Although it is always best to buy jewelry from a reputable dealer you can trust, sometimes you can find a deal that is too good to pass up. Before you and your money are parted and you walk away with your purchase, take a look for some things that may help you tell if the jewelry you are buying is real.
Look for a hallmark and a karat stamp. All manufacturers have a hallmark stamp that identifies their work along with a stamp that either says what the karat is or what the percentage of gold is in the piece. 485 or 14k is 14 karat gold and 750 or 18k is 18 karat gold. 925 or Ster is sterling silver and 950 or Plat is platinum.
Examine how the piece is finished, using a 10x jeweler’s loupe if possible. If the piece has rough edges, cheap or flimsy clasps or if the stones are not noticeably set in the piece with some kind of prong, odds are it is a fake. Manufacturers will not take the time to cleanly finish a piece of fake jewelry because the money is not worth the time.
Test the metal with nitric acid purchased at a jewelry supplier. Scratch the piece with a small file and place a drop of nitric on the spot. If it doesn’t react, it’s gold.
Use a testing kit to test the gold content, which can be time consuming, or take it to a jeweler and have him test it for you.
Run a strand of pearls along the bottom edge of your front teeth. Real pearls feel gritty, fakes feel smooth. Real pearls are also surprisingly heavy and have flaws, no matter how small. Fakes tend to be lighter in weight and will appear perfect.
Look through a jeweler’s 10x loupe at any gemstones, particularly diamonds. Real stones have inclusions or flaws inside them that look like specks, scratches, cotton fluff, cracks, or black dots. If the stone is deep and rich in color if a colored stone, pure colorless if a diamond, and flawless, then it is most likely a fake because a real stone of that quality is very rare and would sell for top dollar.
Although these steps can help, there is no foolproof way to tell if a piece of jewelry is real just by looking at it. An excellent quality fake of a very expensive piece can be quite convincing.
Unless you think the risk is worth it, the old adage "If it's too good to be true, it probably is" is your best guide if in doubt. It might be better to pay a bit more and get what you pay for from someone who is reputable and will back up your purchase than to pay too much for a worthless piece of junk.