The best way to ensure that the jewelry you buy is real is to only purchase it from reputable companies. Do some price comparisons before purchasing. Just like with any other product, if one price seems excessively low, it’s for a reason. If you do end up with jewelry that you are skeptical of, the best way to determine its authenticity is to get it appraised professionally. Yes, it will cost you even more money, but it’s the most accurate way to find a fake. If this option is out of the question (or you’re just curious about how testing of jewelry is done), there are several ways to examine the jewelry for authenticity on your own. Find out how below.
Gold - Use X-Rays
In the U.S., gold under 10 karats (10/24 real gold) is not considered gold at all. A common problem involves gold being sold as a higher quality than it actually is. The best way to tell the actual karat of gold is to use x-rays or electronic gold tests; yet another reason to shop at reputable dealers. But fakes that are gold plated or not gold at all can be easily identified.
Gold - Find The Official Stamp
First, look for the official stamp that gives purity. It will appear as .1-.999 or 10-24k. But keep in mind that the stamp can be counterfeited and that real stamps may have worn off due to time or repair. Also, if the jewelry looks poorly made or discolored you should avoid it like the plague. Look for fading to a darker color; this is a sign that it is gold plated.
Gold - Test With a Magnet
Gold is not magnetic and several metals that are passed as gold are.
Gold - Streak On Ceramics
An unglazed ceramic surface, such as a tile, can be used for a test. This will scratch the piece, so perform the test on an area that is not visible. Simply drag the piece along the tile and examine the mark it leaves. If the streak is gold, it is real. Fool’s gold (pyrite) leaves a dark streak.
Gold - Home Test Kit
The cheapest of these is a nitric acid test kit which starts around $15. Scratch the surface of the gold (again, in an area that is not visible) and drop the acid on the scratched area. Gold will not react to the acid. Other metals will react by bubbling. Also, more expensive test kits have different solutions that can tell the difference between karats.
Platinum, White Gold, Silver - Intro
All three of these metals are similar in color. Silver is not often used as small jewelry because it tarnishes easily. Silver flatware, dishes, and decorations are usually silver plated because silver is such a soft metal.
White Gold vs Platinum
The best way to tell the difference between white gold (which is gold mixed with other metals to bring out a silver color) and platinum is by weight. Platinum is much more dense than gold and therefore, a platinum object of the same size as a gold object will be much heavier.
Gold vs Platinum - Scratching
Also, when gold is scratched, metal will be filed off. When platinum is scratched, the metal will only be displaced. For lack of a better example, it is similar to the T-1000 in Terminator 2.
Diamonds - Intro
Fake diamonds are widespread and a bit more difficult to detect than fake gold. Once again, buying from a reputable retailer and getting professional appraisals is the best route to go. There are a few tricks a layman can perform, short of looking at the stone under magnification (a jeweler’s loupe), since it takes practice to know what to look for anyway.
Diamonds - Fog Test
Breathe on the diamond as if you were fogging a window. If the condensation stays for a few seconds, it is a fake. A real diamond will clear up immediately.
Diamond - Test Its Weight
Fakes, such as cubic zirconia, weigh a bit more than real diamonds. If you have a real diamond to compare, weigh them.
Diamonds - Look At the Setting
Look for the official stamp on the gem’s setting. If the stone is set in fake gold or platinum, it is most likely not a real diamond.
All gemstones are copied. Less rare minerals of the same color and colored glass are touted as the real thing. Precious gemstones such as rubies and emeralds are much heavier and harder than imitations. It is easy to spot the fakes because they can be scratched easier and weigh less. This doesn’t differentiate between lab-grown synthetics and naturally occurring gems though.