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.

Karat Stamps:

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.

7 Comments

  • Asia Pena
    Posted November 4, 2021 6:02 am 0Likes

    I just bought a ring it’s 14 it says 14 karat and it says something else but I can’t quite see what it is at all it’s supposed to be a brown diamond chocolate diamond I mean I’m not sure thanks

    • Les Olson Admin
      Posted November 4, 2021 4:27 pm 0Likes

      Hello Asia, that’s a good question. Since your ring is already stamped with a karat stamp the other stamp you may be seeing is the trademark stamp which tells you who/where the ring was made. This could be a symbol, name or abbreviation. There’s also the possibility of the stamp indicating the karat of the metal in number form. If your seeing a 585 that’s an indicator if 14kt gold. I hope that answered your question.

  • Kristie Jenkins
    Posted November 22, 2021 7:07 pm 0Likes

    I have a tennis bracelet.I found this bracelet in a driveway at least a mile long the only stamp is a heart pendant on the clasp . I did get someone from Tiffany’s to tell me if it was vintage it could be. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Les Olson Admin
      Posted November 30, 2021 7:46 pm 0Likes

      If you would like, we have our next Appraisal Day coming up on Thursday, December 2nd. All Tiffany’s jewelry pieces are stamped with Tiffany & CO. If there is a heart stamp along with an H, it could be Hidalgo, but it’s difficult without seeing the bracelet. You can call 727-785-9624 to set up an appointment for the appraisal if you’d like.

  • Brian Sonnier
    Posted May 5, 2022 12:44 pm 0Likes

    I have a diamond bezel for a piece for a watch and wanna know if it’s real

    • Les Olson Admin
      Posted May 5, 2022 1:04 pm 0Likes

      Swing by, we can take a look to see if the diamond is real. We can’t do anything about a watch, as we don’t do time pieces, but we’ll set you on the right track.

  • Eli Richardson
    Posted May 19, 2022 3:14 pm 0Likes

    Wow, it really helped when you described how to know if a piece of jewelry is authentic or not. I want to buy diamond earrings for my wife’s birthday gift, but I’m nervous about getting misled and buying a copy, so I’ll be sure to read your tips carefully before I visit jewelry shops next weekend. Thank you for the advice on checking the karat stamp on your jewelry before buying. https://kierajewelry.com/collections/new-arrivals/products/kiera-figaro-link-chain

Leave a reply