According to eBay, one way to find out if a sterling-silver tea set is made out of real silver is to pay attention to its coloring. Most silver is mixed with other alloys such as copper. Low-grade silver often has a slightly orange tint to it due to the high amount of copper in the metal.
eBay says that all silver needs other alloys to be mixed with it to make it workable. Without the presence of copper, the silver is too soft to work with. Sterling silver needs to be at least 92.5 percent pure silver. Once it drops between 92 and 90 percent silver, it is known as coin silver. If the presence of silver drops between 89 and 80 percent, it is considered German silver. The highest amount of silver present in a piece of metal is 95.8, and this is known as Britannia silver. This type of silver is usually very soft, so it is not suitable for a tea set.
According to eBay, people can also tell if their tea sets are real silver by paying attention to tarnishing. Both copper and silver tarnish when they are exposed to the elements. However, silver has a higher resistance than copper. As a result, a tea set that is made out of sterling silver will not tarnish as quickly as one that has a high quantity of copper in it.