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The most crucial question a silver investor can ask is this: how do I know the silver which I have purchased is genuine and not fake?

Although some of the modern fake coins (and bars) are excellent forgeries, there are some simple ways of testing whether a coin or bar is genuine silver.

The first is the ‘ping test’. Gently place the middle of the coin on the inside of your index finger (it is preferable to wear cotton gloves when handling silver coins to avoid greasing the coin with skin oils for this will probable cause unsightly marks) and strike it ‘softly’ with another silver coin. If you hear a ping, the coin is genuine silver. I realise that this test may seem unsophisticated, but real silver has a ping, while other metals that often make up fake silver (copper, lead, or bronze) will not have this sound property.

The second test is to simply measure the exact dimensions of the coin with a calliper. Each coin has a specific diameter, thickness, and of course, must weigh 31.103 grams. For example, an American Silver Eagle should measure 40.6 mm in diameter, 2.98 mm in thickness, and weigh 31.1 grams. If any of these measurements are out by more than 1%, the coin is probably not genuine. So, for example, an American Silver Eagle that is 40.6 x 2.98 in terms of measurements, but weighs 29.01 grams is more than likely not genuine. The same applies if the coin weighs 31.1 grams, but the diameter is out by a millimetre.

In the case of the Johnson Matthey 1 oz silver bars, the dimensions are 50.4/29.7/2.7 millimetres, and, should weigh 31.1 grams (plus the plastic sleeve may add a little extra). Since silver has a specific atomic density, only real silver will have the exact combination of measurements. Fake bars or coins will probably have the same dimensions, but the weight will be way off (by way off, I mean 3 grams).

The third option is more complicated and somewhat destructive and potentially damaging to the coin, so I would not recommend it. It is called the specific gravity test. The coin is first weighed (measurement 1), then weighed again in water (measurement 2), and the ratio then calculated. In practical terms, this test would require that water in a bowl is placed on a scale (one that measures at least to two decimal places) and set on zero. A one troy ounce coin is then hung on a piece of thin cotton and lowered into the water (preferably set up using a tripod over the bowl of water already on the scale). Once the coin is static and not touching any of the sides or the bottom of the water, the weight of the coin (measurement 1) should be divided by the weight of the coin in the water (measurement 2). The result should be 10.49, which is the specific gravity of genuine silver. For example, 31.103 grams (1 oz. of silver) divided by the measurement of the silver in water (e.g. 2.987), should provide a measurement of 10.49 for genuine silver (a small margin of error is permissible due to the weight of the cotton and some impurities in the water).

When it comes to peace of mind, my sincere recommendation is to simply stick with registered and reputable dealers. At Silver-Sphere Trading, I personally guarantee that my bars and coins are genuine silver, and possess certificates of origin for each shipment. I also do not purchase silver from private individuals which I later re-sell, precisely to avoid inadvertently purchasing a very good quality fake bar or coin which may have me fooled.

If you have any questions about this post or what Silver-Sphere Trading has to offer you, please feel free to contact me on sales@silver-sphere.co.za.

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