Sterling silver is a popular metal used to make jewelry and other decorative items. A silver chain is considered to be real if it contains 92.5% of pure silver; pure silver is too soft to be used without another metal. Copper and nickel are commonly incorporated to make up the remaining 7.5%. Silverplate is different from real silver; only the surface of the chain is covered with silver and the rest of the item is made up of the copper or nickel alloy.
Inspect your silver chain for a mark known as a "hallmark." An imprint of the numbers "925" indicates that the chain contains 92.5% of pure silver. Other marks may be "Sterling Silver," "Ster" or "Sterling." Markings are normally found on the clasp or end ring of the chain.
Hold a magnet above your chain. Silver is not magnetic, so if your chain is drawn to the magnet, it is not real silver.
Compare your silver chain to an item of a similar weight that you know is made of real silver. If the weight feels the same, your silver chain is more likely to be genuine.
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Put on protective goggles and gloves. Add a drop of nitric acid to a small part of your chain. If it turns green, it is not made of genuine silver. Nitric acid is a chemical with a high copper content, which discolors non-silver items.
Rub your chain lightly with a soft, light-colored cloth. If black marks appear on the cloth, the chain is likely to be genuine silver. Real silver oxidizes when exposed to air; this creates the tarnish that appears on the cloth when it is rubbed.
C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."