Know What You Are Selling Before You Sell Your Silver Jewelry

October 24, 2011

You’ve seen the ads and the web sites and you’ve decided that it’s time to take advantage of historically high silver prices and get some cash for your silver jewelry. Selling your silver jewelry is easy to do online, but getting the best price for your jewelry may be another matter. The first step to getting the most cash for your silver jewelry is to understand how much silver you really have. You may think those silver earrings are 100% silver, but they may not be. They could be silver plated and actually have very little silver content, in which case you would be very disappointed with the amount of money that is offered. However, if you have silver jewelry that you know is plated, you may be surprised at the amount of money that even silver plate is worth, given the high price of silver these days.


To determine how much silver is in a given piece of jewelry, the first thing to do is look for a sterling mark such as “sterling” or “ster” or “925.” If the jewelry has a sterling mark, then you can reasonably believe that the item is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. If there is no sterling mark, then it is likely that the item is plated with silver, or may not contain any silver at all. Another simple test is to see if the item sticks to a magnet. Silver is a non-ferrous metal, meaning that it contains no iron, and therefore will not stick to a magnet.


The online silver buyer will probably do an acid test to determine the silver content of your jewelry. The is done by placing a drop of nitric acid on the jewelry and depending on what color the acid turns determines the silver content, if any. To determine if the item is silver plate, it is cut or scored with a small file to expose the material within the piece and a drop of acid is applied. If indeed it is silver plate, the acid will react differently with the underlying metal than it does with the the silver plating on the surface. Even though anyone can buy silver and gold test kits, it is not recommended that this testing be done at home as the acids are very strong and need to be handled very carefully to avoid burns.


Knowing the quality of your jewelry before you send it off to a silver buyer will give you reasonable expectations about how much cash you can get for it. Keep in mind that online silver buyers are only interested in the scrap silver content. They are not interested in the craftsmanship or rarity of the jewelry as jewelry. So don’t send anything that may have value greater than the silver content of the item.

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