A Guide to Sterling Silver Jewelry: How to Tell It’s Completely Authentic

If you're looking to invest in some key jewelry pieces, specifically sterling silver jewelry, here's how to differentiate the real from the not-so-real!

Between 2020 and 2021, the price of silver increased by 70%.

That figure may have you running to sell the silver pieces you have laying around. But before you do, you need to know how to tell whether your items are silver, silver-plated, or sterling silver.

There are a few ways to tell whether you have authentic sterling silver jewelry. These involve looking for specific markings, performing a cloth or bell test, and checking the market price. To learn more about each, keep reading. 

What Is Sterling Silver?

Sterling silver is not pure silver. It’s pure silver mixed with other metals, most commonly copper and sometimes steel. 

Pure silver is soft and malleable, meaning it’s not a great medium for fashioning jewelry or flatware with intricate designs. Sterling silver is mixed with other metals to make it easier to work with. By adding copper or steel, the silver is made harder and more durable.

How to Tell If Your Sterling Silver Jewelry Is Real

Before you try to sell your sterling silver jewelry, you need to be sure that it’s authentic. There are a few ways to determine the authenticity of sterling silver jewelry. We describe each in more detail below.

The 925 Mark

All precious metals get stamped with a quality mark. A quality mark is a symbol or group of symbols that authenticate the piece by telling you what type of metal it is and how pure it is. The majority of sterling silver jewelry has this mark.

Because sterling silver is made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, the marker “925” is often used as a quality mark. You may also come across “.925”, “S925”, “Sterling”, “or “Ster”.

This mark isn’t always easy to see, but it’s usually located on the largest part of the jewelry in a place that’s hidden from sight when worn.


“Spot price” refers to how much something costs to purchase on the market. For sterling silver jewelry, you can expect to pay the spot price or maybe a little bit less.

You can determine what the current sterling spot price is by having a look online. Compare that with the price you’re being offered to determine if your piece is real.

Cloth Test

Silver oxidizes when it’s exposed to air. The process of oxidization causes a black tint.

While that means you have to clean your sterling silver often, it’s also a great indicator of authenticity. Simply rub a white or light-colored cloth over your sterling silver jewelry. If the cloth picks up black tarnish, then your jewelry contains real silver and maybe real sterling.

The Bell Test

Tap the side of your sterling silver jewelry with a metal coin. Be careful not to dent the item when you do so. 

If your item produces a high-pitched bell sound, it’s likely sterling silver. The tone should last for 1 or 2 seconds. If you don’t hear the bell, then your item is likely fake.

More Household Stuff You Didn’t Know You Needed

Sterling silver jewelry can fetch a pretty penny on the market these days. Of course, it has to be authentic to be worthy of that exchange. Luckily, there are many ways to determine whether your sterling silver is authentic, including looking for the quality mark, performing the cloth and bell test, and looking at prices.

And for more stuff about your household and what’s lying around it, be sure to check out our Real Estate and Household section regularly.


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About Marc Wallace

I'm never too busy to share my passion. I've created this page to help people learn more about business, finance and real estate. Besides all the serious stuff, I'm also a man that values family and healthy relationships. I hope you find my content insightful.

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