Have you recently inherited a silver tea set from your great-grandmother or purchased one from a yard sale or flea market? Perhaps, you were told the set is real silver, but you have your doubts. We can help you assuage these worries with a few techniques for determining the authenticity of your antique silver tea set.
Check for Markings
Sterling silver items are stamped or marked with a hallmark that proves their authenticity. Look at the bottom of your tea pot or other tea set pieces and check for manufacturer or silversmith markings. Sterling silver pieces can be marked with the words Sterling or Sterling Silver. Alternatively, they can be marked with the numbers 925 or 9.25, indicating their level of silver purity.
It’s rare for pure silver tea set items not to have hallmarks or other special markings. However, it’s not impossible. If the tea set is several hundred years old or made in a country without marking standards, it may not be marked, but it could still be sterling silver.
Put It to the Test
If you could not find authentication hallmarks or do not understand the markings on your tea set, you can try a few different tests to measure its authenticity.
The Sterling Silver Magnet Test
The simplest way to determine whether your tea set is sterling silver or silver-plated is to perform the magnet test. Silver is nonmagnetic, so a magnet should not stick to its surface. Stick a magnet over one of the pieces in your silver tea set. If the magnet clings to the piece, it is not silver. Instead, it is made of other precious metals.
The Polish Test
Take a soft white cloth and give your tea set a gentle polish. If the fabric turns black after rubbing a tarnished spot, the tea set is silver.
Where does this black residue come from? Silver oxidizes, producing a tarnished surface that needs to be polished from time to time. Items that are not pure silver will not tarnish, but they may rust.
The Odor Test
Do you consider your nose to be a super sniffer? If you’re good at detecting and distinguishing odors, you can try the odor test. Sterling silver is odorless, so give your tea set a sniff. Does it smell like sulfur or metal? If so, your tea set is not sterling silver.
The Ice Test
Place an ice cube on top of one of the pieces from your coffee and tea set. If the piece is made of sterling silver, the ice will melt quickly because silver has the highest thermal conductivity of any metal.
Need Help Determining the Authenticity of Your Silver Tea Set?
Are you still unsure whether your tea set is truly sterling silver? Bring your set into The Jewelers & Loan Co. in Quincy, MA, and our professional sterling silver flatware buyers will help you determine the authenticity of your items. We can also provide an estimate of the value of your tea set if you wish to sell or pawn the sterling silver item. Contact us today to learn more about determining the silver purity of your tea set.