Daily Tip June 25: Why is my Sterling Silver Magnetic?

By on June 25, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
June 25, 2010

Question:

I bought some .925-stamped 3mm sterling silver snake chains from another supplier, and they are attracted to a magnet. I called the supplier and they told me due to the thickness this is normal. They said that metal is put in to give the chain support. Is this true?

-Robyn in Cincinnati, Ohio

Answer:

Real sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver; the most common alloy used to harden it is copper, and neither of these metals is magnetic. Often a clasp is made of something different that may be magnetic, but if the chain you describe sticks to a magnet, then sadly it is not “sterling” and should not be marked “.925.”

I’m happy to tell you that Wire-Sculpture stocks genuine Sterling Silver Chains, and of course, Wire-Sculpture guarantees 100% satisfaction on all its products.

For more information regarding what is classified as genuine sterling silver and what can and cannot be marked as such, here is what the FTC has to say:

23.6 Misrepresentation as to silver content.

(a) It is unfair or deceptive to misrepresent that an industry product contains silver, or to misrepresent an industry product as having a silver content, plating, electroplating, or coating.

(b) It is unfair or deceptive to mark, describe, or otherwise represent all or part of an industry product as “silver,” “solid silver,” “Sterling Silver,” “Sterling,” or the abbreviation “Ster.” unless it is at least 925/1,000ths pure silver.

(c) It is unfair or deceptive to mark, describe, or otherwise represent all or part of an industry product as “coin” or “coin silver” unless it is at least 900/1,000ths pure silver.

(d) It is unfair or deceptive to mark, describe, or otherwise represent all or part of an industry product as being plated or coated with silver unless all significant surfaces of the product or part contain a plating or coating of silver that is of substantial thickness.

(e) The provisions of this section relating to markings and descriptions of industry products and parts thereof are subject to the applicable tolerances of the National Stamping Act or any amendment thereof.

Note 1 to § 23.6: The National Stamping Act provides that silver plated articles shall not “be stamped, branded, engraved or imprinted with the word ‘sterling’ or the word ‘coin,’ either alone or in conjunction with other words or marks.” Exemptions recognized in the industry and not to be considered in any assay for quality of a silver industry product include screws, rivets, springs, spring pins for wrist watch straps; posts and separable backs of lapel buttons; wire pegs, posts, and nuts used for applying mountings or other ornaments, which mountings or ornaments shall be of the quality marked; pin stems (e.g., of badges, brooches, emblem pins, hat pins, and scarf pins, etc.); levers for belt buckles; blades and skeletons of pocket knives; field pieces and bezels for lockets; bracelet and necklace snap tongues; any other joints, catches, or screws; and metallic parts completely and permanently encased in a nonmetallic covering.”

In short, I would definitely seek another supplier!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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29 Comments

  1. avatar

    Gayle

    June 25, 2010 at 7:25 am

    In addition to buying your chains elsewhere, you should logde a complaint against the company with your State Attorney General’s office as well as the US FTC. Do the rest of us a favor and get this negative information out there about this company!!!!!!!!!!!

    • avatar

      Jewelry

      May 27, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      WAIT WAIT WAIT ALL OF YOU, I purchased something from a reputable store that had some magetization marked 925, then took it to a jeweler WHO KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING, he scratched off the top layer of shiny irriodium, to reveal an under layer of sterling silver! The top layer of irriodium was magetized but the layers beneath (on a stone with acid testing) Proved to be 100% sterling silver, both 18k acid and silver acid were consistent, so before you go reporting people to the FEDERAL TRADE COMMISION, find a person who is savy enough to know what they are talking about. A magnetic test is indicative BUT an acid test with scraping the item on a stone to remove top layers is DETERMINING! Irriodium plating over sterling silver wil
      Magnetize, you must acid test the layers beneath!

  2. avatar

    Don Gentry

    June 25, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I bought .925 ear wires from a Chinese supplier and they were only silver plated copper. What can we do about this? I complained but no response. Unfortunately I had already left Positive feedback on eBay before I accidently pinched the ear wire and discovered it was silver plated copper. Can’t trust the Chinese at all. Most of their Turquoise is fake. Even some I bought from Wire Sculpture when Preston owned the company, it was only porcelain. They trick everyone they can it seems.
    Don

  3. avatar

    Susannah St. Clair

    June 25, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Now that its established that this product has been misrepresented, I hope we can learn what company would do this so such a thing doesn’t happen to an unsuspecting buyer. Knowing who it is would only be a “slap on the hand” considering that cheating this is illegal .
    Susannah

  4. avatar

    Alex

    June 25, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Looks like PT barnum’s motto is being used by these people. I would turn them in. If silver is laid on over a magnetic base, it is no longer sterling silver, but silver plate.

  5. avatar

    Bob

    July 9, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Hi, I have been melting a lot of silver and gold and many pieces coming in are marked sterling and 925 etc but are attracted if you let them hang and hold a magnet close to the bottom. I am not near any lobsters but they are still attracted to the magnet.
    I even have a 10K gold bracelet that does the same and I have had it tested by some experts with acid etc, they still wanted to buy it, we have asked Stullers if they know why but no word yet.
    It did not come from them but I wondered if they knew if some magnetic metals were being used to alloy gold.
    How there could be any magnetic in .925 silver is beyond me but maybe in the gold??

    Bemused.

    Bob

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      July 9, 2010 at 10:29 am

      It is possible that some of the alloys used in the gold are iron and nickel (both of which are commonly used) and both will give a magnetic attraction.

  6. avatar

    V

    July 29, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I’m not trying to speak in favor of a person who misrepresents their product… but what part of the chain was attracted to the magnet? Was it the chain itself, or the chain ends?

    I like to build my own chains. When I sell silver, I want to sell *silver*, not silver plate. Some of the chains I want to make are large and require chain-ends.

    I have not had *any* luck finding chain-ends that are sterling.
    I don’t want to put sterling silver chain on a plated chain-end.

    It’s possible that some people less ethical would put a plated chain-end on a sterling silver chain. Of course, they don’t really save that much doing so. If they are unethical enough to do that, why not use a plated chain?

    But if you can’t find a sterling chain end, I can understand being tempted to use a plated chain end. If I find that I have to do that, you can bet I’d put it in my description. But I will look near and far before I decide definitively that I must.

    ~V

    • avatar

      ryan

      January 5, 2012 at 9:58 am

      I don’t think chain ends are necessarily plated on chains that are sterling silver…if it’s magnetic that can just be from the steel spring inside of the lobster claw, it’ll give a weak magnetism.

  7. avatar

    Don

    August 3, 2011 at 11:59 am

    It is true that Sterling Silver is NOT magnetic and it says 925, then it is not supposed to react to a magnet.

    However, some sterling silver jewelry are react to a magnet. But it does not mean that they are NOT sterling silver.

    Nowadays, many jewelry manufacturers try to re-finishing to sterling silver jewelry in various way to improving the looks and longivity decoloring of silver. Most common finishing is called “Rhodium Finishing”. Rhodium Finishing is very popular to people because sterling silver jewelry with R.H. finish are looks like the real white gold look. And also, because of the R.H. coating over sterling silver, it helps not to oxidizing silver quickly. However, in long period time, Rhodium finishing will be worn out, and need to be refinished (Replating Rhodium). Most of jewelers will provide the service less than $10 a piece. Those Rhodium Finished Sterling Silver Jewelry are very attractive to a magnet.

    I have been assaying Sterling silver jewelry that importing from Italy, Turkey, China, Korea, & Thailand in 15 years.
    99.9% times, the result shows 98% of sterling silver contains (require only 92.5%)

    Not all common sense are ture or fact.

    • avatar

      ryan

      October 30, 2011 at 4:44 am

      Rhodium is in the platinum family and not magnetic, but I have come across some .925 sterling pieces stamped “Italy” that are weakly magnetic and I’ve been told, but am not 100% sure, that it contains a little nickel to make it “sterling”. Also, silver plated copper or brass fake jewelry will not be magnetic at all. I’ve also read Mexican sterling silver might be coated with nickel because it’s cheaper than rhodium so it may be slightly magnetic as well and cause allergic reactions if you’re allergic to nickel.

  8. avatar

    rosevincent

    November 13, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    hello,
    I am so glad you wrote this. So many people are fooled when they see silver…or German silver which contains no silver at all. I am looking to get into jewelry again. This time I will not place an order with overseas or domestic company unless i can buy a few piece to test them. The test kit is cheap enough and easy enough to use.
    I always was taught the first test was a magnet…and then a acid test…where you can file or scratch a piece on the test slab and add the appropriate acid drop for whatever metal you are testing for…I used to do this is a jewelry store all the time…the test kits are so cheap on amazon…pays to buy one..
    I love what was written here..It is truly unfair to the consumer and other reputable dealer to try and pass off 925 or Sterling silver when it is probably just another silver colored metal..

    also beware some people are allergic to german silver..and other alloys…My Mom and I are, our skin turns black and we get that nasty itchy earlobe bubble thing…so it pays to tell the truth…some people do not mind an alloy…I even like some stainless cool stuff…so i would always tell the truth…it is worth it…

    • avatar

      ryan

      January 5, 2012 at 10:11 am

      I read on a site using French’s mustard on the silver item and heating the mustard with a lighter and after washing off if it forms a black tarnish it’s silver…but I’m not sure if that just shows it’s either silver plate or solid sterling….I would think it would only tell you what the surface was…maybe if you scratch test it it still might work. I’ve also read you can tell sterling plate over the real thing by the shine, if it’s extra shiny and mirror-like or has bubble imperfections it’s silver plate. What makes that tricky is when it’s white gold or rhodium plated but that metal is whiter I believe than silver. Also, supposed you can tell real silver over plated by scent….plated copper or brass is supposed to have a metallic “brassy” smell, I guess like a penny; while real silver shouldn’t have a smell. I guess it has to do with ions or bacteria since silver is naturally antibacterial but I’m not sure. I tried this myself but you have to have a keen sense of smell. I also use a rare earth magnet but I believe that only works on telling if it’s not plated when it’s strongly magnetic–I’ve had Italian silver pieces be slightly magnetic and I still believe they’re genuine silver….but may contain nickel as an alloy (which is magnetic). My main bit of advice is not to buy any silver or gold from China.

  9. avatar

    Jen

    January 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    DID ANYONE ELSE NOTICE THAT THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION REGULATIONS say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about marking jewelry 925 ????????.
    I have been buying scrap gold and silver for several years now and will not buy anything magnetic.
    The worst offenders are the newer 925 jewelry. Honey, I don’t care if you bought it at Macys, JCPenney, or wherever… I am not offering anything for it if it is magnetic. (Clasps are the only exception – steel spring inside)

  10. avatar

    PM Booth

    April 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you for the information you all have provided. I especially appreciate that which addresssed the differences in sterling silver vs silver plate etc. & what the markings represent (or should represent). Although some of the “authoritative” responses appear to be contratictory, it obviously points to the need for us “everyday consumers” to educate ourselves further about the products we purchase & the credibility of the seller. As some of you pointed out, buyers also need to be more diligent in reporting those who engage in unfair & deceptive trade. The honest businessman who offers a quality product should not suffer because we as consumers are too apathetic or too “busy” to report an unethical seller. Personally, because of my own ignorance (my problem/my responsibility) in this particular area i.e real vs fake, have been duped into purchasing fake silver jewelry (& yes I reported it). But I still adhere to the old saying “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”

    • avatar

      Rosemary De Robertis

      July 22, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Having a great coin collection,I decided to start buying jewelry. I now find , a “TOP SELLER “ON EBAY who I asked about a necklace.First question as always, is it real .925 sterling silver.She replied yes it stamped on clasp!I asked a few more questions telling her I know my silver . She then admiited the jewelry is all silver PLATE but they put a stamped .925 clasp on it!!!I said what you are doing is NOT LEGAL!!Mind you she is selling thousands of this costume made in china crap as the real thing! So now even if they show pictures of the clasp saying sterling .925 ,is it??I got suspious as when I read her feedback most of it was as a buyer. So I looked into who she was buyng from you guessed it China). I viewed the items she bought and they were the same crap she is selling now.At double to triple the price.I didn’t know this went on . Now a stamped clasp means nothing. You need to find a trusted seller, Read feedback do your homework before investing in transactions.It will save you the hassel in the end.

  11. avatar

    Laura

    May 1, 2012 at 1:17 am

    I’ve bought 2 sets earrings at Kohl’s advertised as “sterling” which stick to a magnet. So I agree with the woman who won’t buy any silver that sticks to a magnet, including that bought from “reputable” department stores.

  12. avatar

    rick

    October 24, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Every, and I mean every chain I bid on and won from Ebay was magnetic and I sent it back. I will never buy any silver jewelry from there again.Beware and bring your magnet if you are shopping ANYWHERE for silver and don’t believe what they tell you when the silver turns out to be magnetic. Word to the wise.

  13. avatar

    Rick

    October 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Hi….i,ve bought a lot of silver over the years, i do the magnet test and the acid test…if the piece has a hard pull on a magnet it is plated…and i don,t waist my time with an acid test…if the piece has a light pull it could have a base metal like nickel which is magnetic….i,ve tested these pieces with acid and they tested positive for sterling silver if you have any questionable pieces get an acid test kit. the magnet test is not very effective…acid test is

  14. avatar

    Pat

    November 26, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    ok… I unknowingly bought a sterling ‘silver’ necklace from china…NOT SILVER… acid tested, yet it is stamped and they claim on ebay it is silver. Not worth sending it back… caveat em-tore…
    However…I’m perplexed about another item… marked vintage… sold as 925 and stamped. Acid test showed it’s not silver, but platinum test proved positive. Is that possible? why then the 925 stamp? Any ideas? Oh and it was supposed to be Amethyst, strange…color changing amethyst…I might be done with ebay.

  15. avatar

    Jan

    February 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I have charms from the 1965 and 1970 that are flat, in the shape of a girl’s head in profile, with name and birth date engraved on them that are stamped SPENCER STERLING. They are very magnetic. I see a lot of Spencer Sterling on eBay, including a charm almost identical to the ones I have. They are listed as sterling silver.
    Also checked 925 silver jewelry I bought new in stores and some of it was magnetic, especially the ones marked China.

  16. avatar

    scott

    May 9, 2013 at 9:20 am

    my wife and I just came home from a cruise, our first! she wanted very badly to buy me a “HOOK” bracelet on St. Thomas. supposedly this was the only island to have them. we could not find one exactly my size, but I thought no biggie, I will bend it a little when we get home. when I did this a piece flaked off! my first hint it was plated. and yes, it was stamped 925. after doing a small amount of silver soldering to fill in the bad spot, out of curiosity I put a magnet to it. boy was I surprised! the magnet stuck! I have a sterling cuff I got in Cozumel 20 yrs. ago and the magnet did not stick. SO, if you go to ST. Thomas and want to buy a HOOK bracelet, which are very nice, TAKE A MAGNET WITH YOU! if it sticks, walk away.

    • avatar

      scott

      May 9, 2013 at 9:24 am

      also, we were told by several jewelers that rhodium is what makes yellow gold into white gold. I do not know if this is true, but that is what they said. but they all said all of their silver items were 925 “pure” sterling silver too!!!!!!!!

  17. avatar

    scott

    May 9, 2013 at 9:31 am

    several people said that a magnet will adhere to nickel. I am not a coin expert, but I got a nickel coin, and used a magnet on it, and it did not stick! what’s up with the discrepancy?

    • avatar

      silverchick

      May 22, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      Nickel coins are made of 75% copper and 25% nickel.

      • avatar

        Will Morgan

        January 10, 2015 at 11:33 am

        So, if a nickel (5 cents) is 25% nickel and does not stick to a magnet (it doesn’t, I’ve tried it), how could sterling which is (possibly) 7.5% nickel stick?

  18. avatar

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  19. avatar

    Linda Petersen

    December 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Hi there, I am in the process of claiming a refund for 2
    necklaces bought on Ebay. They seemed very light & whiter than I expected when they arrived, but I was assured they were “solid Sterling Silver”.
    4 hours after wearing one my neck & whole chest area was covered with an angry, weeping rash. I know I am very sensitive to nickel,
    which is why I double checked!
    On contacting the seller I was given the “never heard of a problem before”, & asked if I had an animal allergy!!! She still insists
    the items are genuine, she onsells from Silvernyc 123…any info?
    I had been an avid Ebayer, no more.

  20. avatar

    Reva

    March 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Much of the Sterling from Mexico used nickel with or even in place of copper in the silver mix to bring it down from .999 to .925. Some of the Sterling from Europe was alloyed with Nickel rather than or in addition to Copper as well. This practice was stopped for the most part in the USA because a lot of people are allergic to nickel.
    25+ years ago I reacted badly to the first mail order Sterling Chain & Wire I ordered from a reputable Jewelry Supply company. It was .925 Silver with a small amount of nickel in with the copper.
    They changed up suppliers & replaced my items but once in awhile I still come across pieces that are technically .925 Sterling Silver but NOT Nickel free.

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