As a silver and/or gold stacker you should also try and buy from reputable dealers, but there will come a time when you find a great deal elsewhere. Also, if you stack silver in the UK and want the best deals, then you need to search around, buying from European supplies, from eBay and from private sellers. This means that you should be ready to check the legitimacy of your product, so that you can get your money back if it turns out to be fake.
How to Tell if Silver is Fake
Silver is a unique metal. It is prized for its conductivity, and you can use this to your advantage when testing if the coin is real. There are those that may say that just by picking it up and feeling the weight you can tell, but the truth is that the most common way to fake silver is with tungsten, and that weighs and feels the same. You can use the elements to your aid though.
One common way is to place the coin or bar on a counter and then place an ice cube on top of it, and another one next to it (but not touching). The silver will retain heat from when you held it and from room temperature in general, and this will leech into the ice cube and speed-up the melting process. This sounds bizarre, but it needs to be seen to be believed. If you watch the speed of the melting ice cubes then you can see the one on the “silver” melt much quicker. In truth you won’t even need the other one there, because that won’t melt at all by the time the ice cube on the “silver” has already formed a pool. You can also perform this test in a pan with a little heat, which will rapidly melt the ice.
Also, you will notice that once you pick the silver coin or bar up, after the ice has touched it, then it will be ice cold to the touch, and will remain like that for some time. This is quite an experience in itself, and not just because when you feel this you know that what you are holding is pure silver.
Another simple way is to measure and weigh the coin. We mentioned above that tungsten weighs the same, but it does not act in the same way. So, if you do the test above and it turns out well, and you’re convinced it is not tungsten but are still not sure it is 100% silver (it could be a thick silver casing, for instance) then measure it and weigh it. A one ounce coin, for instance, will have a particular measurement in order for it to weigh one ounce. It needs to be a certain circumference or depth. It if is slightly larger than normal but does weigh an ounce, then it could be that a slightly lighter metal was used; if it is smaller then it could be that a slightly heavier metal was used. Not all metals weigh the same, intact few of them do, so you can use this to your advantage. You may need something to compare it to, so it helps if you have a legitimate chunk of silver on hand that is the same size/weight, but you can also get the circumference and depth of a standard coin or bar online.
Despite all of the methods mentioned above, the best way to check that your silver is legit, is to use neodymium magnets. These are usually tiny magnets that you can pickup for just a few pence online. In fact, we bought 10 of them, all micro-sized, for £1 from eBay. These magnets react in a very peculiar way when they come into contact with silver. If you put one of the magnets on the surface of your bar or coin and then tip that bar or coin, the magnet will not stick or drop, but rather it will steadily and very gradually slide down, as if attracting a small amount of force. As this action is unique to silver, it is a great, cheap and simple way of testing it.
There are also acid tests that you can use to test silver and these are widely available online. The only issue with these is that you will need to sacrifice the integrity and the aesthetics of your coin or bar, and if you’re like many stackers out there, you will not be ready to do this. This can be an ideal way to test silver if you have bought a large stack from a doubtful source and are happy to damage one coin from that stack. Still, there are other ways and we don’t think this one is necessary.
How to Tell if Gold is Fake
Gold is not as easy to check as silver is, but there are many more fake gold bars and coins out there than there are silver ones. The first thing you can do is simply look at it, preferably with a magnifying glass. You should be looking for a stamp that displays the fineness and the karat of the gold. Good fakes will include this, but there are more ways to check for their legitimacy.
Fakes tend to use cheap metals that discolour overtime, which real gold does not do. So study every inch with your magnifying glass to check for discolouration. Gold is also very soft, so if you bite down on it (like an Olympian getting a winning photograph with his medal) it should leave indents, and more indents mean purer gold. Unless, of course, lead is used, as that will leave very soft indents. Lead will also be easier to bite into though, whereas gold should have some give to it.
One of the easiest ways to check that your gold is not a cheap metal is to use a standard magnet. Many metals will stick to this, but gold will not. You can also use the ceramic plate test, which involves scraping your piece of “gold” along the surface of a ceramic plate (this will scratch your plate). If the visible marking is black or grey, your “gold” isn’t gold, if the marking is gold in colour, then you have the real deal.