Why would anybody bother to counterfeit sterling silver? After all, silver sells for lower prices than any other precious metal. Why would anybody take the trouble to counterfeit it?
The simple answer is that counterfeiters have learned to take cheap, silver-plated tableware, stamp them so they look like they were made by prestigious manufacturers, then sell them to collectors for high prices. In other words, they are artificially inflating the collectible value, not the metallic value.
We hope that you never encounter a problem like this one...
You discover a display case filled with silver tableware that is stamped with a hallmark that indicates they were made of sterling silver by well-known maker like Tiffany & Co. or Reed & Barton. You check those stamped hallmarks, which are easy to research online, and determine that those items are the “real thing,” and well worth collecting.
Not So Fast!
You might have found a box of counterfeited items. How do counterfeiters emboss inexpensive silver-plated items with the markings of expensive brands? There are a few ways. Counterfeiters can...
- Make steel stamps and use them to incise genuine-looking hallmarks on cheap silver items. Remember, silver is soft and can easily be stamped with a steel die. Items that have been faked in this way are difficult to detect, especially if the counterfeiter took the time to create a high-quality counterfeit stamp, copied from genuine hallmarks on expensive silver items. Those items, however, can be tested by a qualified precious metal testing lab to determine whether they are solid sterling or only silver-plated.
- Cut genuine hallmarks from pieces of sterling silver and silver-solder them onto cheap items. A skillful technician can do this in a way that is very difficult to detect with the naked eye. It takes a test performed in a qualified precious metal testing lab to detect the forgery.
How Can You Avoid Being Fooled?
The reality is, it is very difficult for a layperson to tell if a stamped silver fork, spoon, or knife is the real thing. One exception? If a piece of silver has tarnished and the counterfeiter silver-soldered in a hallmark, the soldered area can become visible. But if the piece has recently been polished, that will not be possible. Silver experts also say that it is sometimes possible to detect a soldered-in area by running your finger over the area where the hallmark appears. If the soldering job was not perfectly done, you can feel that the hallmark that has been patched in is not exactly level with the silver in the surrounding area.
If you are buying expensive items – let’s say a chest of silver tableware – your best defense is to buy from a reputable dealer who will specify in writing that the items are genuine, and that you can return them for a full refund. That way, you will have protection if the items you buy turn out to be fake.
If you acquire items and want to know their value, call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344. We will be pleased to test your silver items, determine and verify their metallic content, and recycle them for you if that is your decision. Remember – if the items you have acquired turn out to be genuine sterling silver made by a high-end manufacturer, you can probably get more money for them by selling to collectors than you can by recycling them. Call and ask us. We are here to answer your questions and provide guidance.
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