When buying fine jewelry for holiday gifts, one must be careful to purchase quality, authentic items. Buying signed jewelry is one way to ensure you are purchasing a high-quality item your recipient — as long as it is the real thing. Here’s how to tell between a real piece versus a replica, and what to look for on authentic signed jewelry, courtesy of ebay.com.

First off, signed jewelry is any piece of jewelry stamped by the company that makes it, such as Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, Cartier, Harry Winston, etc. Following is a list of what to look for on virtually any signed jewelry piece.

1. It is made from real metals and gemstones. Genuine signed jewelry pieces are almost always made from precious metals and genuine gemstones. That is the main reason they are more expensive than non-signed pieces — you’re paying for higher quality materials and craftsmanship.

Conversely, most replica jewelry pieces are made of non-precious metals and synthetic stones because it is much cheaper to produce and they are usually made in mass quantities. So, when looking to buy a signed piece — especially if it is pre-owned — make sure that it is made of the exact same metals and stones that the designer uses for that specific line or design.

2. It has a hallmark stamp. When considering an authentic jewelry piece, also look for its hallmark stamp which references the purity of the metal that is used.

For example, a sterling silver piece should be properly hallmarked as .925 which means 92.5% pure silver content in that piece of jewelry.

Hallmarks on gold pieces are usually as follows:

  • 10kt gold is hallmarked as .417 which is 41.7% pure gold content.
  • 14kt gold is hallmarked as .585, which equals to 58.5% pure gold content.
  • 18kt gold is marked as .750, which means the piece is 75% pure gold content.

Most signed pieces are made in sterling silver .925, 14kt/.585 gold, and 18kt/.750 gold. On platinum pieces, the purity is usually .950 platinum, which equals 95% platinum.

3. It has the maker’s copyright stamp. The next indicator of a real signed piece is the copyright stamp, which can be found on all signed designer jewelry pieces. Every designer has their own unique stamp, yet not all stamps are exactly the same on mass produced pieces. Designs are always evolving, so placement of the stamps and the style may vary between the pieces, collections, and dates the pieces were made.

Look for stamps inside the shank of a ring, or the bale of a pendant or inside a bracelet, on the clasp. If having trouble finding the stamp, check the designer’s website or take the item you purchased to the authorized dealer and see if they can authenticate it.

4. Not all pieces have serial numbers. It is important to know that not all signed jewelry pieces have serial numbers. Serial numbers are more prevalent on more current pieces and generally on the higher-end, more expensive models. For example, Tiffany & Co. uses serial numbers primarily on their modern engagement rings to help identify the stone in the center of the ring, and Cartier has serial numbers on all their modern higher-end pieces.

5. Check the designer’s specs. It goes without saying that most high-end jewelry designers have high standards of quality for their pieces, and will use high-quality metals and gemstones, which of course increases the price. To find out if the piece you have or are considering is authentic, check the piece’s specifications with the manufacturer’s actual specs and match the quality against the item you bought.

The above tips should help you determine if a signed piece is real or a replica, and allow you to consider purchasing pre-owned — and save a lot of money in the process. Remember that if your item is made of genuine materials authentic to the collection and model you purchased and contains the maker’s name and stamps, then it is very likely that it is an authentic signed piece by that designer.

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