What Is Silvertone?
Silvertone is simply metal or plastic made or colored to look like real silver. It may be metal and it may be a silver color but it is not sterling silver. In fact, silvertone is not a metal at all. Silvertone is a reference to color and sheen. It is used in many instances where silver color is desired, but is either too expensive to use or too impractical for the application. Most manufacturers will reference an item as silvertone if silver is the prominent color or base of an item. For instance, silvertone in jewelry is sometimes noted. More often than not the manufacturer will reference the term "silver" as a catch-all description, leading the buyer to believe it is real silver and not the color that is being described.
Is Silvertone Plated Silver?
Silvertone is not plated silver. Silver plate is a thin layer of real silver that has been plated onto a cheaper metal alloy. The under metal is usually a nickel, brass or coin silver, but it can be any kind of metal. Silvertone items are a very cheap metal or even plastic in some cases, that is dipped in a shiny silver-colored paint that was created to look like silver. There are many variations to silvertone. Each manufacturer may have its own process for creating its silvertone jewelry or items.
Over time silvertone will begin to fade or chip away and reveal the base metal or plastic beneath it. Sometimes the silver tone will actually come off in flakes or can be peeled off. Silvertone almost always fades or chips to some extent over time. If you want to know if your item is real silver or not there is a simple acid test that can be done to find out. Acid kits can be purchased that contain nitric acid. This testing will damage the piece, so make sure there is a good reason to know the silver content before applying it.
Acid Testing Silver
Silver testing happens very simply by nicking or scratching the surface of the piece (preferably in a spot where it won't be seen later) and applying a small drop of the acid. A color chart comes with a silver testing kit so a comparison can be made between the result and the chart. The cut or nick is used to reveal the base metal. In the case of silvertone, the nick may be enough to tell you that your piece is not silver and not even silver plate.