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Top 5+ Tips for Assessing Jewelry Quality

Jewelry’s monetary value can vary widely, often leaving us uncertain about its worth. While some items we consider precious may fetch only a fraction of their perceived value, others, like a simple chain, can surprise with their high appraisal. If you’ve ever stumbled upon a piece of jewelry or unearthed a stunning gem at a garage sale, you’re likely familiar with the exhilarating uncertainty of its potential value. Before you rush to have your newfound treasure appraised, it’s essential to know what to look for.

When evaluating jewelry, the type of metal used is paramount. Some manufacturers prioritize profit over quality, opting for the cheapest methods available. Plating is a common cost-cutting technique, where only the surface of the jewelry is coated with genuine metal, while the interior often consists of inferior materials. If the plating wears off, you’re left with subpar metal in constant contact with your skin. Don’t settle for less.

How to Determine Whether or Not Your Jewelry Is Valuable

Is this a reliable vendor?

When making purchases on online auction platforms like eBay or Shpock, or browsing secondhand items on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, it’s essential to exercise caution. While there are great deals to be found, these platforms lack oversight, allowing anyone to sign up and sell. Assess the seller’s reputation and feedback carefully. Many of these platforms feature reviews, so take the time to research whether other buyers have had positive or negative experiences with them. Additionally, scrutinize the listing for details. Are there clear photographs? Is the seller using stock images or actual photos of the item you’re interested in? Be wary of unmoderated sales platforms as they can be breeding grounds for counterfeit goods. For added peace of mind, consider buying from a reputable jeweler to ensure the authenticity of the products you’re purchasing.

When shopping for vintage jewelry, whether online or in-store, it’s crucial to avoid ending up with inferior items or overpaying for something misrepresented as vintage. That’s why it’s important to research and patronize trusted vintage jewelry vendors exclusively. Berganza’s vintage rings serve as an excellent example; they offer unique and stunning designs, along with details such as the year the pieces were crafted. Knowing the approximate age of a ring, such as it being from around 1900, authenticates its vintage status, although not all sellers may provide this level of information.

Inspect the logo

Branded items, especially high-end ones, often bear a signature logo. Ensure that the item you’re purchasing carries the authentic designer’s mark. Many counterfeit jewelry vendors now replicate these logos, but closer examination often reveals subtle discrepancies. Scrutinize typefaces, layouts, and spellings to confirm that the hallmark on your jewelry matches the designer’s authentic branding.

Verify the quality

Authenticity is often evident in the quality of craftsmanship. Thoroughly examine your jewelry to ensure its construction is robust. Check the links on bracelets or necklaces; authentic pieces should exhibit smooth and solid connections rather than appearing pressed together. Assess the setting and mounting of stones, if present, such as in rings. Costume jewelry may mimic genuine pieces, but closer inspection often reveals stones that are glued rather than securely set. While these may seem like obvious details, they can be easy to overlook initially, especially in online photos.

Evaluate the gemstones

While low-quality jewelry is typically easy to identify, overly flawless gemstones can signal a counterfeit. Genuine gemstones exhibit natural imperfections, such as flecks or inclusions. Diamonds, for example, display natural flaws when examined under magnification. Replicas made from glass or plastic often lack these imperfections, resulting in an unnaturally smooth appearance that can be detected upon closer inspection.

Ensure certification and documentation

When purchasing a diamond-encrusted item, it should be accompanied by a certificate confirming its authenticity, often issued by organizations like GIA, IGI, or EGL. If your jewelry lacks a certificate, request one from the seller. Review any additional documentation provided, such as manufacturer information, cleaning instructions, or care suggestions. Pay attention to the quality of printing, grammar, and wording; poorly produced documents can indicate fraudulent items.

Evaluate jewelry design

The design of a piece of jewelry can offer valuable insights into its authenticity, especially when determining if it’s vintage. Jewelry styles often reflect the trends of different eras. For instance, white metal was prevalent in jewelry made between 1910 and 1930, with pieces typically set in silver, white gold, or platinum. During WWII, gold was scarce, leading to its frequent combination with silver in jewelry. When shopping for jewelry, consider these design elements to ensure the authenticity of vintage pieces.

Identify hallmarks

Upon acquiring a new piece of jewelry, check for hallmarks, typically found on a necklace’s clasp, within a ring or bracelet, or on an earring’s post. These marks reveal the metal content and sometimes the country of origin, designer, or maker. Most fine jewelry should bear a hallmark, except if it’s over 100 years old or the hallmark has faded.

Common gold hallmarks include 18K, 14K, 10K, 750, 585, and 375. Platinum hallmarks may include 950, PLATINUM, or PLAT. For silver, look for 925, Silver, 800, or Sterling marks. While there are numerous other marks, a hallmark typically indicates authenticity.

If an antique-looking piece lacks a hallmark, consider getting it appraised. Similarly, if a new-looking piece lacks hallmarks, it’s likely costume jewelry. Additionally, assess the item’s weight, especially with chains and bangles. Genuine gold and silver are typically heavier than imitation metals like brass or pewter.

Authentic gold jewelry feels smooth, hefty, and consistent. Conversely, phony chains often feel fake. If a gold-colored chain shows a darker or silvery color where it wears, it’s likely gold-plated and less valuable. Genuine gold or platinum wears evenly, maintaining a consistent color throughout, except for white gold.

Tip: Longer and heavier gold or platinum jewelry is generally more valuable.

Inspect the prongs

While prongs are used in some higher-end costume jewelry, similar to fine jewelry, many stones are often glued in place. If a cameo brooch seems to be glued into the setting without prongs securing it, it’s likely costume jewelry and lacks significant value. Exceptionally, fine jewelry (excluding pearls) will showcase meticulous craftsmanship, with each stone set in an intricate bezel or prong setting.

Vintage costume jewelry featuring multiple brilliant stones set with prongs can command high prices and be as valuable as fine jewelry in certain cases. However, it’s crucial to ensure that the piece is genuinely old, in good condition, and adorned with a plethora of beautifully colored, clean stones set with prongs.

Avoid fillers in body jewelry

Fillers are a red flag for low-quality body jewelry. When genuine metal is mixed with another metal to reduce weight, it compromises quality and safety. Some manufacturers use fillers to cut production costs, but it increases the risk of infection. Nickel, a common filler, is notorious for irritating the skin and causing allergic reactions. Avoid it at all costs for your safety.

Prioritize high-quality threading

Another critical aspect to consider is the threading of the jewelry. While it may not be visible at first glance, there’s a significant difference between external and internal threading. When examining a piece, consider what will come into contact with your skin. If a component has threading on it, there’s a risk of injury and infection when putting on or removing the jewelry. Opt for body jewelry with smooth, spherical posts for safer and more secure wear.

Ensure Sterilization for Wearable Safety

Prior to wearing high-quality jewelry, it’s crucial to sanitize it to guarantee safety. Opt for high-pressure steam sterilization at elevated temperatures, as it effectively eradicates germs and bacteria that can accumulate. Avoid boiling, as it can potentially attract germs and promote proliferation on the piece.

Seek a Mirrored Surface

Quality body jewelry should boast a mirror finish, not just for aesthetics but also for comfort and safety. A smooth surface minimizes irritation and discomfort on the skin, preventing issues like irritation, desensitization, and prolonged healing, especially for healing piercings. Ensure your jewelry shines brightly, enhancing both appearance and comfort for a delightful experience.

Longevity Guaranteed

Investing more ensures durability. Inferior materials or sloppy craftsmanship lead to jewelry that quickly deteriorates. Opt for pure metals like gold, high-quality gemstones, and steer clear of plated, nickel-filled, or plastic jewelry. Inspect for flawless construction inside and out, avoiding sharp edges, cracks, pits, or poor finishes. Prioritize safety by returning flawed items for repair or replacement promptly.

Spotting these signs can be challenging, but contacting the jewelry company directly can provide clarity. Ask pertinent questions to gauge product quality and safety. Additionally, inquire at reputable piercing studios about the brand’s reputation. Remember, while cheap jewelry may be enticing, true quality comes at a price and is favored by discerning customers.

Beware of Illegal Markings

Gold and silver items bear well-known markings indicating the metal’s quality.

For instance, the 925 mark on silver denotes 92.5 percent purity, commonly found on American silver jewelry. Vintage pieces often feature the words “Sterling,” “Ster,” or “STG.”

If an item resembles silver but lacks these marks, it likely isn’t silver!

Unscrupulous individuals purchase cheap metal items resembling silver and stamp them with jeweler’s marks, available on eBay or jeweler supply stores.

To verify authenticity, acid testing is necessary unless you possess a keen eye for silver, a topic I’ll delve into later.

Cleverly Crafted Fakes

Fake jewelry can convincingly mimic genuine pieces.

For instance, I acquired a heavily gold-plated ring with a large zircon at a garage sale for 40 cents, easily priced and sold for hundreds. Stay vigilant while shopping.

Determining genuine gold requires expertise or testing, akin to assessing silver.

A simple test involves a strong, small magnet; gold and silver lack magnetic properties. However, excessive plating can thwart detection of the underlying metal.

Beware of fraudulent markings; not all items labeled as 14k gold are genuine.

Authenticity Verification

The most reliable method to determine if jewelry is fake is through acid testing.

Vintage vs. Secondhand Jewelry

Vintage jewelry refers to pieces made or manufactured before 1989, while anything created after is considered secondhand. Regardless of age, inspect jewelry for functionality, ensuring clasps work and chains are free of kinks or bends that may cause breakage. Gemstones should be securely set and clear; clear or white stones should not appear hazy, yellow, or grey. Additionally, check for unbroken plating.

Beware of Fakes

Exercise caution when seeking vintage jewelry, as counterfeit pieces abound. Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of vintage jewelry and purchase only from reputable suppliers who can provide information on the piece’s production year.

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