How to Spot Fake Jewelry...Here's a
Things to Look For So You're Not Fooled by
These are Some Tips to Help
You Recognize Fakes That
as the Real Thing
Fake jewelry by the ton, with forged designer signatures and fake hallmarks, is imported
from Asia regularly to be sold as authentic, bearing suspiciously low price tags. Millions
of cheap imitations are fraudulently offered as real -- imposters like glass that masquerades
as diamonds, phony or mislabeled gemstones, lead pretending to be gold, and dangerous
toxic metal jewelry with a documented history of harming children and adults. And there
are mountains of cheaply recreated old and vintage jewelry, the counterfeit imposters
being sold as genuine.
All this fake jewelry is online, can turn up at flea markets, church bazaars, street fairs and
flea market sales. The sellers of this counterfeit jewelry might be uninformed, or misinformed,
or basically just dishonest. None of those situations are in your best
For one thing, it really is true what some people say; if you buy cheap, you buy twice! And
with millions of knockoffs and fakes embellished with phony hallmarks cluttering the
marketplace, you've got to be smart in order to protect yourself from these stealthy jewelry
Remember this: you usually get what you pay for. So here are some things to look for and
be aware of when you're jewelry shopping:
This is handy - get your hands on a strong magnet -- because if your jewelry is gold or silver,
it won't be attracted to that magnet. Only real gold and sterling silver would be allergic to a
magnet -- so if your piece is drawn to it, it's not authentic.
And know this -- if you're shopping for precious metal jewelry in the US, should carry a mark
or stamp or hallmark that tells you its gold or silver content somewhere on the piece. Some
international pieces may not carry a mark, but that's when you look for that magnet.
Be vigilant. Trust your instincts if something doesn't feel right. If it seems too good to be true,
it probably is. And be sure you know who you're dealing with -- buy from a reliable source.
In the US, "karats" is how your gold content is measured, and karats tells you what percent
of your item is gold. Karats are commonly 8K (which starts as .333, or 33.3% gold) 10K, 12K,
14K, 18K, up to 24K (which is 100% pure gold). If an item is called "solid gold", that says
that no other metal was used in creating that piece. And just so you know, anything lower than
8K can't be stamped or called “karat gold."
Here's some more info that can be helpful -
-- gold tone - means the piece is just gold colored, it's shiny but there's no real gold
-- gold filled - this means that's it's got some gold it in, about 20% gold
-- gold jewelry is sometimes stamped, sometimes hand cast and sometimes hard to
markings, but still could be the real thing; again, try the magnet test, or see an experienced
professional who can confirm for you (they may charge a small testing fee)
BTW, European gold is marked by a decimal system which is different from the American
system, so if it's listed as .585, then it's actually 58.5% pure gold, .750, and up to 1.000 --
which means it's totally pure gold (like a US-rated 24K gold piece.)
Solid gold jewelry is usually pretty smooth and feels heavier than a fake. And let's say your
gold piece is showing a different shade where there has been some heavy wear. That should
alert you that it's probably gold plated, because remember -- even when real gold gets
over the years, it still
stays the same color.
STERLING SILVER HALLMARKS
If it's sterling silver, it could be marked 925, S925, 92.5, Silver, 800, Sterling or Ster. Those
marks all mean that the piece is 92.5% pure sterling silver.
But if any of these stamped marks are missing, that may not mean the piece is fake - it could
have another kind of official stamp, which could still mean that it's real silver. (Maybe time
for that magnet test again.)
Or, got a small piece of really soft white cloth? Or a jewelry polishing cloth?
Gently rub it across a small area of your sterling silver jewelry, or the underside of your silver
piece. You should see a black stain appear on the cloth. That confirms that your piece is
genuine sterling silver. (Normal tarnish is just what real silver has a tendency to do over time.)
And remember this - real sterling silver is a lot more expensive than those imported pretenders.
If you got it cheap, you may have gotten what you paid for. So if your price seems too good to be
true, that's right.
Of course, a surefire way to tell if it's really a precious metal is to take it to a reputable jewelry
dealer. They may charge a small fee for testing, but you'll know the answer.
* * * * * * * *
VINTAGE HALLMARKS, MAKER MARKS, AND MORE
The identifying hallmarks for authentic vintage pieces were usually stamped into the metal.
They can look pretty crisp and identifiable. But a word of caution -- some older jewelry items
don't have any maker's or identifying stamp at all, and that's only because they're old. Which
means that just because there's no stamp, it's not necessarily a fake.
But note that vintage fakes are often hallmarked with a cast mark that looks like a box, or
a bar, that's perched atop the piece, which makes the jewelry look thicker in that spot. In
other words, a maker mark that's raised -- not actually pressed into the metal itself -- like a
separate signature logo or "shield" that looks like it's been added onto that piece should
set off alarm bells.
IF YOU'RE HUNTING FOR A GEMSTONE IN A PRONG SETTING...
...check out the size of the prong - really. The imported fakes
today sold as vintage have longer
and thicker prongs -- the prongs fold up over the stone. But back then, the genuine vintage
jewelry prongs were just long enough to hold fine stones in place. They were practical, shorter
prongs that showed off more of the gemstone. And check to see if the backs of the gemstones
have a foil backing and if it's
peeling or scratched. (A stone's shimmer is pumped up that way.)
"Rhinestone" is a very general term that describes faceted stones of either glass or crystal,
and maybe even lab-created diamante.
Buying a vintage enameled piece? If it's listed as "vintage", the enamel coating itself should
be smooth as silk -- absolutely no brush strokes of any kind. That's because the enamel was
melted under very high heat decades ago, it was not brushed on. And if the piece has a scratch
in the enamel so you can glimpse shiny metal underneath, walk away from that fake fraud.
(A scratched true vintage enamel jewelry piece would reveal only a dull color underneath,
not a metal that's shiny.)
* * * * * * * *
TO PEARL OR NOT TO PEARL, THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION
There are millions of man-made pearls out there, some are deliberately given artificial names
and imaginary identities to allude to a higher value. Many sport a manufactured high polish and
iridescence to cleverly disguise them as being worthy of a higher price tag. They're often just
manmade fakes, counterfeit creations dressed to deceive. (BTW, fake pearls often feel lighter
than genuine natural pearls.)
Today, most real pearls are farmed. The process involves inserting some material into mollusks
or other bi-valves. These creatures then produce layers of nacre, which is cherished as the
iridescent hallmark of gorgeous natural pearls.
Ever try the old familiar "bite me"test? Well, you don't actually bite pearls to test them for
authenticity. Just gently rub your pearls together, or rub them across a front tooth. Some say
that if they feel gritty, or create a little resistance, they could be real.
IS IT REALLY AMBER?
See it, feel it. Here's how the process work.
Check it out to spot its natural, customary imperfections. Amber could have varied shapes,
and if they're beads, they can have varied sizes. There could be an air bubble or two, maybe
an occasional tiny crack.
Some say you can hold amber, feel it getting a little warm, and then you'll know that it's
probably authentic. And the price should usually reflect how extraordinary true amber really
is. (If it's priced much lower than similar amber jewelry pieces, walk away, click away, and
* * * * * * * *
A WORD ON BUYING VINTAGE PLASTIC JEWELRY
Please shop smartly and try to proceed with caution.
For instance, some sellers are offering “bakelite” at suspiciously low prices, and it’s not until you
see the full description that maybe they'll disclose it’s “French Bakelite” or "F Bakelite" which
may mean "Fakelite". Bakelite repros are being made daily, most of the “Fakelite” is imported.
And when I see a “genuine bakelite” seller who has over a dozen different color combinations
of EXACTLY the same design, it's hard to believe that the seller found pristine multiples of
“rare” vintage pieces - almost identical duplicates of “vintage collectible” bakelite pieces - with
the same pattern, composition, and size that differ only in shades and colors, and all in “pristine”
and “mint” condition. My alarm bells go off. Yours probably should, too.
MORE TIPS FOR JEWELRY SHOPPING PEACE OF MIND
-- A true sterling silver piece can be well worn but still have lots of its original shine, personality,
-- Real gold has a warm glow after some wear due to years of microscopic scratches -- old gold
earns its own unique attractive appearance.
-- Inspect your jewelry carefully. Check to see if the stones are glued or mounted properly.
-- One takeaway I've seen on my own jewelry is that if that if you see green corrosion anywhere
on the piece, that means copper or brass is the underlying metal. That's not necessarily a bad
thing, BUT, if it's been called "solid
gold", then you need to get outta there.
-- If your skin is irritated or has turned green from wearing your jewelry, it's probably fake.
That's because real gold and genuine silver don't generally irritate skin, unless
there's a possible
residue of jewelry cleaning polish which might cause an irritation.
-- Is that online seller using their own original jewelry image or "borrowing" a picture from
somewhere else? And is it a quality image of the jewelry so you can really examine it clearly?
BOTTOM LINE: BE A SMART JEWELRY BUYER, ARM YOURSELF WITH
Get online and check out the many sources or forums that can help you identify markings, figure
out hallmarks, and detect telltale signs of jewelry fraud. You can also boost your smarts with a
book that tells you what to look for, and what to ignore.
Most important, when you're buying any jewelry item, you should know who you're buying it
from -- know their reputation, buy from a reliable vendor you can trust. Check out the seller's
ratings, check out their positive feedback, read their buyers' reviews.
* * * * * * * *
note that these tips for detecting phony jewelry frauds are intended purely as a starting point
for being aware of counterfeit jewelry. Be sure to check out my
links below, including
Jewelry Care Tips on How to Protect Your Bling. Thank you for visiting
and tell your friends!
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