Anything can be faked these days. Counterfeiters only need a means and a motive, and with such high values attached to precious metals, silver included, and with a wealth of technology and materials at their disposal, they have all they need to create fake silver. Fortunately, silver is quite a unique element and most fake silver consists of cheap metals that have very little in common with the real deal, making them easy to spot.
How to Avoid Fake Silver
You should always buy from a reputable dealer and a certified refiner. If you stick with legitimate bullion dealers, then you won't have an issue with illegitimate silver. Here at GoldBroker, for instance, we only sell COMEX deliverable bars, which is the standard for all legitimate silver in this industry, and ensures that when you’re buying larger quantities of this precious metal, you’re getting exactly what you pay for.
One of the worst things you can do is to purchase from eBay, as fakes are rife on this auction site. They are passed around from one dealer and one user to another, often because they are oblivious that the item is fake. There are also many dealers that buy wholesale fake coins and bars from China, passing these off as legitimate and profiting from the large margins.
This practice is becoming less prevalent as more and more people learn how to test for fake silver, but for every clued-up investor, there are ten who will buy without thinking and without checking, and this is what the dealers rely on.
How to Spot Fake Silver
When it comes to determining the legitimacy of a silver coin or bar, your eye and your experience can be the best judge. So, before you start applying corrosive chemicals and tests to your potential silver (we’ll discuss these shortly) be sure to follow these steps:
- Stamp: Most countries require pure silver to be officially stamped. This stamp will include details of the silver and it is usually more prominent on bars, sometimes covering the entire face. Not all countries require this, so you may still have real silver even if there is no stamp.
- Magnifying Glass: Take a closer look at the stamp using a magnifying glass and find something known as the International Silver Stamp Rating. This will display a three digit number indicating purity.
- Imperfect Coins: If a bullion coin has been faked, then it should be immediately visible. Many fakes are of a low quality. The design will not be as raised or as detailed, the luster will be poor and the strike may be off-center. If the coin is old, it may also show signs of rust or other types of damage that are just not common with silver.
- Mint Mark: Many fakers will not include mint marks or will create poor copies of legitimate mint marks. These are very easy to spot.
How to Test for Fake Silver
There are a few tests that you can do to determine whether the silver you have is fake or not. Some of these are more effective than others, but all can be used to detect something that is either fine silver, sterling silver or a cheap base metal.
- Neodymium Magnets: These magnets are commonly used to test silver and can be bought fairly cheaply and in an array of sizes. Typically, silver stackers will buy neodymium magnets no bigger than a pea and then place these on the silver bar or coin. If it is real, then when they tilt or tip the silver, the magnet will gently slide. This is because real silver has a very weak magnetic effect. If the magnet does not attach in anyway, or if it sticks, then it is not real silver. This test is not recommended for large bars because while it will determine whether or not the surface is real silver, it will not tell you whether or not the core is real silver.
- Ice Test: Silver has amazing conductive properties, and many experts can predict whether a piece is fake or not just by holding it in their hands. You can test this conductivity by place some ice on the silver and then placing another piece of ice a few inches away from it. The ice on the silver should begin to melt immediately, as the silver will have retained heat from your hand, whereas the ice next to it will melt slowly.
- Acid Test: This uses a chemical analysis test and may damage your silver. You can purchase silver acid tests online, but they should only be used as a last resort. These tests will tell you whether it is real, how pure it is, and even what metal it is if it is not real.
- Sound Test: Silver emits a ringing sound when it is tapped, much like a bell, whereas many cheaper metals will emit a dull thud. Tap the piece with something metallic and listen to the sound it produces. You can also drop it onto a flat surface, as it should produce the same ringing sound.
- Bleach Test: Real silver tarnishes very quickly, whereas many of the metals commonly used to fake it do not. So, place a drop of bleach on the piece and then wait. If there is an immediate reaction, with the piece tarnishing and blackening, then you may have real silver on your hands. Silver plated items will also pass this test though.