Step 1: Look for hallmark markings
One of the first things you can do to determine the value of your jewelry is to locate the key hallmark markings on the piece. These markings are usually located on the clasp of a necklace, the inside of a ring or bracelet, or the post of an earring.
One hallmark will generally tell the metal content of a piece, and another may tell either the country of origin, designer, or manufacturer. Unless the item is over 100 years old or the hallmark has worn off, all fine jewelry should have some type of hallmark.
Common gold hallmarks include 18K, 14K, 10K, 750, 585, or 375. Common platinum hallmarks include 950, PLATINUM, or PLAT. Common silver hallmarks include 925, Silver, 800, or Sterling. There are so many different hallmarks, but the fact that your jewelry has a hallmark at all is usually a good sign.
Some valuable fine jewelry hallmarks include the name of the designer brand, such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and Tacori. Any of these hallmarks should be appraised for authenticity. Common costume jewelry hallmarks include Sarah Coventry, AVON, and Trifari. These hallmarks indicate your jewelry isn’t made from precious metals or gemstones and isn’t very valuable.
Tip: If your item looks antique and it doesn’t have a hallmark, get the item appraised. If your item looks new but doesn’t have any hallmarks at all, your item is likely just costume jewelry.
Step 2: Check the item’s weight
This is especially important when you’re 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.
As a rule, unlike fake chains, solid gold jewelry is very smooth, heavy, and consistent throughout. For instance, if you have a gold-colored chain that has a darker color or even a silvery color showing through on parts that see heavy wear, this is likely a gold-plated chain and not very valuable. When solid gold or platinum jewelry wears down, the part showing through should still be the same color. This isn’t the case for white gold.
White gold doesn’t exist naturally. It’s actually made from yellow gold that has been combined with white precious metal alloys. It’s then covered with a plating made from rhodium, which is a metal in the platinum group. When you see a yellowish tint in your white gold jewelry, it’s not because of poor quality. Rather, because rhodium is applied in such a thin layer, it can wear off over time.
Tip: When determining the value of chains, the longer and heavier your gold or platinum jewelry is, generally the more valuable it is.
Step 3: Inspect the prongs
Fine jewelry will be well crafted, with each stone set in an intricate bezel or prong setting, pearls being one of the only exceptions.
Some higher-quality costume jewelry uses prongs just like in fine jewelry, but a lot of the stones are glued into place. If you have a cameo brooch that looks like it’s glued into the setting with no prongs holding it in, this is likely costume jewelry and not valuable.
Tip: Vintage costume jewelry that has a lot of brilliant stones all set with prongs can be very valuable. These pieces can sometimes be as valuable as pieces of fine jewelry. It’s important to be sure the piece is vintage, in good shape, and has a lot of brightly colored clean stones all set with prongs.
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