5 Tricks To Finding Real Silver At Thrift Stores

Thrift stores, the wonderful wonderlands of the unique and the unexpected, can feel like grand quests for the discerning treasure hunter. Behind the rows of well-worn books, colorful glassware, and countless trinkets lie undiscovered gems just waiting to be found. One such treasure is real silver – an element that not only carries aesthetic charm but also substantial value. Whether you’re a seasoned thrifter, a budding antique collector, or a casual shopper drawn to the allure of silver, the prospect of finding real silver items in these veritable treasure chests is exciting, to say the least.

Silver can often be hidden amongst the ordinary, camouflaged as just another piece of everyday cutlery, jewelry, or decor. However, with a keen eye, some patience, and a little insider knowledge, you can potentially strike silver in the most unexpected places. This blog post is intended as your map to this adventurous journey. We’ll delve into the various ways you can identify and find real silver in thrift stores, unraveling the secrets that these often overlooked items hold.

From understanding silver markings to recognizing the weight and sound of genuine silverware, this guide will provide you with practical tips to navigate your next thrift store visit. Read on and embark on a thrilling adventure, filled with the anticipation of discovery, the joy of the find, and perhaps, the glint of real silver.

How To Identify Real Silver In A Thrift Shop?

Finding real silver in a thrift shop can be a rewarding endeavor if you know what to look for. Here are some strategies and tips for identifying genuine silver:

Look for Markings: Real silver items are often stamped with specific markings that indicate their silver content. These markings are usually found on the underside of an object or the inside of jewelry. Some common markings include:

“Sterling”: This means the item is made of 92.5% silver combined with other metals, so not 100 percent pure.

“925”: This is another marking that represents sterling silver. It’s based on the fact that the item is 925 parts per thousand, or 92.5%, silver.

“800” or “900”: These markings indicate a lower purity of silver. “800” means the item is 80% silver, while “900” indicates a 90% silver content.

Silver hallmarks: If you’re in a country with a history of strict silver standards like the UK, you may find more complex silver hallmarks. These often include a series of tiny markings representing the purity, the maker, the city of manufacture, and the date.

The Weight Test: Silver is a fairly dense metal, heavier than many other metals used in household items. If an item feels unusually heavy for its size, that could be an indication it’s made of silver. However, this isn’t a foolproof test, as other metals like lead and pewter can also be heavy.

The Sound Test: Silver has a unique ring to it when tapped gently, unlike any other metal. It produces a high-pitched, resonant tone that lasts for about 1-2 seconds. Tapping the edge of a coin is a good way to test this.

The Magnet Test: Silver is not magnetic. If you have a strong magnet, like a rare-earth magnet, you can test the item. If it sticks to the magnet, it’s not made of silver.

The Acid Test: This should be the last resort due to the destructive nature of this test. Acid testing kits can be purchased online or from jewelry supply stores. If a drop of acid is placed on the metal and the area turns a green, creamy color, the item is likely made of silver.

Remember, while these tips can be helpful, they’re not definitive. There are always exceptions, and some counterfeit silver items can pass these tests. If you’re ever in doubt or if the item is valuable, consider seeking professional appraisal. Happy hunting!

How To Find Real Silver At Thrift Stores

Cane Heads

Cane heads, or the knobs at the top of walking canes, can indeed be overlooked items of value in thrift stores, particularly if they are made from real silver. Often a symbol of status and wealth in bygone eras, cane heads crafted from precious metals can hide in plain sight amidst the plethora of ordinary items in thrift stores. Here’s how to identify silver cane heads:

Study the Appearance: Silver ages with a distinct patina that is often a dark, grayish-black tarnish. This can often be mistaken for dirt or grime by those unaware of what they’re handling. If you see a canehead with this type of tarnish, it might be worth taking a closer look.

Look for Markings: Just like silverware and jewelry, silver caneheads may have small markings that signify their silver content. Check for “Sterling,” “925,” “800,” or “900” markings, typically found on the lower side of the canehead or possibly underneath. Sometimes, there might also be a maker’s mark, which can provide valuable information about the origin and age of the cane.

Check the Weight: If the canehead is unusually heavy for its size, it could be an indication of silver. Silver is denser and heavier than many other commonly used metals.

Perform the Sound Test: If possible, gently tap the canehead. Silver has a distinct ring when tapped that lasts for a few seconds. However, do this cautiously to avoid causing any damage.

Use a Magnet: Silver isn’t magnetic. If the canehead is attracted to a strong magnet, it’s not made of silver.

Observe the Craftsmanship: Antique silver caneheads often come with intricate designs and high-quality craftsmanship, another sign that you might be holding a piece of valuable silver.

Remember, cane heads can be easily overlooked due to their unassuming nature. They are typically seen as part of the cane, rather than a separate entity that could be made from valuable material. Armed with these tips, you’ll be ready to spot these hidden treasures on your next thrift store visit. However, if you suspect you’ve found a silver cane head and its value seems substantial, consider seeking a professional appraisal to confirm its authenticity and worth. Happy hunting!

Belt Buckles

Belt buckles can indeed be an overlooked source of real silver in thrift stores. They might appear unassuming or even outdated, but they can sometimes be made from valuable metals, including silver.

Here’s how you can spot silver belt buckles in thrift stores:

Check for Hallmarks: Silver belt buckles, like other silver items, will typically bear markings indicating their silver content. Look for the words “Sterling,” “925,” “800,” or “900,” which all signify different levels of silver purity. The hallmark is often small and can be located in a discreet area on the back or side of the buckle.

Weight: Silver is a relatively dense metal. If the buckle feels heavy for its size, that could be an indication that it’s made from silver. However, be aware that other metals like pewter or lead can also be heavy.

Patina: Over time, silver develops a unique patina—a dark, grayish-black tarnish. If a buckle seems tarnished in this way, it might be worth a closer look.

Magnet Test: Silver is not magnetic. Bring a strong magnet (like a rare-earth magnet) with you to the thrift store, and if the buckle sticks to it, it’s not made of silver.

Sound Test: Genuine silver has a unique ring to it when tapped gently. If the buckle produces a clear, lingering, bell-like sound, it may be real silver.

Craftsmanship: Often, silver items, including belt buckles, exhibit a high level of craftsmanship with intricate designs and detailed carvings.

Remember, these tests are only indicators and aren’t foolproof. Some silver-plated items or high-quality replicas might pass some of these tests. If you’re ever uncertain about a potentially valuable item, consider seeking a professional appraisal.


Discovering real silver statues in a thrift store can feel like finding a needle in a haystack, but it’s not impossible. Often, knowing what brands or manufacturers to look for can significantly increase your chances.

Here are some notable brands and markers to keep in mind:

Tiffany & Co.: Renowned for their sterling silver jewelry, Tiffany & Co. has also produced a range of silver objects, including small statues and figurines. Look for the Tiffany & Co. stamp along with “Sterling” or “925” to confirm it’s silver.

Georg Jensen: This Danish brand is famous for its high-quality silver items. Their statues and figurines often bear the Georg Jensen stamp along with a series of other marks indicating the silver purity, year of manufacture, and designer.

Reed & Barton: An American brand known for its fine silver, Reed & Barton has a wide range of silver items including statues. Their silver objects typically carry the “Reed & Barton” name along with “Sterling” or “925”.

Gorham Manufacturing Company: Another American brand, Gorham, is famous for its sterling silverware and has produced a variety of decorative objects. Look for the Gorham hallmark along with “Sterling” or “925”.

Cartier: Though primarily known for jewelry and watches, Cartier has also produced a range of silver objects. Items will typically be marked with “Cartier” along with an indication of silver purity.

Old Flutes

Music instruments, particularly flutes, are items that are often overlooked in thrift stores for their potential silver content. Many high-quality flutes are crafted from silver, known for its unique resonance that offers a warm, rich sound. These flutes can be valuable finds, not just for their silver content, but also as playable instruments or collectors’ items.

Here are some ways to identify silver flutes and the brands to look for:

Look for Markings: Much like jewelry and silverware, real silver flutes are often stamped with markings indicating their silver content. These markings are usually located on the head joint, body, or foot joint. Typical markings include “Sterling,” “925,” “Ag,” or “Silver”. Some flutes might only have a silver head joint, so make sure to check all parts of the flute.

Brands to Look For: Certain flute manufacturers are known for their silver flutes. Some examples include:

Yamaha: Renowned globally for their musical instruments, Yamaha produces a range of flutes. Some of their intermediate and professional models, such as those in the 600 and 700 series, have head joints, bodies, and foot joints made of sterling silver.

Gemeinhardt: A well-known flute manufacturer, Gemeinhardt offers models made entirely of silver. The model number 33SB, for instance, is made of solid silver.

Pearl Flutes: Pearl’s Quantz series offers flutes with solid silver head joints, while their Elegante and Dolce series often feature flutes made entirely of sterling silver.

Haynes: Known for its handmade flutes, Haynes creates high-quality instruments that are often crafted from sterling silver or even 14k gold.

Muramatsu: A prestigious Japanese brand, Muramatsu’s flutes are often made from solid silver.

Weight and Sound: Silver flutes are generally heavier than their nickel or brass counterparts, due to the density of silver. Additionally, they tend to produce a distinctive warm, rich sound.

Appearance and Patina: Silver flutes may show a certain amount of tarnish, a dark, grayish-black coating that develops over time due to the silver reacting with sulfur-containing substances in the air.

Old Cutlery

Cutlery is a classic category where real silver can be found, especially in thrift stores. Antique silver cutlery sets were a standard in wealthy households and are still regarded as a symbol of elegance and refinement. They can also be quite valuable, both for their silver content and their collectability.

Here are some ways to identify silver cutlery and the brands to look for:

Look for Hallmarks or Stamps: Real silver cutlery is often stamped with marks indicating their silver content, typically found on the handle of the piece. These markings include “Sterling,” “925,” “800,” “900,” or other similar marks. In some countries, specific symbols or maker’s marks denote silver content, so a bit of research can go a long way.

Brands to Look For: Certain cutlery manufacturers are known for their silver products. Some examples include:

Gorham: An American manufacturer famous for its sterling silverware. Look for the Gorham hallmark, often a lion, anchor, and the letter G, along with “Sterling” or “925”.

Tiffany & Co.: Renowned for their sterling silver, Tiffany & Co. has produced a range of high-quality cutlery. Items should be marked with “Tiffany & Co.” along with “Sterling” or “925”.

Reed & Barton: Known for their fine silver, Reed & Barton’s cutlery typically carries the “Reed & Barton” name along with “Sterling” or “925”.

Oneida: While Oneida is best known for stainless steel flatware, they did produce some lines of sterling silver flatware. These pieces should be marked with “Oneida” and “Sterling”.

Wallace Silversmiths: Another American brand known for its sterling silver cutlery. Look for the “Wallace” name along with “Sterling”.

Weight and Patina: Silver cutlery often has a substantial feel due to the density of silver. Over time, silver develops a unique patina—a dark, grayish-black tarnish. If the cutlery has this kind of tarnish, it could be silver.

Magnet Test: Silver is not magnetic. Use a strong magnet (like a rare-earth magnet) to help determine if the cutlery is made of silver. If it sticks to the magnet, it’s not silver.

Remember, just because cutlery passes these tests doesn’t definitively mean it’s made from real silver. Some items are silver-plated, which will test positive for silver but don’t contain enough silver to be of significant value.

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