How to Identify Precious Metals

by Lynette Hingle

Buying platinum, gold and silver jewelry from individual and secondhand dealers can lead to not only significant savings over retail jewelry store prices, but to the discoveries of beautiful vintage pieces that complement your personal style. However, before you embark on a search for bargains and rare finds online, at flea markets or even at jewelry shows, arm yourself with some important information on how to identify precious metals to ensure that your purchase is a deal you won’t live to regret.

Items you will need

  • Unglazed Porcelain Tile
  • Magnet
  • White Polishing Cloth

Specific Ways to Indentify Precious Metals

Step 1

Run gold pieces along an unglazed porcelain tile. If the resulting mark is yellowish-gold, the piece is real. If the mark is black, the piece is not real.

Step 2

Position a magnet over a presented platinum, gold or silver piece. Precious metals will not be pulled, but iron and steel knock-offs will be pulled.

Step 3

Clasp your hand around a suspected silver piece. Silver will be warm to the touch, while stainless steel will feel cold.

Step 4

Rub a clean, white polishing cloth over a silver piece. Real silver and silver plate will turn the cloth black.

Step 5

Platinum is the heaviest precious metal. Place a platinum piece in one hand and a gold piece in the other. The platinum piece should be noticeably heavier than the gold piece.

Tips

  • Silver has a naturally dull finish. Only silver-plated pieces shine. Real gold cannot scratch glass. Fake gold does scratch glass. Platinum will never tarnish or wear out, no matter how old it is.

Warnings

  • While all precious metals are required to have an authenticity stamp, it is easy for unscrupulous people to stamp fake precious metals. Do not be assured that the precious metal is real based on the appearance of a stamp. Also, beware of stamps on clasps that look newer than the precious metal they are attached to.