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March 15, 2021 3 min read

Sterling silver is an incredibly popular material for use in the creation of stylish and modern jewellery designs, known for its quality and durability as well as its attractive and luxurious appearance. However, not all silver-coloured jewellery is sterling silver. Often jewellery that looks silver can in fact only be silver plated, or a rhodium plated base metal, such as brass. So how can you tell if your jewellery is made from real sterling silver, or is simply silver plated costume jewellery? 

Here we discuss some of the ways to tell the difference between genuine sterling silver jewellery and lower quality imitations.

What is Sterling Silver?

Pure silver is too soft for creating jewellery so it is alloyed with a small proportion of other metals, such as copper, to create a strong and malleable material, perfect for making jewellery. Sterling Silver is the international standard of purity for real silver jewellery, containing 92.5%. 

Silver plated jewellery is where the jewellery is made from a cheap base metal such as brass and then coated with just a very thin layer of silver plate. This top layer can be scratched or rubbed off, eventually exposing the metal underneath.

Look For A Hallmark

A hallmark is a series of stamps which indicate what your jewellery is made of. It is a legal requirement for all jewellery sold in the UK to be hallmarked if it is going to be sold as 'Sterling Silver'. To describe plated or base metal jewellery as 'silver' when it is not hallmarked, is an offence contravening the Hallmarking Act of 1973. So, an official hallmark is a stamp of quality and provenance.
You can use a magnifying glass to look on your items and find a hallmark. On rings and bangles you will usually find the hallmark on the inside curve. On necklaces, bracelets and chains the hallmark is usually near the clasp - either on the clasp or on the main loop joining the clasp to the chain. On the bangle below you can see the hallmark inside the bangle, at the centre.
Hallmarked Bangle
So what are you looking for? A proper hallmark is a series of at least three stamps side by side. These stamps are the Sponsor’s Mark, the Fineness Mark and the Assay Office Mark. The Sponsor’s Mark shows who has sent the jewellery for hallmarking and consists of initials within a shape. In the case of Azendi, our sponsor’s mark are the initials ‘A' and 'Z’ within squares. The Fineness Mark shows the precious metal and the level of purity.  All sterling silver jewellery would have a ‘925’ hallmark applied which is the numbers 925 in an oval surround. The Office Mark shows where the jewellery was tested; the symbol for London is a leopard head, for Birmingham an anchor, for Sheffield a rose, and for Edinburgh, a castle. All Azendi jewellery is hallmarked at Edinburgh Assay Office so bears the castle mark next to our Sponsor's Mark and the Fineness Mark.
Hallmarking example

What If You Can't See A Hallmark?

There is an exemption to the hallmarking rules whereby any sterling silver items that weigh less than 7.78 grams do not need to be hallmarked. This means that small items such as earrings and some light bracelets do not need to be hallmarked. They should however still be stamped with a simple '925', and it is still illegal to sell something as 'silver' when it is not 925 sterling silver.

The Magnet Test

The magnet test is a really simple way to verify the authenticity of sterling silver jewelry. Get an ordinary magnet and hold the piece your jewellery near it. Precious metals such as gold and silver are not magnetic, so if your jewellery is attracted to the magnet, you can be sure that your piece isn’t real silver.

Buy From A Retailer You Can Trust

The best way to be sure that you are buying genuine sterling silver jewellery is to purchase from a reputable jeweller. Retailers who sell precious metal jewellery made from sterling silver or gold are legally obliged to display a 'Dealers Notice', like that below, explaining hallmarking. A reputable jeweller will always be happy to tell you what your jewellery is made from, and will be able to prove it. 

Hallmarking Notice

If you have any queries about hallmarking, or the hallmarks on your Azendi jewellery, our in-store teams or our Customer Service team are happy to help with any advice. You can contact our customer service team here: Contact Us