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Steel or Iron Plated Sterling---When Did this Start???

I buy sterling in any form that I can find it in at the local flea market. Lately I have noticed that a lot of it is slightly magnetic;it deflects toward a magnet.After cutting thru the iron or steel overlay(probably 2-3 microns)I then apply my dichromate test solution and get a red purple spot of silver chromate.Today I bought 2 I.D. bracelets weighing approx. 3 troy oz. ;one was by Fostner and the other was a military one --both marked sterling;and they both are.I had to cut thru the magnet overlay. I want to melt and use these. I will try using muriatic acid to strip the steel. When did this start being allowed?? I can see where it seems to limit its oxidation but i think it is ugly and illegal!