.925 Sterling Silver or Just Silver Plated?
(Click Here to See the Above Sterling Ear Wires In My Store)
One of the difficult things about being a seller on Ebay is that some people have the impression that if I am selling on Ebay, I must automatically be dishonest. And, while that seems unfair on the surface of things, they usually have plenty of awful experience to back that up.
Lately, some customers have been asking me if my sterling silver findings from Bali, Indonesia are stamped .925 sterling silver. I looked at them and discovered that they are not. I import directly from Bali, Indonesia from a sterling silver manufacturer/silversmithing company and I have verified that I am indeed selling .925 sterling silver as I thought I was all these years. And yet... no stamp.
Without the stamp, people assume these are plated.
Well, I am writing this guide because I have some bad news about the stamp.
The photo on the left above shows the sterling ear wires that I import from China. They DO stamp their sterling .925 silver. And the ear wires I sell in my store from them are .925 sterling silver.
However, one time, I decided to order some very nice looking silver plated ear wires from China. My thought was that some people might want ear wires that had a quality look to them without the high cost of sterling silver. When my ear wires arrived, I was, well, it takes a lot to shock me, so I wasn't exactly shocked, but I was dismayed.
My silver plated earwires from China were stamped .925. Here in Canada as well as in the USA and I believe also in Europe, it is illegal to stamp something .925 if it is silver plated. It is not illegal to do so in China. The photos of the item I had purchased had not been stamped and yet here they were all stamped.
So I knew I was getting part of a very big manufactured lot of falsely stamped items. And this was distressing because what this means is that if you are purchasing sterling silver findings:
1. Just because it is stamped .925, that does not necessarily mean that it really is .925 sterling silver.
2. As I said above about the Bali sterling, just because it is NOT stamped .925, that does not necessarily mean that it is NOT really .925 sterling silver.
My own personal problem was what to do with my illegal ear wires. Sending them back to China was prohibitively expensive and I cannot sell them even if I say they are silver plated because they are simply illegal items. So I keep them in a box at the back of my closet and remain confused as to what to do with them. I can't even donate them to a charity project because they are illegal items. And yet throwing them out seems wasteful.
Anyhow, my own personal dilemmas aside, how are you supposed to know if you are purchasing findings that really ARE sterling silver or not? Well, without doing some fancy tests for silver, there are a couple of things you can do:
1. If you are buying a lot of findings and you are willing to sacrifice one of them for the good of the many, you can take a sharp knife and scratch, scratch, scratch at the finding. If it is plated, the plating will come off. If it is not plated, you just scratched up your sterling silver finding. Sorry.
2. Get a good magnet and try to pick up the finding with the magnet. If the magnet DOES pick up the finding, then it is NOT sterling silver. Sterling silver is non-magnetic. So, that would be bad news if a magnet picks up your findings and you thought they were sterling silver.
Most of the metals that are used as base metals for silver plating ARE magnetic, so this is a pretty good test. However, because they might have used a non-magnetic base metal, then just because it is non-magnetic, you cannot assume it is sterling silver.
So, if it is magnetic, you know for sure it is not sterling, but if it is NOT magnetic then you don't know anything for sure. It just makes it quite likely that it is sterling silver.
(By the way, just as your fact of the day, for those who do not know -- .925 sterling silver is 92.5% silver. 92.5% is considered a good percentage because it is relatively easy to work with and not too "soft". Some silver is 99.9% sterling silver such as Karen Hill Tribe silver. And that would not be stamped .925 because it is not .925. It is .999 (which I have never seen stamped on anything). But it is still definitely silver.)
I hope that helped somewhat. I wanted to clear up the fact that the .925 stamp really means nothing unfortunately. I have seen .925 tags that people can add to their finished items and I am pretty sure even the tags were not .925.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I hope my tips help a few people to figure out if they got the real McCoy. If your piece is non-magnetic, I would say there is about a 95% likelihood that it is real silver because I sell a lot of magnetic beads so I have no shortage of magnets and I have checked all my plated items and every single one of them can be picked up by a magnet.
If you found this guide helpful, please vote for it and please take a moment to take a look at my Ebay store -- look, something shiny :)