The monetary value of jewellery is all over the place. Things we might think are so valuable can be worth mere dollars, and others that look like a simple chain are worth thousands. Suppose you’ve ever picked up a piece of jewellery off the ground or scored an incredible looking gem at a garage sale. In that case, you probably know that feeling of excitement wondering whether or not your sparkly jewel is worth anything. There are a few things you can check for before you fork over the money and bring your buried treasure to a jewellery appraiser.
The first thing to consider is what type of metal is being used. There are manufacturers out there that opt for the cheapest process available in order to make the most money. One of those ways is through the use of plated metal. What this means is that only the exterior of a jewellery piece is plated with authentic metal. However, the inside of it is often some low-grade metal that doesn’t deserve to see the light of day. If the plated metal happens to peel off, what you’re left with is that rubbish metal that’ll be in constant contact with your skin. You’re better than that stuff, though, check out our high-quality selection of jewellery at Temple&Grace.
How to Tell If Your Jewelry is Valuable
Is it a respectable seller?
Always be wary when shopping around online auction sites such as eBay or Shpock or when browsing second-hand items on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. While there are great deals to be had, these sites are not moderated, meaning anybody can sign up and sell. Check the seller and their feedback. Most of these sites allow reviews, so have research and see if other people have had good or bad experiences with them. Also, take a good look at the listing — is the item new? Is there a picture? Is the seller using stock images or images of the specific piece you’re buying? These unmoderated sales sites are the perfect breeding ground for fakes, so always be vigilant. Better yet, always buy from a respected jeweller to ensure the items you’re purchasing are genuine.
Shopping for vintage jewellery from any old source, whether online or at the mall, is a sure-fire way to end up with junk and paying too much for something that is not vintage at all. That is why it is important to research the most reputable sources for vintage jewellery and then shop only from those sources. A great example is vintage rings from Berganza, where you will find unusual and lovely styles, along with information that includes the year in which the pieces were created. Knowing that a ring was made circa 1900, for example, will prove that it is vintage, but you will not get that information from all sellers.
Check the branding
Branded items often come with their hallmark, particularly if they’re a high-end brand. Check for this to ensure that your item comes from the designer it claims. Many fake jewellery sellers have caught on, and often will create jewellery with fake hallmarks. While these may look legitimate from a distance, you can often find small giveaways at a second glance. Look closely at fonts, layouts and spellings to ensure the hallmark on your jewellery perfectly matches the designer.
Check the quality
There are usually instant giveaways in terms of quality if an item isn’t genuine. Take a close look at your jewellery and ensure that the construction is on point. In a bracelet or necklace, check the links — they should never look pinched together, but should instead have a smooth, solid look. If you have a jewellery item containing a stone, for example, a ring, check the stone’s setting and mounting. Costume jewellery can sometimes be passed off as genuine, but a closer look will reveal stones are often glued in place rather than properly mounted. These are all seemingly obvious points, but ones that can easily be missed at first glance or in a picture online.
Check the stones
While bad quality jewellery may often be easy to spot, sometimes a gemstone that is too perfect can be a giveaway of a fake. Real gemstones are not perfect, and you can often see naturally formed flecks within the stone. Similarly, with diamonds — these are naturally formed, and you can usually spot the natural imperfections within when looking through a magnifying glass. Replicas of precious gemstones and diamonds are often created through a mixture of glass and plastic and will have an overly smooth appearance that will give them away.
Did you receive certification and documentation?
If you’re purchasing a piece containing a diamond, this should arrive with a certificate to prove its authenticity. This can be from the GIA, the IGI or the EGL. If your jewellery doesn’t arrive with certification, ask for it! Also be sure to check other documentation that arrives with your jewellery, for example, the manufacturer details, cleaning instructions or care tips. Look out for the quality of the printing, as well as the grammar and spelling used — poor quality documents are a giveaway of fake goods.
Analyze the Style of a Piece of Jewelry
If you look at the style of a piece of jewellery, you can gain a lot of insight into whether it is vintage or not. This is because, like other fashion, jewellery has been able to reflect different eras’ looks over time. For example, jewellery made anywhere between 1910 and 1930 will often feature white as the colour for the metal, so the pieces should be set in silver, white gold, or platinum, or at least a metal that looks like silver. However, during WWII, gold was in short supply, despite its popularity, so it was often bonded with silver for jewellery. Remembering these facts while shopping for your jewellery will help you be sure that you are purchasing truly vintage pieces.
Look for hallmarks
One of the first things you can do when you acquire a new piece of jewellery is to look for hallmarks. One hallmark will generally tell us the metal content of a piece, and the other (if there is another) will tell us either the country of origin, designer or manufacturer. These markings are usually located on the clasp of a necklace, inside a ring or bracelet, or the post of an earring. Unless the item is over 100 years old or the hallmark has worn off, all fine jewellery should have some hallmark.
Common gold hallmarks include 18K, 14K, 10K, 750, 585, 375. Common platinum hallmarks include 950, PLATINUM, PLAT. Common silver hallmarks include 925, Silver, 800, Sterling. There are so many different hallmarks, but the fact that your jewellery has a hallmark at all is usually a good sign.
Tip: If your item looks antique and doesn’t have a hallmark, get the item appraised. If your item looks new but does not have any hallmarks, your item is likely just costume jewellery.
Check the weight of the item.
This is especially important when you are assessing chains and bangles. Generally gold and silver are heavier metals than their fake counterparts like brass and pewter. If you find a thicker gold chain that feels much lighter than a similar gold chain you have, the chain is likely fake or hollow gold.
Fake chains feel fake. Solid gold jewellery is very smooth, heavy and consistent throughout. For instance, if you have a gold-coloured chain that has a darker colour or even a silvery colour showing through on parts that see heavy wear, this is likely a gold plated chain and not very valuable. When solid gold or platinum jewellery wears down, the part showing through should still be the same colour. This is not the case for white gold.
Tip: When determining the value of chains, the longer and heavier your gold or platinum jewellery is, generally, the more valuable it is.
Inspect the prongs
Some higher quality costume jewellery uses prongs just like in fine jewellery, but a lot of the stones are glued into place. If you have a cameo brooch that looks like it is glued into the setting with no prongs holding it in, this is likely costume jewellery and not valuable. Fine jewellery will be well crafted, with each stone set in an intricate bezel or prong setting, pearls being one of the only exceptions.
Tip: Vintage costume jewellery with many brilliant stones all set with prongs can be very valuable. These pieces can sometimes be as valuable as pieces of fine jewellery. It is important to be sure the piece is vintage, in good shape, and has a lot of brightly coloured clean stones all set with prongs.
No Filler Either, Thanks
Another sign of poor quality body jewellery is the use of fillers. A genuine metal mixed with another metal to shave off some valuable weight is not good at all. Some companies do this to save on production costs, but it also increases the risk of infection. The most common low-grade metal filler is nickel, which is known to irritate the skin, and many people have nickel allergies. Not safe at all. Avoid it at all costs.
High Quality Threading Only
Threading is another issue that shouldn’t be ignored. The difference between external and internal threading is huge, although you might not think it when looking at a piece. Now, how can you tell the difference? When looking at a piece, determine what will be pushed through the skin. If that piece has to thread on it, this is super dangerous. A sharp object being pushed through your skin over and over when putting it on/off has the potential of cutting your skin and causing infection. The post of a body jewellery piece should always be round and smooth, ultimately safer and more secure.
Sterilized for Wear
High-quality jewellery should always be sterilized beforehand so that you can wear them without worry. The best way of doing this is with high-pressure steam at high temperatures, which is more than enough to kill germs and bacteria that can easily build up. Different methods, such as boiling are surefire ways of inviting bacteria to colonize on the piece.
A Mirror Finish
A mirror finish is an excellent sign of high-quality body jewellery. Not only does it look beautiful, but it’ll be incredibly kind to your skin as well. Any roughness or imperfections can irritate your skin over time, causing inflammation, desensitizing, and other generally harmful things. This is especially important if your piercing is still healing as it can lengthen the healing time as well as cause more scar tissue. So make sure that your piece shines bright like a diamond! Or else, you’ll regret it soon enough.
The more you spend, the more likely your piece will stand the test of time. Cheaper materials or neglect in making a piece can result in jewellery that falls apart in a short amount of time. So look for pure metals only (gold is the finest), ensure only high-quality gemstones, avoid plated or nickel-filled jewellery, and avoid wearing acrylic altogether. When inspecting a piece, it should be perfect inside and out. There should be no sharp edges, cracks, pits, or bad finishes. If there are, send the piece back to be repaired or replaced. Your safety should always be a priority.
Now, looking for these signs in real life isn’t all that easy. The most effective way is to contact the company you intend to buy from and ask them what their body jewellery is like. Asking these important questions we’ve talked about is good for determining whether what they make is high-quality and safe to wear. You can also ask your local piercing studio whether the brand is reputable or not. And last but not least, price is a huge indicator of quality. Cheap body jewellery is incredibly enticing for a large number of customers but not always the most knowledgeable customers.
Gold and silver items have well-known marks stamped on them that tell people the quality of the metal that is in them.
For example, the 925 mark on silver means that it has a 92.5% purity level. This is the most common American mark you will see on silver jewellery today. Vintage pieces generally are marked with the word “Sterling,” “Ster,” or “STG.”
If you cannot find a mark on an item, even though it may look like silver, it is not!
Unfortunately, unethical people buy cheap metal items that look like silver and then use a jeweller’s stamp on them. Anybody can purchase these right on eBay or at jeweller supply stores.
Unless you develop a very good eye for silver, the only way to know if a piece is real is to acid test it. I’ll discuss this method in more detail later.
Fakes Will Fool You
Fake pieces of jewellery can be very cleverly made to look exactly like the real thing.
I have a thick gold plated ring with a large Zircon in the middle that I purchased for 40 cents at a garage sale. It would be easy to mark it and sell it for several hundred dollars. Keep this in mind when shopping.
As with silver, the only way to know if an item is sold as gold is real is to have a good eye for what gold looks like, or test it.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to carry a strong, small magnet and hold it near the piece. Gold (and silver) are not magnetic. However, this test won’t work if an item is heavily plated because the plating blocks true detection of the underlying metal.
As with silver, it is easy for a scammer to stamp an item illegally. A ring may show that it is 14k gold, but this may not necessarily be true.
The only real way to know is to acid test an item you suspect may be a fake.
Remember, vintage jewellery is anything that was crafted or produced before 1989. Anything made after 1989 is merely used jewellery. Regardless of how old a piece of jewellery is, it should still be functional if it were crafted well. Therefore, analyze the piece to make sure that it holds together, that the clasps work, and that there aren’t any kinks or bends in the chain that may end up breaking. And if there are any gemstones in the piece, they should be set firmly in place, and they should be smooth and clear. So, as an example, stones meant to be clear or white should never look cloudy, yellow, or grey. Finally, any plating on the piece should be intact.
Try to be careful while shopping for vintage jewellery, as there is a lot of junk jewellery out there that sellers are trying to pass off as authentic. Do your research into what vintage jewellery looks like, and shop from reputable sources that can tell you the year during which the jewellery was created.