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.
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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.
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.