How to Test Silver Purity

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Silver items can be worth a lot of money. Determining how much the silver in your collection is worth depends on the level of pure silver the items contain. Calculating silver purity can be done in several ways from visual tests to simple scientific formulas. There are now even electric instruments which can measure the purity level of precious metals in minutes.

  • Check your silver for any markings. If your piece of silver has the word "sterling" written on it followed by a number or just the number, that will tell you what percentage of pure silver is in the item. For example, if your item has .975 written on it then its purity level is 97.5 percent; .925 means its purity level is 92.5 percent.

  • Check the item's density -- its weight divided by volume -- to determine if your item's density is close to that of pure silver. The closer the item's density is to pure silver, the greater the purity. The density of pure silver is 10.5 grams per cubic centimeter. Weigh the item in grams, then find find the volume by measuring the amount of water the item displaces in a measuring cup. Take note of the starting volume of water in the measuring cup and see how much the volume increases when you add the silver. The amount it increases is the volume.

  • Purchase an electric precious metal tester if you have many silver items to inspect. Electric testers can be purchased from many online companies, but this is an expensive option.

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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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