There are over 12,000 pawn shops currently operating in the United States, and one of them is bound to have great deals on jewelry. It's easy to find jewelry made from precious metals and stones forgotten at a jewelry pawn shop. In particular, it's easy to find great bargains on sterling silver jewelry, which can be worth a lot more than their price tags. To make sure you're getting what you paid for, perform these 3 tests to confirm whether the sterling silver is real.
Use the Magnet Sliding Test
Sterling silver is paramagnetic, which means it only exhibits a weak magnetic effect. Purchase a strong magnet, such as one made from neodymium, for a more accurate analysis. If the sterling silver jewelry sticks strongly to the magnet, chances are it's fake. This means that the jewelry has a ferromagnetic core, which means it is magnetic. Even if the jewelry is plated with sterling silver, it is not made entirely from sterling silver.
To perform the magnet sliding test, you want to angle the sterling silver before trying to slide a magnet down it. The magnet should stick to the jewelry, and should slide very slowly down the surface. Due to the paramagnetic properties of sterling silver, the magnet sliding down the jewelry should create an effect known as the baking effect, which significantly slows down the descent of the magnet.
Try Out the Ring Test
If the jewelry passes the magnet sliding test, you may want to take it one step further by trying out the ring test. When you tap sterling silver jewelry with another metal, the silver should emit a very lovely and clear bell-like ringing sound. If you don't have another metal lying around, you can simply lightly drop the jewelry several inches from a flat surface. If the sound emitted is rather dull, the jewelry is not made from real sterling silver, and probably contains a mixture of various metals.
Perform a Silver Acid Test
The easiest way to get an accurate analysis is to perform a silver acid test. Not all pawnshop owners may be willing to allow you to perform a silver acid test because the acids used are corrosive, and can end up slightly damaging the silver if the acid comes in contact with the jewelry. Some pawnshops will allow you to perform a silver acid test provided that you transfer some of the silver onto a metal file instead. A variety of different silver acid tests can be purchased online. If you decide to perform a silver acid test, make sure you wear gloves because the chemicals used are corrosive, and can be damaging.
To perform the silver acid test, you will need to make a small scratch on the jewelry in question onto a metal file or onto a black stone plate. This will leave a thick and relatively large deposit of sterling silver onto the plate surface. A drop of the acid should be applied onto the scratched area. If the metal is indeed sterling silver, you should witness a significant color change. This is because the acid used in the silver acid test will react with and oxidize the silver.
Before finalizing any purchases, make sure you get a written guarantee from the pawnshop owners stating the authenticity of the jewelry being purchased. If you still have any doubts, it would be wise to get the jewelry appraised by a professional to eliminate any and all doubts remaining. With a written guarantee, you can bring back the jewelry should an appraiser determine the piece to be fake, and get a full refund for your purchase.