Testing silver with acid: what does the test show?

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Testing silver with acid: what does it show?

Handmade jewelry market is diverse and unregulated. Though hallmarking is obligatory in some countries, many handmade jewelry pieces sold as “sterling” and/or “silver” do not bear the hallmark. How can you be sure that the metal is silver (of a certain grade)? If you are both a buyer and a seller on etsy.com, this is very important that no one is misled. Neither you nor you customers.

My good friend who also owns a shop on etsy has purchased a pair of earrings from another etsy shop and wanted to have them tested. We decided to make a short movie featuring our home experiment: testing silver with acid.

In this post I wrote that there is a special testing fluid based on sulphuric acid which provides quite reliable results in telling whether the item is silver or not. Normally if the silver content is > 70% the droplet reacts by leaving a red-brownish spot on the metal. But our question was: does the color of the spot distinguish between different silver grades/ % of silver in the alloy? As we know silver can have different purity. We also wanted to know whether other sulphuric compounds such as liver of sulfur can be used for testing different grades of silver. We tested pieces with 3 different silver percentages (835, 925 and 999), as well as a ring which we knew it was not silver (“melchior”).

Watch this video to see the procedure and the conclusions of the test.

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