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Is It Crazy That Your Silver Jewelry is Magnetic? We Find Out.

My silver is attracted to magnets, what should I do?

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METALS

I have received a few sterling silver pieces over the counter and even some from vendors recently that were attracted to a magnet. That’s not supposed to happen, is it? Should I be worried? What should I do?

You’re not alone in seeing this. We recently asked our Brain Squad panel if they were having similar experiences, and about one in five of the 145 jewelers who answered the question said they were regularly seeing low-purity silver being offered as sterling. Robert Truhe, manager of Dillon Gage Refinery in Dallas, TX, said his company had also noticed a decline in the overall purity of silver lots over the past 18 months.

Truhe attributed this in part to the influx of silver goods from overseas, where standards are not as stringent as in the U.S. (the National Stamping Act of 1906 states the variance can only be “a divergence in the fineness of four one-thousandth points” from the required .925.)

“Also, our research shows that some jewelers make the mistake of assuming something is sterling silver (.925) when it is marked nickel silver or German silver. This is not the case,” he says.

Another factor muddying the issue is the use by manufacturers of various magnetic metals in the plating of silver goods.

“There is plenty of that going on,” said Jo-Ann Sperano, a mediation specialist at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. “We just did some nondestructive assays on silver product that some retail jewelers felt was not 92.5 percent pure. The non-destructive tests came back as under .925 and were attracted to magnets.”

However, when the pieces were sent for fire assay, the jewelry did turn out to be .925 silver, Sperano says.

Truhe advises jewelers to do an acid test of all sterling silver pieces, in addition to looking for markings. “The absolute most important point in all of this is to make sure the staff who are buying material over the counter are properly trained and that strict procedures are in place for testing all gold and silver products. If shortcuts are taken, the jewelry store will suffer the losses,” he says.

Sperano encouraged jewelers who think they have identified pieces from manufacturers that are of less purity than marked to contact the JVC.

“We must be notified since we have found loads of product that had little or no silver. Stay in close touch so we have a chance to do prevention rather than damage control,” she says, adding that the JVC handles such cases in a confidential manner.

Our Brain Squad Also Had These Tips, Based on Their Experiences:
  • We have been burned a couple of times from buying over the counter, and to combat that, we have reduced our purchase price. As we are one of the few in the area still purchasing silver we are doing very well offering a little lower percentage. — Bret Dougherty, Studio 2015 Jewelry, Woodstock, IL
  • “Mexican silver” is made with quite a bit more lead so we adjusted to giving around 30 to 40 percent instead of 60 to 70 percent. We do acid tests but if I am not sure it goes to a refiner and they melt and test. The customer knows they are responsible for all mail and melt charges, so they can decide. — Tom R. Nelson, Nelson Jewelry, Spencer, IA
  • Flatware is mostly accurate, but other silver, buyer beware! I’ve been stuck more than I care with under-karated silver. Paying much less now for crafted silver scrap. — Amber Gustafson, Amber’s Designs, Katy, TX
  • We have all of our vendors verify the origin of product and also if the merchandise is nickelfree. Nickel-free is the best way to go; a lot of people are allergic to nickel. — David Abrams, Grand Jewelers, Ontario, Canada
  • We have heard of a group trying to triple-plate brass to pass the acid testing but if scratch tested it will show a gold color. — Scott Kelly, Jems Jewels & Gold, North Wales, PA

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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