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Fine or sterling silver?

I recently purchased silver from someone who was cleaning out a studio and did not know if it was fine or sterling silver (20 gauge). How do I determine which it is? Thank you for your assistance!

Find a piece of known 20 gauge sterling wire. Anneal both the sterling and unknown piece and work harden them each the same way. If they harden the same they are both sterling.

1 Like

Will do. Thank you rmeixner.

You could cut off a small piece and torch it so it balls up. Sterling will show fire scale and pits; fine silver will ball up perfectly with no scale or deformation.

August 14

Will do. Thank you rmeixner.


Or, anneal both the known bit of sterling and the unknown. With no flux, observe that the sterling turns black as the copper oxidizes. Fine silver, with no copper, stays white. Although silver does oxidizes too. It’s oxide on the metal will be thin, and essentially transparent. So just heat it. No need to compare work hardening.


Thank you Peter. Worked like a charm!

Thanks Denny. Most helpful.

Peter…Great solution…Rob

Peter…I just tried your solution and it works great. I don’t work in fine silver enough to have noticed the color difference. Thanks for sharing…Rob