I recently purchased an item through an online auction and found that it was not actually silver so I wanted to remind members/guests of some helpful non-destructive methods that can be useful for authenticating silver items from home.
The item I purchased was a Chinese/Thai champagne ice bucket which was described as having been acid tested as 0.800+ silver. The item's cartouches were engraved in Thai, while the marks on the bottom were in Chinese characters.
The item was marked with the characters 足銀 which translates to "pure silver" and will usually indicate a genuine silver piece.
Immediately after receiving the item there were some initial indications that the item was not silver:
- "Pinging" the item resulted in a dull/tin thud instead of a high pitch ring/resonating sound expected from silver
- The dirt/tarnish on the item did not produce an acrid smell that typically emanates from tarnished silver
- Specific Gravity Test
- The bucket's specific gravity measured approximately 9.0-9.2
- Genuine 0.800 silver should have a specific gravity of approximately 10.0-10.2
- Sliding Magnet Test
- Sliding a magnet across genuine silver will induce a counter-acting force that will oppose the magnet's motion and slow it down
- The bucket did not produce a counter-acting force and the magnet slid rapidly down its surface. This was very apparent when comparing side-by-side with 0.925 and 0.826 silver pieces
One caveat is that the sliding magnet test may not be effective in differentiating from silver-plated copper because copper will also produce a similarly strong counter-acting force that opposes the magnet's motion.
Running these test helped to confirm that the item was not actually silver and allowed me to receive a full refund for the purchase/shipping costs. Hopefully someone else may find this information useful.