How to Tell the Difference Between Silver and Silver Plated?

When planning to buy a piece of jewelry, you may choose to go for silver jewelry. There could be various reasons behind your immense attraction for this metal. Maybe you just have a special attachment to it, or you like its appearance among many other reasons.

Still, as you focus on the silver jewelry, you will be faced with two more options: pure silver and silver plated. Although the two tend to have the same appearance. There are glaring differences between them. If you are not careful enough, you may end up interchanging them.

But we won’t blame you for such confusion, after all, they tend to have the same visual appearance. Maybe you have been duped several times into buying one option instead of the other.

The good news is we are here to bring such confusion to the end. Read on as we help you decipher the differences between silver and silver plated.

Definition and Description

How to Tell the Difference Between Silver and Silver Plated?

Genuine silver, which is sometimes known as sterling silver is a precious and rare metal whose main content is pure. The other metals occupy a very small percentage of this metal content.

Although sterling silver is not as rare as gold or diamond, it still holds a significant value in the jewelry market. It still ranks among the most precious metals.

Sterling silver has that irresistible appearance and this makes it applicable for making jewelry. However, it is super soft and this could be the reason why it is impossible to find jewelry that is made of pure silver.

Some additives are embedded into the silver to enhance its strength and increase its malleability. Copper and nickel are the two most common metals that are used as additives for sterling silver.

On the other hand, silver-plated refers to jewelry made of other metals only that they have been coated with a layer of silver. So, the external appearance of the jewelry will be similar to that of silver.

The silver coating is so thin that it degrades quite fast or within a short time.

Some of the common base metals that are used for making silver plated jewelry include copper, brass, nickel, pewter, and other white metals.

The plating of silver entails an elaborate chemical and electrical process. First, the metal is electrically charged so that it attracts the silver particles to form the unbreakable bond. Thereafter, a silver coating is applied to the charged metal.  It will be difficult for the untrained eyes to notice any difference with the pure sterling silver.


The main difference between sterling silver and silver plated is on their composition or the materials that make up the jewelry.

Silver plated jewelry is made of different types of base metals such as copper, nickel, and brass, among others. These metals form a large composition of the jewelry and silver plating takes the remaining small percentage.

The reverse is true for pure silver jewelry. The largest composition comprises silver and the remaining small percentage is made of other metals. When it comes to the numbers, pure silver makes up 92.5% while the metals take the remaining 7.5%.

The difference in the composition between pure silver and silver plated plays a critical role in determining the difference between silver and silver plated.

Also, the types of metals that have been used in either pure silver or silver plated jewelry will determine the difference between one piece of jewelry and another. For example, a plated silver jewelry that majorly comprises of copper will have some differences from the one that features brass as its base metal.

Appearance: Sterling Silver vs. Silver Plated

You can also distinguish pure silver from silver plated jewelry based on its appearance. Silver plated jewelry items tend to be shiner and have a bright or flawless finish. They also tend to have a lighter hue than pure silver jewelry.

However, you will only notice the difference in the appearance if you take a deep look at them. Otherwise, you will easily confuse them.

Weight: Silver vs. Silver Plated

Still not contented with the appearance? You can distinguish silver from the plated silver using their weight. One is heavier or lighter than the other.

Sterling silver is lighter than silver plated jewelry. Its composition is pure silver and this is the main reason behind its lightweight. On the other hand, silver plated is heavier than pure silver thanks to the presence of other metals in it.

So, if you have two chains, one made of pure silver and another of plated silver and you want to distinguish them, simply weight them. You will find the answer based on their weight difference.

Identification: Silver vs Silver plated

How to Tell the Difference Between Silver and Silver Plated?

Image of pure silver source

Jewelers have also made it easy for you to differentiate silver from silver plated jewelry. You simply need to look at their identification tags. These are labels or marks that are placed on each piece of jewel.

In most cases, the silver plated jewels have different labels such as “EPNS”, ”EP”, “Silver on Copper”, or “Silver on Brass”. The manufacturers are not allowed to label these pieces of jewelry “Sterling” This explains why you cannot find “sterling plated” jewelry.

On the other hand, genuine silver usually has the mark “925” which stands for 92.5%. The jewelry can also be labeled “sterling”. In some places such as the UK, sterling silver is marked with the head of a lion or a leopard. These are called hallmarks and are stamped on the piece of jewelry.

Strength and Durability: Silver vs. Silver Plated

How to Tell the Difference Between Silver and Silver Plated?

Image of plated silver source

Silver and Silver plated jewelry have varying degrees of strength and durability. The fact that silver plated comprises of other metals such as copper, nickel, and brass means that it is stronger than sterling silver.

Pure silver is quite soft hence may not be very strong. In fact, the remaining 7.5% comprises of extra metals whose purpose is to increase the strength of the jewelry.

However, with proper care, and careful handling, sterling silver can last for a long period. It will serve you for decades. The reverse is true if you handle a piece of silver jewelry recklessly.

On the other hand, silver plated jewelry wears off quite fast. It will lose its original luster and hue way faster than pure silver. It is also more susceptible to oxidation than sterling silver, thanks to the heavy presence of other metals.

A table illustrating the difference between silver vs silver plated

Here is a comprehensive table that summarizes for you the differences between sterling silver and the plated silver.

 Pure Silver/ Sterling Silver Silver Plated
Pure silver forms a major composition of this metal(92.5%) as other metals take the remaining small percentage of the composition (7.5%) such as copper and nickel Other metals form the base metal of this jewelry. They can be copper brass or nickel alloy. They are then coated with a thin layer of silver hence the name ‘silver plated’.
Has a deeper and darker silver  hue than the silver plated Has a lighter silver hue than the sterling silver
In terms of weight, sterling silver is lighter than any similar  silver plated jewelry The presence of other metals makes the plated silver jewelry heavier than the sterling silver metal.
Has a high intrinsic value. You will earn higher returns if you sell sterling silver than the plated silver. Also, you will fork a higher price to acquire this jewelry. The high percentage of other base metals degrades the intrinsic value of the silver plated jewelry. You will buy this jewelry at a lower price than the sterling silver
Quite rare than the plated silver. This is  mainly because it has a higher value than the plated silver Easily available as it can be easily manufactured. All you need is to get a base metal then coat it with a thin layer of silver plating

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I hope that this post has enlightened you on the differences between sterling silver and plated silver. You can now approach the jewelry market with your eyes open wider before. You will be able to know whether it is sterling silver or pure silver metal.

Once you know the differences between pure silver and silver, it will be easier to decide on the type of jewelry that you want. Simply gauge the advantages and disadvantages of each metal then choose one that will meet your requirements.

Of course, your finances will play a big role in determining whether you will buy sterling silver or silver plated piece of jewelry. As we have stated, pure silver is more expensive than plated silver.

Last but not least, where you buy a piece of jewelry matters.  In as much as you know the differences between pure silver and sterling silver, you can still find yourself in a deep ditch just because of the wrong choice of where to buy the jewelry.

Strive to buy from the best jewelry store and you will never go wrong. Take your time to gather all the necessary information about the jewelry before you make a final decision.

At the end of it all, you will end up with the best from both sides, whether it is quality pure silver jewelry or silver plated jewelry.

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