How to Tell If Jewelry is Real

Girl at leisure wearing rings     

Did your partner just give you a beautiful jewelry piece, and you’re wondering if it is real? Or have you inherited some vintage jewelry and want to know if it’s valuable? We know a few tips on how to tell if the jewelry is authentic.

It’s getting pretty difficult to tell real jewelry from costume jewelry because of manufacturing technology today. Luckily, there are some definitive ways to identify if your jewelry is real or costume. So gather up your jewelry, grab a magnifying glass and let’s sort your pieces.

How Do I Know if My Jewelry is Valuable?

The easiest way to know is to take your jewelry to a jeweler. They’re trained, won’t damage your jewelry, and some jewelers will even do it free of charge.

But if you’re more of a DYI person and just want to learn how to value if your jewelry is real, here are a few tips to figure out if it is real:

Look for Markings

If the jewelry metal is authentic and high quality, it will have markings that will indicate the purity of the metal content. The markings can be very tiny, so you may need a magnifying glass to find the markings. An example: 14K would indicate that the jewelry is 14 karat gold.

Markings are generally found near:

  • Clasps
  • Earring Backings
  • Back of a Pendant
  • Inside a Ring
  • Inside of a Bracelet
  • Inside of a Pull-out Clasp

If the jewelry is costume or plated, the markings will include a fraction before indicating karat or state that it is:

  • HGE: heavy gold plate
  • GF (gold filled)
  • GB: Gold Bond
  • GP: Gold Plate
  • RGP: Rolled Gold Plate
  • Solid Gold
  • Gold Shell
  • Silver Plate
  • English Silver
  • German Silver
  • Mexican Silver
  • Sterling Inlaid

If it lists any of these markings, then the jewelry won’t hold as much value.

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Related Link: What is 925 Sterling Silver and How Do You Recognize It

Determine the Wear

Another way to determine whether your jewelry is real or costume is to look for signs of wear on the metal. Plated jewelry will have:

  • Discoloration
  • Scratches
  • Peeling
  • Areas where the thin layer has rubbed away

Another wear sign is that the metal may leave your skin discolored and possibly tinted green if it isn’t real gold or silver.

Use a Strong Magnet

It might be debatable, but it might be more affordable to take the jewelry into a jeweler for evaluation than this method. This method won’t work with a fridge magnet because they aren’t strong enough.

But some people have rare earth magnets lying around the house, so we will include this method. If you happen to be one of those people who have invested in a strong magnet, you’re in luck.

How Can You Tell if Jewelry is Real Using a Magnet?

Real gold and silver are not magnetic, but the metals used in costume jewelry often are. If you place the magnet over the jewelry and it lifts, then it’s not real. Note: clasps and springs are magnetic, so you’ll want to put the magnet over the metal in question and not the fastener.

Pearl necklace with stamp

Evaluate the Gemstones or Diamonds

To evaluate whether the gemstone or diamond is real, you’ll need to get close; it may help to have a magnifying glass to notice the subtleties of real gems. Costume jewelry is often made from plastic, simulated stones, or crystals. These materials scratch easily on the surface of the gemstone or diamond. Real gems don’t scratch on the surface.

Another thing to look for is imperfections inside the stone. Real gems are never entirely perfect, so you can find scratches and other imperfections inside the stone. Can’t tell what you’re looking at through the magnifier? Don’t worry; it can take a trained eye to identify real gems and diamonds.

A helpful tell: Most real gems and diamonds aren’t used with plated metal. So if the metal isn’t real, then the gems probably aren’t either.

How Can You Tell If Jewelry Is Real Gold or Silver?

To recap on metals, you can tell if your jewelry is real gold or silver by looking for a marking on the metal identifying its purity or makeup. Strong magnets won’t pick it up, and it generally won’t be set with costume gems or diamonds.

Vintage flower jewelry

How Can You Tell if Jewelry is Real Vintage?

Did you inherit or find a vintage jewelry piece and want to know if it is real? Here are some tips for identifying real vintage jewelry:

  • Identify the Jewelry Style: The style will often correspond to a time period and will have signature identifiers for that style to determine if it is real.
  • Examine Manufacturing Details: The way the gems are cut, the purity of the metal, hand engravings, and other intricate details can point to when the jewelry was made.
  • Identify Unique Materials: Certain materials used in jewelry are signature tells from specific time periods, such as Camphor Glass, Bakelite, Foil Opals, Palladium, and Paste.
  • Find the Jewelry Stamp: The easiest way to tell your piece is vintage is if it has a jewelry stamp from the manufacturer, metal certifier, or country of origin.

Authenticate Your Jewelry to Protect Its Value

If you just inherited some real jewelry or were given the jewelry, you’ll want to authenticate its real value to determine the best way to care for it. These pieces not only hold their value, but they can become investment pieces as well.

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Related Link: The History of Hoop Earrings