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Being visually impaired, looking at the color of a utensil doesn't tell me whether it's silver or not, so I'm wondering if there are other easy ways than simply "tasting the utensil" to tell if it is silver or (stainless) steel.

I'm wondering mainly because I've understood placing silver items in the dishwasher may cause discoloration in both the stainless steel and the silver itself.

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To comment on the dishwasher part, so long as the items do not touch, you should be fine. After big dinners at my parents, the left side of the cutlery rack was silver, the right stainless. Worked fine for us. –  sdg Nov 30 '10 at 0:45
    
@sdg: That's good to know. –  oKtosiTe Nov 30 '10 at 0:53

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This isn't a perfect test, but a magnet won't stick to a silver utensil whereas it will stick to most other metal utensils (i.e., stainless steel).

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D'oh! Thank you. It's a good start! –  oKtosiTe Nov 30 '10 at 0:21
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Hmm, do be careful there. Silver is non-ferrous yes, but much silver these days is silver plate. You may well get some reaction with the magnet, so not sure that is a good test. –  sdg Nov 30 '10 at 14:29
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Not all stainless steel is magnetic. It depends on what has been added to make it "stainless". Chromium doesn't affect the magnetic nature of the iron, but adding nickel does. –  Doug Johnson-Cookloose Nov 30 '10 at 22:53
    
@Doug You've gotten that reversed. The magnetic metals are Iron, Cobalt and Nickel. Chromium is not magnetic. I don't see how adding nickel would affect the magnetic nature of iron in stainless steel. –  ghoppe Dec 1 '10 at 18:03
    
@Doug OK, I've done some research and I understand your point. Adding nickel and chromium to the steel makes stainless steel non-magnetic. If you add just chromium to steel, it retains its magnetic properties. –  ghoppe Dec 1 '10 at 18:09

Unfortunately, not knowing the state of your utensils, answering 'silver feels rough' implies your utensils are already slightly tarnished. My recommendation is, assuming that we are referring to a limited amount of silverware that you will be using infrequently anyway, store it separately so that you have a mental organization of where the silver is.

Obviously this will not help if you are holding two spoons; one silver and one stainless in your hand. However, you likely will be able to commit to memory a sense of contrast between the weighting/balance of how each one feels in your hand and a comparison between the actual shape/design of the two.

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To answer the related question: if you put PURE silver in the dishwasher with ANY OTHER METAL, it will discolor (two metals in an electrolyte cause galvanic coupling). You should also only use mild soaps. Nothing harsh (Most soaps will say "safe for silver" or something similar). If you put plated silver in the dishwasher, it can set up a galvanic reaction with itself...And it doesn't take much to wash the plating off, so you should never put plated silver in the wash.

However, if you do a silver-only load (or silver and glass), and you use a mild soap, you should have no problems.

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Thanks for the tip! In actuality, I'm just gonna avoid putting anything silver in the dishwasher altogether. Mainly because I don't own nearly enough silverware to fill it up, but also because I have an aversion to the flavor/odor silver utensils give off in combinations with certain foods. –  oKtosiTe Nov 30 '10 at 15:15

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