Fake jewelry is really looking good these days! This thought came into my mind recently when I found a lovely gold ring with an aquamarine gemstone lying in an old jewelry box. The box was a gift from a relative who loves to collect precious gems and treasures. But she also loves her costume jewelry. How could I figure out whether the ring was fake or real without asking and insulting her?
Unless you are a professional, you cannot tell the difference between real and fake jewelry at first glance – even though we all like to think we can! For some expert advice, I asked Robert Diffin of Mendham Jewelers to share his tips, tricks, and knowledge.
How to Tell Fake Gold From Real Gold
Looking for easy ways to tell whether your gold is fake? First, check the item for a hallmark, or a stamp in the metal that certifies its purity. If you see a marking that says 10K, 14K, or 18K, that’s a good sign that it’s real gold. European stamps for pure gold are numbers, and they include 417, which corresponds to 10 karats, 583 for 14 karats, and 750 for 18 karats.
Another good method is to take out a magnet. If the item sticks to the magnet, it contains one or more blended metals beneath either a gold coating or a fake gold coating. In other words, it’s fake, or not pure gold.
If you really have a good idea, the tiny details in the jewelry will give you an indication of whether the gold is real. “We can see the way certain pieces of jewelry are finished, usually up by the clasp,” Diffin says. “Lots of people come in with earrings with all their old gold to sell, and lots of times you’ll see on the earring that there’s a steel post. That tells me right there it’s costume, not gold.”
According to Diffin, the best way to tell is with nitric acid. “The no-fail test is the acid,” he explains. “We put the acid on the stone, and if it eats up whatever just came off, it’s not gold. Or if we put the acid on a piece of jewelry and it turns green in that little spot, it’s not gold.”
How to Spot Fake Gemstones
Determining whether a gemstone is synthetic or real is a bit more challenging. To tell real stones from synthetic and imitation ones, Diffin believes you need a very good eye.
“Let’s start with colored stones,” he says. “You look at the color, number one. If it’s supposed to be a sapphire and sapphires are just not that color, you know it’s fake. You look at the cut of the stone. Sometimes it’s way too even. That means it was machine cut and it is glass. You can tell the way a fake stone is chipped and scratched, compared to how a genuine stone is.”
Indeed, impurities or flaws in the stone are a good sign that it’s the real deal. There’s also a good trick for sapphires called the fog test. If you suspect that a sapphire is glass, breathe on it and let it fog up. Fog will evaporate quickly from real sapphire, because the stone doesn’t hold onto water vapor well. If it’s glass, it will hold onto the water vapor and stay foggy for about five seconds.
The Difference Between Fake Diamonds and Real Ones
Spotting a fake diamond takes just as much skill and practice as spotting a fake gemstone, if not more so, says Diffin. “When you look into a diamond, it has a certain depth, a density to it that I can see with my eyes and 99 percent of people can’t.”
Still, there are a few telltale signs that your diamond is made of cubic zirconia or a similar, inexpensive crystal. “Again, you look at the cut of the stone,” he continues. If it’s cut too perfectly and has zero flaws, there’s a high chance that the stone is fake. Diffin also suggests that you look at the colors the stone reflects. “A lot of fake diamonds have too much color in them, you know, almost like all the colors of a rainbow. And that’s a telltale sign right there,” he says.
For solid proof, Diffin pulls out a diamond tester — a small device that can accurately indicate if a stone is a real diamond based on the gem’s physical properties. “The diamond tester tests the density of the diamond. And if it doesn’t go up to a certain number on the scale, it’s not a diamond,” he explains.
Ultimately, if you want to be absolutely certain that your jewelry is real, consult with a professional. “It’s the only way,” says Diffin. “Go to a reputable jeweler.”
I’ll probably visit one myself to test out that aquamarine ring!