I am alarmed at the proliferation of silver plated components made to look identical to sterling components, especially Hill Tribe pieces. Since none of the sterling or fine silver pieces are ever stamped, how is one to know if what they are buying is truly fine silver? I don't use plated components, and this trend seems to make it awfully easy for a buyer to be misled.
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads offers Hill Tribes beads and components in both fine silver and plated metals. Expertly handcrafted, the plated-metal beads maintain the same superior quality jewelry designers have come to expect from the Hill Tribes artisans and it may be difficult to visually distinguish the difference. Most fine silver beads will not have a stamp as it is likely to detract from their decorative beauty. If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is, as the precious metal market fluctuates and is set universally every week. One way to test a bead will unfortunately damage it. The process is to nick or scratch a small discreet area of the metal with a file. If the piece still looks silver and didn't reveal itself as plated with this test, then put a drop of nitric acid on the scratched spot. If the piece is silver it will turn a cream color. Metals that have a high copper content such as brass or nickel silver will turn green. The best way to avoid being duped is to buy from a reputable dealer that guarantees their products.