I vividly remember sorting through my grandma’s jewelry box after she passed away. I took a few pieces of costume jewelry that I love to wear, but the tarnishing is a reminder that these pieces may not be wearable down the road. When my other grandma passed away two years later, I had been working in jewelry for a few months and picked up quite a few tips to tell if jewelry is real or fake. This time around I was determined to find a few authentic pieces to stay with my family as heirlooms and not end up in the hands of an estate buyer.
The first thing you should look for when determining if a piece of jewelry is real or not, is a karat stamp on the gold. The most common karat stamp on jewelry is 14k to indicate that its 14-karat gold. 10k, 18k and 22k are also stamps to look for. The higher number, the higher purity (or ratio) of the gold in that piece. Karat stamps can also be presented as 585 for 14k, 750 for 18k and so on. 585 means that the jewelry is 58.5% gold (or 14 parts gold) and the rest is 10 parts alloys. This rule applies for all karats. 925 indicates that the jewelry is sterling silver, STG is another karat stamp commonly placed on sterling silver jewelry. Platinum jewelry would say .950 or PLT.
Karat Stamp Placement:
Karat stamps usually show up in the same places depending on the type of jewelry. Rings usually have their karat stamps on the inside of the band. Bracelets usually have a karat stamp on the clasp. Chains will have a karat stamp on an end tab or clasp, and earrings carry their karat stamp on the post.
Finding a karat stamp doesn’t always mean that the piece is solid gold, and not finding one doesn’t always mean that its fake. Really old pieces of jewelry don’t always have a karat stamp on them. Some karat stamps indicate they are gold plated or CLAD. If you see GP or GF in the karat stamp, that usually means that the piece is plated and not solid gold or gold filled.
A simple magnet test can offer more clarity if you’re unsure if the piece is real or fake. Real gold won’t be attracted to a magnet while fake pieces made of other types of metals will be magnetic. A heavy gold plating can cause for metals underneath to not be attracted to a magnet, so this method is not 100% accurate. The only real way to be sure your gold is real is to do an acid test. It is recommended that you go to a jewelry professional to do an acid test. Here at Les Olson Jewelers, we do an acid test to not only confirm that your gold is real, but the karat or purity of the gold.
Determining if Gemstones are Real
Determining if your gold is real or not should give you much more clarity if the gemstones are genuine or not. It would be unlikely that someone would purchase a hefty 18k ring with a fake stone in there (not saying it hasn’t or couldn’t happen). On the other hand, synthetic gemstones could very well be set into a lower karat ring like 10k sometimes.
Taking your jewelry to a Gemologist is the best way to be sure if your gemstone is real or not, but there are a few things that can help you weed out costume jewelry before you lug an entire jewelry box into your local jeweler. Gemstones are natural stones that come out of the ground and start as a rock. If your gem is clear of visible marks inside of it, especially under a microscope, there’s a good chance it may be synthetic. There are gemstones on the market like amethyst and garnet that are easily found without impurities, emeralds on the other hand almost always have inclusions. You should be leary if you find an emerald that appears flawless under a close look or is abnormally large.
Like stated previously, taking your jewelry into a trusted jewelry professional is always recommended and they should be able to guide you whether any of your pieces of jewelry are worthy of an appraisal. Hopefully now you’re versed with some tips and tricks to weed through jewelry and find some real gems.