Collecting and dealing silver require a minimum of basic appraisal guidelines. An appraiser can use an item's purity, condition, age, weight and shape to assess its relative value. Once these basics are mastered, silver identification and assessment become simple. The average appraiser can assess the value of most silver objects within minutes.
Weigh the silver on a scale to calculate an estimate of its value at current "spot" prices. Thirty-one grams of silver convert to about one troy ounce of weight, and this weight is multiplied by the current market value.
Determine the purity of the silver by examining it for marking. Most silver bullion and jewelry will be marked with numbers or words designating its silver content. Sterling silver, globally known to be 92.5 percent silver, will be marked with "sterling" or ".925" somewhere on the object. Most bullion is marked with ".999," or 99.9 percent silver content. Most early U.S. coins were 90 percent silver, but many nations used varying purities, so this must be researched for each type of coin. This percentage of purity must be multiplied into the current market value, giving the actual "melt value" of the silver in the object.
Research the rarity of the object over the silver content. Many times, the rarity of the object, due to age or scarcity, can give it a market value far above the melt value of the silver content. Old roman coins can be worth much more than the silver they are made from, as can more recent currency or antiques.
Test the silver with an acid tester. This kit will include a stone rubbing slab and a bottle filled with nitric acid. Rub the silver onto the stone, then douse the stone with a small amount of nitric acid. The chart provided rates the purity of the silver based on the color it turns on the stone.
If you are purchasing silver, discern the seller's trustworthiness. Many times, "rare" objects are simply simulated silver-plated copies of real objects, such as silverware or bullion. In these cases, the background and reputation of the silver dealer may outweigh the apparent "good deal" that is being offered.
Take into account the weight of stones or steel clasps when weighing silver objects.
Check current market values often, as they can change drastically in a short time.