I’ve been asked during events by patrons how to tell if something is sterling silver or a knock off. I sell sterling silver items as well as silver painted fashion items, so its important to me to be completely honest. However, not everyone knows how to tell the difference, so I’m leaving the answer here as a reference.
The long answer: Real silver, pure silver, is too soft to use for general items, so its mixed with other alloys. The universal standard for one to call something sterling silver means that the metal presented is at least 92.5% silver and 7.5% something else – usually copper. The common way to tell if something is Sterling Silver is to inspect closely for a 925 imprint. This stamp would be located on the clasp of a necklace or the underside/inside of a pendant, hidden from plain sight but can be found with a closer inspection.
So, the short answer is ‘look for the 925 stamp’.
image credit to Tiffany & Co.
There are exceptions to this, like when something is very small (earrings) or handmade by an artisan: see if there is any flaking on the metal, rub it with a light colored cloth – blacking of the metal means its real silver, or show it to an expert who can do testing on the metal. Be a well-informed shopper and try this out the next time you go shopping. You might even find a bargain.