We’re all familiar with the concept of fool’s gold – we’ve seen countless images in TV and movies where people take a gold coin, bite into it, and check to see if they’ve really got gold on their hands. You might even be aware of what separates fool’s gold from real gold – gold’s softness, and fool’s gold’s brittleness.

But what about another one of the precious metals – silver? Silver is considerably less valuable than gold, sure, but it’s still more valuable than many of the other metals. Do people take the time to produce “fool’s silver,” and if there is a fool’s silver, how can you learn to avoid it?

Let’s take a look at silver to better understand what might make “fool’s silver” a poor substitute.

The properties of silver

First, like gold, silver is a precious metal with an inherent softness. Silver also has a high conductivity of electricity as well as temperature, with a specific density and melting point, like the other elements.

Silver is more than just an element on a scientific chart, however – it is a precious metal we use for decoration, jewelry, and even silverware, taking a place in our everyday lives. If we’re so intimate with it, it would make sense that we could easily identify it, right? But in actuality, if you’re not educated about silver, you might not be aware of how much silver really is around you.

First, what we know as silver might actually be a substance known as sterling silver – a silver and other-metal-mixture that is still technically “silver,” but has a lesser purity than fine silver, which is virtually pure. Sterling silver can still be valuable, and it is found in household objects like cutlery and silverware.

Other objects might be mostly silver but mixed with another, cheaper metal that is stronger than silver and adds a little more hardness to the compound once they are fashioned together.

Is there a fool’s silver?

Now that you have a better idea of what constitutes silver, it’s time to look at what might constitute fool’s silver. Fool’s gold is a substance that merely looks like gold and does not maintain its properties.

In the information above, you learned that silver is often mixed with other metals in order to harden it. (As a side note, silver is also found and mined from other elements, such as nickel and copper). One such metal that silver might be mixed with – and which bears a good resemblance to silver – is nickel.

Nickel is also an element on the periodic table, perhaps a distant cousin to silver because it shares a similar appearance and is also used in coins. Nickel is frequently used in silverware, like silver itself, and will frequently be found as paired with silver in certain household alloys.

If anyone were to make “fool’s silver,” they could certainly use nickel to try to swindle someone who couldn’t tell the difference between silver and other gray metals.

How to tell nickel from silver

Like fool’s gold and gold, silver and nickel share a few properties, but are vastly different in others. Nickel is less dense than silver, meaning it will often be lighter to the touch, and – perhaps an even more drastic difference – nickel is a magnetic metal, while silver is not.

To the trained eye, telling between nickel and silver will likely not be as hard, as it does not retain a pure silver color. Instead, it is better described as “silvery” with perhaps a gloss to it that might take the tint of white or gold.

Separating your own silver for selling online

If you’re concerned about the quality of your silver – or even concerned that your silver really “isn’t” silver – this brief guide about fool’s silver might help you realize that you really do have some amount of silver on your hands. Other ways to verify a silver’s purity will be to check for measurements and labels, such as the “sterling” label that shows you the compound you own is at least 92.5% silver.

You can turn to a precious metal broker online for a true evaluation of the silver in your possession, particularly if you’re looking to sell scrap silver that you don’t need to use anymore. Since precious metal brokers melt down its precious metals for recycling and re-use, they’ll be able to make a fair offer on the silver in your possession, finally confirming in your mind whether you have owned silver or “fool’s silver” all this time.