How to Identify Pure Silver

By Michael Batton Kaput

Because of the high value of pure precious metals, efforts to pass off substandard impostors as the real thing are common. Silver is no exception. Many vendors try to sell imitation silver at the price of the pure metal, leaving consumers with holes in their wallets and low-quality products. Performing simple tests to judge whether or not something is pure silver will not only save you money, but also give you confidence that the jewelry or cutlery you are buying is worth the price.

There are a couple simple tests to determine if you've bought pure silver.

Identify Pure Silver with Mustard

Step 1

Apply French's brand yellow mustard to the surface of the item you suspect is silver. French's mustard has a high sulfur content; sulfur reacts with pure silver, but not with most other metals.

Step 2

Heat with a cigarette lighter. Observe the stain left on the metal. If it is pure silver, it will be dark black.

Step 3

Clean the stain by rubbing it with a cloth soaked in vinegar.

Identify Pure Silver with Matches

Step 4

Place the head of a match on the surface of the metal.

Step 5

Light a second match. Place the lit match tip on the head of the first, unlit match.

Step 6

Examine any marks left behind. Pure silver will have a dark black stain; other metals will not. Remove the stain by cleaning with vinegar.