A lot of people get jewelry from family and friends and don’t really know where it came from or what it’s worth. For many of us, it doesn’t really matter; we want to feel good about our jewelry and have good memories about it. But sometimes we might wonder what it’s actually worth or whether it’s real.
How can you tell whether your jewelry is real?
What Does “Real” Mean?
“Real” is a bit of a nebulous term; obviously, your jewelry is made out of something. When jewelers say “real,” what they really mean is genuine or authentic — that your jewelry is the material that it claims to be. Resin jewelry may not be made of natural stone, but it may be valuable in its own right. Similarly, antique plastic “bakelite” jewelry is now an antique, and may even be more valuable than the material that it was representing.
So, before you consider whether your jewelry is real, the question is what it claims to be. Often, people will want to know whether jewelry is “real” gold or whether jewelry is “real” diamond.
Why Do You Need to Know?
If you really like a piece of jewelry, you might be wondering why you should even care. Well, there are actually a lot of reasons.
- Durability. Diamonds, gold, and other precious materials are usually used because they are more durable than others. If your jewelry is “fake,” you should be more careful about it, and you will need to take additional care when cleaning it and wearing it day-to-day.
- Appraisals. When you insure your jewelry, you need to know how much it’s worth. If it’s not real, you don’t need to worry too much about the replacement value.
- Reactions. Some people react to materials such as steel, but they don’t react to materials such as gold. Because of this, they may need to know exactly what they’re going to be putting on before they start to wear it.
Apart from the above, you may also want to know if you’re wearing synthetic, mined, or conflict-free diamonds. Some gems have difficult pasts; many people today want to know where their gem came from and whether there’s a chance it was mired in conflict.
Testing to See If Gold Is Real
If you’re wondering about the material, first take a deep look for scratches, discoloration, or dents. Gold, for instance, isn’t going to discolor. If a scratch shows a different color beneath the surface, it’s plated, rather than being solid. Another test would be to float the metal on water because gold will sink. Gold is also much heavier than other materials. A lightweight ring is less likely to be gold. Finally, you can get it with a magnet — gold is not magnetic.
Figuring Out if Gemstones Are Genuine
Gemstones are interesting because they usually look too “perfect” when they’re fake. A gemstone that is large and doesn’t have any inclusions is far more likely to be fake than a gemstone with some minor imperfections. Gemstones, when touched, should feel cold; plastic is more likely to immediately warm to the skin. Diamonds can be tested with an affordable “diamond tester,” which will tell you whether the diamond is “real.” Other tests, such as scratching glass, usually aren’t effective.
Of course, with diamonds, there’s another question: Natural or synthetic? Only experts can tell the difference between a natural gemstone and a synthetic gemstone. Today, many naturally mined diamonds are marked with a serial number to say where they were actually mined.
Asking a Jeweler
Because costume jewelry and fake jewelry can look so real, often the best and fastest way to find out what you have is to take it to a jeweler. A jeweler will be able to investigate what you have, tell you what it’s worth, and even give you some background on the style. There are a lot of nuances to jewelry, for instance, real earrings will often have more complex clasp systems because of the concern of them being lost. Likewise, settings for real gems are often more complex and flamboyant because they need to display the “flash” of the jewelry.
A jeweler will often charge a small amount for identifying jewelry. Additionally, if you’re interested in insuring the jewelry, you will need a certification or appraisal to make sure you insure it for the right amount. If you want to sell your jewelry, an appraiser will also help you price it and verify that it’s real.
Signs Your Jewelry Isn’t Real
What about some signs that your jewelry isn’t real?
- Discoloration. There’s a reason why the most expensive jewelry is made out of certain materials. Expensive materials should rarely discolor.
- Markings on the jewelry. Expensive jewelry often has a maker’s mark or a mark that says what they’re composed of, for instance 24k or 14k gold.
- Gemstones won’t melt. While this is a bit risky, you can hold a flame to gemstones, and they shouldn’t melt or deform. Resin or plastic will burn.
Of course, even if your jewelry isn’t real, that might not mean anything if you love the way it looks.