Have you inherited a treasure chest of jewelry you can’t identify? Or maybe you’ve received jewelry, and you don’t know if it is real; if you want to sell your jewelry but don’t know if it is valuable, here are some tips on how to tell what type of metal the pieces are made from!
All you will need for this task is a magnifying glass, jeweler’s loupe, and good lighting.
On a ring, the marking should be inside the shank. On a chain or bracelet, look at the end where there is often an engraving or identifier. The same goes for pendants and earrings.
Older and newer pieces of jewelry may have “gold filled” stamped on the back or several other designations (10 Kt GF, 14 kt GF, 1/10 10kt,, 1/20 10kt, 1/10 14kt, 1/20 14kt for example). Gold-filled is a much lower quality product than solid gold and can wear off in time this will cause the brass to shine through also known as “brassing”. (although it will be obvious when this happens because metals are different colors). With older pieces, there are no methods for identification. The only way to tell what type of metal your piece is made from is to cut into it and closely examine the color of each slice or contact the professionals at www.aupreciousmetals.com.
How to Tell if your Jewelry is Gold?
Gold is a precious metal that has been prized for centuries. Being the most malleable of all metals and one of the least reactive, so it doesn’t rust or tarnish like other metals do when exposed to air and moisture. Gold also resists temperature changes well. It can be melted at 1,945 degrees Fahrenheit (1,063 Celsius) without changing its color or losing any weight but will melt if heated to 2,700 degrees F (1,482 C).
Gold jewelry is often made with 18-karat gold, meaning 18 parts out of 24 are pure gold. The other six parts can be made of silver, zinc, or copper.
When you buy a piece of jewelry, it’s essential to know if the gold is real. Of course, the easiest way to find out is to take your item in for testing, but you can also check for markings on the item confirming its authenticity. Buyer beware, not all jewelry is created equal even WITH a solid marking on it. Depending on where in the world your jewelry is coming from, when it was manufactured, AND even with a solid “14k” marking on it, when tested it still might not be as pure as it says it is.
Markings on Gold
If your gold jewelry is labeled “14K” or “585,” it means that the item is at least 14-karat gold. The karat scale for gold goes up to 24K, which is pure gold. Some pieces of gold are less than 18-karat, such as 14kt. or 10kt. Gold. If you want to check for yourself, look at each piece for the following assay markings:
- 8K or 333
- 9K or 375
- 10K or 417
- 14K or 585
- 18K or 750
- 20K or 833
- 22K or 875
- 24K or 999
Occasionally you may find a piece of gold that is marked 10 kt, 14kt, or 18 kt with the letters HGE after. This means ‘Heavy Gold Electroplate”. These items are plated and have no precious metal value.
How to Tell if My Item is Silver?
Silver is a precious metal that occurs naturally in pure form, as an alloy of gold, mercury, or other elements. Its color ranges from white to dark gray, depending on its purity level. It has been used for centuries as jewelry and currency because of its beauty, rarity, durability, and anti-microbial properties. As a result, humans have long valued silver. In addition to its aesthetic qualities, silver also has many practical ones, including being tarnish-resistant, making it highly desirable for tableware and cutlery since this property reduces the need for continual polishing. However, keep in mind that silver does indeed tarnish. Just slower than other metals.
So how can you tell if it’s real? Well, the piece should be stamped with a “fineness” or “quality” mark. This mark designates the precious metal content of the jewelry, and under federal law, must be accompanied by a maker’s mark or registered trademark. Look for one of these marks:
- Sterling silver
- .925 or 925
- English hallmark of a lion (make sure it looks like the one in this image as it should be facing left)
If there is no stamp, but there is an identifiable maker’s mark, then it may also be sterling silver. However, remember that if there are no markings at all, it is either coin silver (90%) or nothing at all. However, just like we talked about with gold, not all .925 Silver jewelry is created equal, even though it has a .925 stamp on it. You can read more about how to spot silver hallmarks here.
If you are unsure, you can always send away a sample of your item to an accredited testing service.
How to Tell the Difference Between Silver and Platinum
In the jewelry world, platinum and silver are both popular metals. The colors of these two metals can be very close to one another. To tell which metal you have, take it to a smelter or refiner so they can test it. If you want to check for yourself, look for certain assay markings:
- 900 PLAT
- 950 PLAT
- 10% IRID 90% PLAT
What If I Can’t Find Assay Markings?
Don’t worry if you don’t see these markings on your jewelry; your items may still be genuine. Take any pieces you’re unsure of to a refiner. These experts will tell you if your items are authentic and how much they are worth. Some refiners even offer a free estimate over the phone! Refiners use advanced testing methods to determine the most accurate value of your items. For more information, call 248-833-6133.