Items you will need
- 2 silver pieces
- Tongs or tweezers
- Acid test kit
Silver bullion is a popular investment not only because the metal itself is aesthetically pleasing, but because it can act as a hedge against inflation. A danger with silver, however, is in fakes. Shady dealers have been peddling fake silver because it is easy for them to make cheaper metals appear genuine. However, if you train the eye, you will be able to recognize real silver and employ a few methods of testing if you aren't convinced of the authenticity of a product.
Inspect the silver for the appropriate luster and color. If you train to look for the right characteristics, you can often recognize fakes right away through visual inspection. Silver has a very shiny luster, but it is not as reflective as chrome. It is light, almost white in color, when light bounces off it.
Look for inconsistencies in the production. It's in cheap coins, often from Asia, according to Silver-Coins.org, where much of the the counterfeit occurs, as opposed to silver bars. Study close-up pictures of authentic versions of the coin and pay close attention to possible differences in font size or type, and in spacing of the elements. These are often the areas in which counterfeiters trip.
Look for shoddy detailing. This is the most common way that counterfeiters give themselves away, often indenting details where they should be raised and generally giving the detail a flat, messy look. Silver can always regain its luster if treated, so don't assume that a flat, dull coin is just that way due to age.
The Ping Test
Hold the silver piece with tweezers or tongs.
Tap the silver piece lightly with another silver piece of equal size. Be careful not to hit too hard, or you may nick the silver and devalue the silver in the process.
Listen for a sustained, high-pitched "ping" sound. Cheaper metals will only resonate a dull "clink." The bigger the silver piece, generally the longer the ping. With coins the ping will be short, but still high. For a comparison, perform the same test with two pieces of cheaper metal.
The acid test
Place a single drop of acid onto the metal. Do not use old or expired acid, as it may damage the silver.
If the metal is silver, it will turn a dark brown or black. If it is a different type of metal, the acid will eat through it. Be aware that some coins have trace amounts of other metals in them, which may lead to permanent damage of the coin through the acid test, which is why this test should be a last resort.
Clean the oxidized silver. Silvercoins.org recommends using a lemon acid bath or a silver cleaning solution.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images