When Purchasing Sterling Jewelry you are making a wise investment. Sterling is a precious metal and although the price fluctuates as does Gold, it maintains it's value through the quality of the piece which will last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, like Gold, Buying and selling Sterling Silver takes experience and a little know how. Some basic pointers are listed to lead you in the right direction before placing your bid.
1. Sterling Silver has a market value which changes daily. It will move up and down, but generally not vary much unless the economy reflects significant changes. However, purchasing Sterling jewelry that is handcrafted, vintage or collectible will and should not directly effect the market value of the piece. In other words, Jewelry as an investment is not always dollar for dollar. A signed silversmith piece of fine jewelry is not equal to the market value of scrap sterling. When purchasing Sterling jewelry you are paying for the craftsmanship and beauty of the piece; not the value according to the weight. If you desire to invest for financial gain in the market consider purchasing bars of Silver by the troy ounce which can then be cashed in when the price is up and purchased when low.
2. Sterling and Silver are interchangeable words meaning the same. Such is not the case when a seller is referring to color. A listing may say "Silver Chain"; this could mean that the chain is silver tone. Be sure that it specifically states that it is Sterling Silver.
3. Sterling Silver will be marked with either a makers mark or .925 or both. The only exception is early Native American pieces which were made and not intended to be sold to the public. Beware of handmade pieces that are claimed not to be marked, but tested and or with shoddy markings that appear to be forged by an amateur.
4. Invest in a jewelers loop. This is necessary to see and read the markings. .925 is the marking for sterling and means that the metal is 925 parts of 1000 pure silver. Sterling also comes in .999 but pieces made with this are rare as Silver is soft metal and anything greater than the standard of .925 causes problems with the craftsmanship.
5. Buy a good magnet. Radio Shack has these in round discs. A refrigerator magnet is not strong enough. If considering a piece to be Sterling try to pick it up with a magnet. It should not move. If it clings to the magnet or jumps up it is known as " junk metal" which is usually a combination of copper and silver plate. Note: Heavily plated items may not respond to the magnet. Aluminum will not respond nor stainless steel. This test does not tell you the piece is sterling. It is useful only to let you know if it not sterling. It is NOT sterling or gold if the piece of Jewelry moves when touched by a magnet.
6. Research your jewelry. Makers marks can be found on line at silver marks .925. Prior to a certain date .925 was not required to be inscribed if the maker had registered his mark with the government this mark denoted the same meaning as sterling. Marks and inscriptions vary greatly era by era and country of origin.
7. Note that some countries have different laws than the US or they are enforced differently. Many products offered from China claim to be Sterling and they are not. Don't be a victim. Ask the following questions before purchasing: 1. Is the item made of Sterling Silver? 2. It is clearly marked .925,? 3. Is there a makers mark and how long have they been in business? Use common sense if the price is so low that a profit can not be made and it is shipped free from overseas it is not sterling.
People who buy fake merchandise not only are victims of fraud, but they then ruin the economy with bogus products floating around and being sold as .925 when they are not.
8. Use acid testing as a last resort. If the piece is clearly marked and does not pick up with a magnet it is most likely Sterling. Newer jewelry may have a shiny coat known as Rhodium plating which is applied to resist tarnishing. inquire about Rhodium plating if purchasing new jewelry. If not, Sterling should tarnish, be flexible, (bend slightly), and somewhat lightweight. It will not respond to a magnet and will be clearly marked .925
9. Buy from someone you trust. Hold a true sterling piece in your hand and shut your eyes. Get to know the feel and weight. Beware of pieces that are marked heavy Sterling. Unless it is proportionally larger it can not get heavier unless other metals were used to weigh it down. Sterling has a light molecular weight. Sterling is beautiful, versatile and lovely to own and wear.
10. Always carry your magnet and loop when going shopping outside of the auction. They will save you a lot of time and money. Why waste the time straining to find the .925 with your loop if the piece jumps off the counter with your magnet? Shop smart and save time and money. Good Luck! And,Happy Hunting!