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These Metals Are Not Silver Either
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As a warning from my experiences dealing with precious metals, you will be correct more often than not if you assume the (silver, gold) you are buying is fake.

What looks like silver, acts like silver, and smells like silver? Silver and nothing else. There are some alloys that will fool all but the keenest eyes and it is important to know about them. Selling any as real silver is a felony.

These pseudo-silvers commonly contain nickel, copper, zinc, and some other metals (pot metals or white metals). If it doesn't have a recognized sterling stamping on it then be assured it is not the real thing. Do you think a manufacturer would make something in sterling silver only to forget to hallmark it? Once you learn what real silver looks like you can often tell from a good picture.

Once you learn what real silver looks like you can often tell from a good picture.
The law states that an item should be marked with the word 'STERLING' or '925' but the manufacturer has some discretion. Option one is a federally recognized trademark that is stamped next to or near the purity. Option two allows a card or tag that contains the purity information to accompany the item. Aside from small, inexpensive jewelry pieces, this is not a common practice.

First thing to do is look at the hallmarks on the item. Anything with only the word 'SILVER' stamped on the piece is not silver. Maybe it's silverplated but it surely ain't solid silver. This is a common tactic used to fool the uneducated silver buyer. But not you after reading this article.

Here are some names of non-silver metals (there are more but these are the most prevalent):
  • Alpaca or Alpacca Silver
  • Aluminum Silver
  • Austrian Silver
  • Base Metal
  • Brazil or Brazilian Silver
  • Bristol Silver
  • Burmaroid Silver
  • Chinese Silver
  • England Silver
  • German Silver, G. Silver, or Ger. Silver
  • Indian Silver
  • Japanese Silver
  • Laxey Silver
  • Mexican Silver
  • Nevada Silver
  • Nickel Silver or Nickelsilver
  • Paktong
  • Pearl Silver
  • Pot Metal
  • Potosi Silver
  • Quicksilver (usually the nickname for the element mercury)
  • Silver
  • Silver Soldered
  • Solid G Silver (aka German Silver)
  • Sonora Silver
  • Tibetan Silver
  • Tyrol Silver
  • Venetian Silver
  • White Metal
  • Yukon Silver

You might hear the phrase "Japanese sterling silver" or another country's name preceding 'sterling silver.' Clearly this is sterling silver. The country name is mentioned due to the differing silver standards they use. Japanese sterling silver is characteristically 0.950, German sterling silver something like 0.800 or 0.830 purity. It helps to be familiar with foreign countries' terminology and silver standards.

A piece can be a higher purity than what is stamped on it. There are not many examples of this practice but it happens. Nor does the law restrict the purity a manufacturer can use provided it meets the minimum purity standard. Japan does use 0.925 sterling as well as 0.950 purity but they must indicate the purity on the item. Some countries had four or five standards.

Of course, don't forget about all the silverplated junk metal designations: EPCA, EPNS, EPBM, EP, EPC, EPN, EPWM, deepsilver, A1 plate, triple plate, quadruple or quad plate, federal plate, hotel plate, silver inlaid, etc. Just because it has five or six hallmarks doesn't mean it is real silver.

Posted by M: November 13, 2014

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