Planning to buy your next piece of silver? Here are a few things to keep in mind while investing in this precious metal. Checking for the quality is what one must prioritize. Read on to find out what you’re looking for in a worthy silver purchase.
Silver, the Queen of metals, has her name for the magnificence and charm that has enthralled civilizations since as early as 3,100 B.C., when Egyptians were getting silver vases as gifts. The metal, used to mark celebrations and achievements is also known to symbolize fortune, wealth and privilege with the 17th century writer Cervantes acknowledging that not everyone is born with silver spoon in their mouth.
Amongst a plethora of uses, contemporary usage of silver is in manufacture of jewellery and silverware. These are traditionally made from sterling silver, which is standard silver comprising of an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. This is done because pure silver is very soft and can be damaged easily. Copper is the most frequently used metal as it preserves silver’s beautiful colour while improving the metal’s hardness and durability. To give sterling silver items a flashy finishing, the jewellery is coated with 0.999-fine silver and this process is known as ‘flashing’.
To ensure that the consumers are provided with high quality silver, it has to be made sure that the silver content and quality of all silver jewellery must be accurately represented. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established a set of stamps and marking for this purpose. Accepted markings include labels like “silver”, “sterling silver”, “solid silver” or “sterling”. Furthermore, sometimes jewellery may be stamped with "925," ".925," or “92.5”, which also indicates that the item meets the U.S. government standards.
In India and in some other countries, hallmarking is done in order to establish the quality of a metal like gold or silver. Hallmarking is the accurate determination and official recording of the proportionate content of precious metal in precious metal (gold or silver) articles. It is a voluntary scheme being operated by Bureau of Indian Standards under the BIS Act 1986. These are the things that one should look for in a hallmarked silver article:
- (i) The BIS mark.
- (ii) Purity grade/fineness (any one of the following) :
- 999.9, 999.5, 999 : Fine Silver
- 970, 925, 900, 835, 800 : Silver alloys for jewellery, artefacts
- (iii) Assaying/Hallmarking Centre’s Identification Mark
- (iv) Year of Marking – denoted by a code letter e.g.‘‘J’ for year 2008
- (v) Jeweller’s Identification Mark
Thus, the BIS provides a third party assurance regarding the quality of the silver to the customers ensuring them satisfaction and value for money. In the bigger picture, not only do these quality checks protect the customer, but also play a major role in developing export competitiveness.
There are a couple of other tests to check the quality of silver. One of the easily doable ones with jewellery is to expose the silver article to an oxidizing agent like bleach. Pure silver blackens and tarnishes rapidly when it comes in contact with bleach! If the article in question is a brick or something similar, the recommended test would be placing an ice cube on it. Silver being an excellent conductor of heat should melt the ice faster than another object at room temperature.