The Science Behind Real Silver and Magnetism

No, real silver is not magnetic. Silver, like other noble metals, will not be attracted by a magnet; therefore, the magnet test is one way to test real silver.

Why is Silver Not Magnetic?

Real Silver Magnetic

Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag and atomic number 47, and it belongs to the group of metals known as the noble metals, which also includes gold, platinum, and palladium. These metals are non-magnetic and have low electrical conductivity, making them suitable for use in jewelry and other decorative items.

Silver is not magnetic with even the strongest magnets because it is a diamagnetic metal. Diamagnetic metals are weakly repelled by a magnet, unlike ferromagnetic ones, which have a strong attraction to magnets. Paramagnetic metals are metals that have a light attraction to magnets.

Magnetic metals are not as common as some people think. Iron, nickel, cobalt, neodymium, samarium, and gadolinium are the few magnetic metals we regularly interact with.

How to Test if Silver is Magnetic

Several ways exist to confirm the non-magnetic nature of silver.

1. Small Magnets

Small magnets are the most common way to check if your silver is magnetic. You can buy these magnets at low prices, and they are the type you’ll find in speakers and other devices that require magnets.

Small magnets work well to pull metals such as iron because they are ferromagnetic.

However, you’ll notice no reaction when you place a small magnet close to your silver jewelry.

2. Neodymium Magnets

Neodymium Magnet
Neodymium Magnets

neodymium magnet is the most common type of permanent rare-earth magnet. Neodymium magnets are made from an alloy of neodymium, iron, and boron. They are the strongest type of commercial-grade permanent magnet, making them useful in gadgets that require strong magnets.

Pure silver will not react when you place a neodymium magnet close. However, you’ll observe a repellant reaction when you move the magnet through the front of the silver (without touching it). This repellant reaction is a display of Lenz’s Law.

3. Magnetic Slide

magnetic slide comprises several neodymium magnets arranged in an inclined shape. These machines do not need any chemicals or electrical power to function. 

You can apply the magnetic slide test by placing the silver at the top of the slide and observing how it slides down. Diamagnetism causes silver to move slowly through a strong magnetic field. 

Therefore, if your jewelry gets stuck to the slide, it’s magnetic and not real silver. Also, it’s not made of real silver if it slides down rapidly.

Is Sterling Silver Magnetic?

Sterling silver (also known as 925 silver) is a type of silver alloy that consists of 92.5% silver and other metals. Silver is alloyed with a stronger metal because pure silver is too soft for daily use. 

In theory, sterling silver can be magnetic if it’s alloyed with a magnetic metal like iron. However, this is unlikely since two non-magnetic metals– copper and zinc– are the most common silver alloys.

What if My Silver Jewelry is Magnetic?

Several explanations are possible for your silver jewelry to fail the magnet test.

1. Fake

Your “silver jewelry” might be magnetic if it’s fake. Silver is one of several “white metals,” and it’s not uncommon for metals like stainless steel to be marked as silver. 

The best way to avoid buying fake silver jewelry is to purchase your jewelry from trusted brands. Using an XRF Analyzer is the most reliable way to test if your jewelry is made of real silver.

2. Silver Plated

Some types of silver-plated jewelry might also fail the magnet test. Jewelers often use silver as jewelry plating because of its tarnish-resistant qualities. Silver plating is a thin layer of melted silver used to cover a base metal underneath. 

Silver-plated jewelry
Silver-plated jewelry

The appearance of silver-plated jewelry is identical to real silver; some people capitalize on this to sell it as silver. However, the silver content is too small to be considered real silver; furthermore, it will wear off with use.

3. Magnetic Parts

Real silver jewelry might have parts made out of magnetic metal, causing it to fail the magnet test. Parts like the hook, clasp, or pendant are usually made from magnetic metal. Some clasps even work with a magnetic mechanism.

The best way to perform the silver magnet test is to focus on the main parts of the jewelry and avoid the ones stated above.

4. Rhodium Plated

Jewelers use rhodium plating on white metal jewelry like silver. Rhodium is part of the platinum metal family; it’s a hard metal that protects silver jewelry from tarnishes and scratches.

Rhodium is not a magnetic metal; however, the plating process might require the use of nickel. A thin nickel layer is sometimes applied on the sterling silver base before plating it with rhodium. The nickel layer is added to protect the silver from reacting to the sulfuric acid in the rhodium bath. 

Nickel is a magnetic metal, and a strong magnet might get a reaction from silver jewelry.

5. Mixed with Magnetic Metal

Your silver might react to a magnet if silver is alloyed with a metallic metal like zinc or iron. While these magnetic metals aren’t often used in sterling silver, it’s worth double-checking your jewelry with an XRF Analyzer.