How To Tell If Silver Is Real
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How To Tell If Silver Is Real

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez
Published August 25, 2020
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Are you looking for ways to tell if your silver is authentic?—the “real McCoy”?

There are several ways you can determine whether your silver is real. In fact, some of the best silver test methods are quite easy and can be done right at home. Others require a little more involvement. There are some virtually foolproof ways to make sure the silver you buy is real. We’re going to examine all of these approaches in this article.

silver nugget

silver nugget

Silver Tests At Home

There are a few simple ways you can check the silver content of your coins, bars, rounds, and other items. These methods include:

1. The Ice Cube Melting Trick

Well, it not really a trick—more like science in action. You see, silver is highly conductive. In fact, it has the highest electrical conductivity of all known elements! So, if you place an ice cube on a silver coin, round, or bar, the ice should melt very quickly.

Mind you, it won’t evaporate into a puddle of water or convert into steam instantaneously simply by placing it on something made from silver and in typical room temperature. But the ice will melt much more quickly than it would on other objects in that same setting.

2. Ring, Ring: The Ping Test

silver 101 coins

silver coins

No, we’re not talking about the 1973 ABBA hit song! Ring, ring, as in the sound a real silver coin makes when it hits a hard surface such as a wood floor, a tabletop, or counter.

A real silver coin makes a warm ringing sound for a couple seconds upon hitting something hard. Copper-nickel clad coins and those from other base metals don’t make such a resonant sound. Instead, they produce more of a “click.”

You can make the easily make the audible comparison by dropping a pre-1965 90% silver coin and a copper-nickel clad coin of the same weight and size.

3. Magnet Tests

magnet test with coins

The fake silver dollar sticks to the magnet.

Have a very strong rare-earth magnet? Good! Silver has very weak magnetic qualities, so if the object you are testing for its silver composition sticks right to the magnet, your item is unfortunately NOT made from silver.

*Note—a lot of metals that appear silver in color are not magnetic, either. A seemingly favorable result with these magnet tests does not necessarily confirm your silver is real or is of the purity advertised. It's simply a way to check that the silver isn't obviously fake.

You can learn more about how to spot counterfeit silver or gold coins by following the link.

If you’re testing silver bars, another form of the magnet test is to hold each ingot at approximately a 45-degree angle and see how slowly the magnet moves down the bar. Because real silver is so conductive, the rare-earth magnet will produce electric currents in the silver and make it act as an electromagnet. That will help slow the rare-earth magnet as its moves down the tilted silver bar.

4. Chemical Tests

There are a couple ways you can test your silver items using chemicals. There are some precautions here—namely to your physical health.

Many of the popular silver test kits out there contain acids. These caustic agents can severely injure you if used improperly. Be sure to wear all recommended safety gear when using these tests and follow all directions. It may be best to conduct these tests in well-ventilated areas.

Also, beware that the acids and other agents in these silver test kits can damage your silver items. If you don’t want to order a silver test kit but don’t really care about the appearance of your silver item, you can apply bleach to the product you’re testing. Bleach will make a silver item tone a darkish color very quickly—and, yes, right before your eyes.

Buy Real Silver with Real Peace of Mind

2006 p reverse proof american silver eagle

American Silver Eagle

Why agonize over whether your coins, bars, and rounds are made from real silver? If you buy them from a reputable source, you’ll never have to question if your bullion is the real deal.

Unfortunately, a lot of silver stackers and other silver bugs learn this lesson the hard way. Some try to save a few bucks by purchasing their silver online from some backdoor source. They may buy it from an unvetted online auction seller, or obtain it through a swap-meet type of arrangement. Only later do they discover they were scammed. Now they're out all of their money.

It's always possible that the silver goods you’re testing may be of questionable origin. Of course, this doesn’t have to be your fate. In fact, you can prevent yourself from having to question the content of your “silver” goods ever again.

You want real silver? Then buy it from a trustworthy source—one that guarantees the authenticity of the items sold!

Looking for silver coins, bars, and rounds? “Good” ones that you don’t have to test? Then turn to a reputable coin dealer or bullion broker.

Sure, they may charge full price (in other words, market rate), but they’ll also offer you a fair deal in return. In fact, the quality of the items you’ll receive for paying the fair market value will be unquestionable.

It will be a silver purchase you can be proud of—one in which there will be no second guessing or lingering questions. Furthermore, top-quality silver coins, bars, and rounds manufactured by national governments or well-known private mints are also highly liquid. So when the time comes to sell silver, you’ll have no problem finding a willing buyer.

Finding a Good Coin Dealer

So, how do you locate a good coin dealer or bullion broker? Sure, even in the internet era, good ol’ word of mouth still means something. Then again, the Information Superhighway does make researching the background of a bullion dealer a whole lot easier, too. And, for that, you’ll want to check out reviews, feedback, and credentials online.

Many coin shops and bullion dealers will also have a website filled with information about the kinds of products they sell, their prices, and other helpful information. Legitimate operations will offer a return policy and/or some other type of satisfaction guarantee.

The most well-established and creditable silver dealers have stellar ratings with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). They may be affiliated with esteemed industry organizations such as the Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA) and National Inflation Association (NIA).

Dealers who are heavily involved with coins should also have connections with—at the very least—the American Numismatic Association (ANA). Businesses dealing with high volumes of rare coins are also often associated with either or both Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).


Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a journalist, editor, and blogger who has won multiple awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild. He has also authored numerous books, including works profiling the history of the United States Mint and United States coinage.

More from the author:

How Is Silver Made?

Silver Facts: The Ultimate Top 10 List

How Much Silver Is There in the World?

Where Does Gold Come From?

Are Silver & Gold Magnetic? Here's How to Test Your Silver & Gold

Why Does Silver Tarnish?

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