925″ referring to the 925/1000 silver content of sterling silver.

While it is possible for sterling marks to be counterfeited, it is relatively rare and if you have an item that has a sterling mark, chances are it is indeed sterling silver. However, if you are selling an item strictly for its silver content, it is easy for a buyer to check the silver content with a simple acid test.

In the 1700s, a method for making silver plate was discovered. Plating is a process by which a thin layer of silver is placed on a much thicker layer of copper. It turns out that copper plated with silver can be shaped and stretched without the layers separating, enabling metal smiths to make items with the appearance and beauty of silver at a much lower cost.

Even though silver plating has much lower silver content, items made from silver plate may still get a surprising amount of cash, given the high price of silver. Online silver buying sites make it virtually risk free for someone to try and get something for anything that has some silver content. For an item that is otherwise useless and unwanted, it’s worthwhile to see what it can fetch as silver scrap.

 

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