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How to Avoid Buying Fake Sterling Silver

A big part of my business ethic includes ensuring that every product I make is of premium quality.  Small Saints custom fibre art pendants are created by my hand. However, the sterling silver I use for the settings and chains is supplied.

It is important to me personally, and part of my business model, to ensure all of my jewelry settings and chains are high quality and that I purchase them from a Canadian or other North American supplier. It is also imperative that the silver jewelry itself is manufactured in a democratic country.  In Small Saint's case, our sterling silver jewelry is manufactured either in Mexico, Italy, Germany, USA or Israel.

Naturally, when sourcing my sterling silver suppliers, as well as surveying my competition, the topic of off-shore knock-offs and fake sterling silver came up. While I was well aware of fraudulently labelled 'handmade' products being sold on online craft platforms, I was not as aware of the huge prevalence of fake sterling silver jewelry, from China, being sold on popular online retail platforms. Retailers can unwittingly get duped into buying this fake sterling silver too.

A '925' stamp is not necessarily a guarantee that the sterling silver is real, and the 925 sterling silver stamp has been used on fake jewelry from China.

Here is how to avoid being duped:

  • APPEARANCE.  Real sterling silver may have an ingraved 'quality' tag on the jewelry. For instance, I will often see 'Italy' or 'Germany' engraved on larger pieces. Beware however, as these stamps can be used fraudulently. Your brand new sterling silver should also be a little bit grey looking. If it is a very bright white (due to a rhodium plating), start asking questions.  The photograph below is used as an example to illustrate the colour difference.


real vs fake sterling silver colour

  • PRICE. Silver has a base value determined by the market. For instance, my suppliers will quote to me prices in terms of $/gram. Your purchase price should reflect the value of the silver, and therefore it should be more expensive. If your sterling silver purchase price 'it too good to be true', it probably is.
  • SMELL. Real sterling silver does not have a detectable smell. If it smells a little like copper or brass, it is probably fake.
  • OXIDATION. True 925 sterling silver oxidizes (and turns black) when exposed to air. Therefore, another way to test your silver is to use a polishing cloth on it. If the cloth presents with black marks after this process, your silver is real.


Don't feel ashamed if you think you may have been duped in the past.  Use the experience as a lesson, and be vigilant in the future.

Small Saints welcomes any questions or input about our sterling silver products or sterling silver suppliers.



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