How to tell which metal your jewelry is made from
Perhaps you inherited a piece of jewelry and wonder...
What metal is my jewelry made from? Can I tell the metal in my jewelry just by looking at it?
Or, perhaps you worry about the authenticity of one of your valuables? If so, review these three facts about precious metals to help guide you through some of these questions.
1) Look for Hallmarks
This is one of the simplest and most accurate ways to identify the metal in your jewelry. So what is a hallmark? A hallmark is a marking stamped on a piece of jewelry that assures the owner that the item meets the minimum requirements for precious metal contents. Aka, it helps you know what material your jewelry is made from. In most fine jewelry and engagement rings, you can find hallmarks engraved in areas that are mostly hidden when worn. They tend to be in the inside of jewelry items so that only the owner can see them once they are taken off.
Here are two types of hallmarks you may find:
- Purity hallmarks – This type of hallmark is in the form of a number. For example, you might have silver jewelry that has the number 925 engraved on it somewhere. Alternatively you may see gold jewelry with the markings 14k, indicating the item is made from 14 karat gold.
- Maker’s Marks – The manufacturers of jewelry usually stamp their trademark onto the metal. These marks can be in the form of shapes and symbols that are uniquely designed by the creator of the jewelry. Maker’s marks can date jewelry back to a specific time in history and are often used to authenticate if a piece of jewelry is an antique.
*The above is a photo of a ring with a 750 purity hallmark. This is showing us that the ring is 75% pure gold or also known as 18k gold.
What the purity hallmarks mean:
|Metal||In USA marked as||Other countries markings|
|22 Karat||22K or 22Kt||917|
|18 Karat||18K or 18Kt||750|
|14 Karat||14K or 14Kt||585|
|10 Karat||10K or 10Kt||417|
|Gold Filled||GF or 14K GF|
|Gold Plated||GP or 18K GP|
|Silver||STR, Sterling, or 925||Ster or 925|
|Platinum||Plat or PT||900 PT or 800 PT|
|Palladium||Pall or PD||950 Pal or 950 PD|
Where to look for Hallmarks:
You will need a magnifying glass and a flashlight from your cell phone to help locate the hallmark.
- Rings – The hallmark is usually stamped on the interior side of the band that touches your skin.
- Necklaces – The hallmark is stamped on or near the clasp. Sometimes it’s stamped on an extra piece in a unique shape that dangles near the clasp.
- Bracelets – Some bracelets have the hallmark stamped on the inside of the band while other bracelets display the hallmark near the clasp.
- Earrings- Most earrings have the metal hallmark located on the back of the earring, near the post.
2) Conduct a Magnetic Test
Metals such as silver, gold, titanium, platinum, palladium, stainless steel, zinc, pewter, copper, aluminum, and tungsten are not magnetic. However, iron, nickel, steel, and cobalt are magnetic. A magnetic test will help narrow down the type of metal your jewelry is made from.
Here is how you conduct a test for magnetism:
- You need to use a strong magnet to conduct the test.
- Use the magnet to brush across all the surfaces of the piece of jewelry. Keep in mind some jewelry pieces use a variety of metals so there is a chance one piece will have a magnetic pull in one area but not the rest.
The results of the magnetic test:
- Magnet sticks – If the magnet sticks to the jewelry, that piece is made from magnetic metal such as steel and not a precious metal such as gold.
- Magnet doesn’t stick – If the magnet doesn’t stick to the jewelry, there is a possibility it’s made from precious metal. However, it can also be made of non-precious metal that is non-magnetic.
3) Rub the Metal With a Cloth
If you are unable to find hallmarks on your jewelry, you can identify the material by rubbing the item against a cloth. Real gold will leave no mark, while counterfeit gold or alloy will leave gold-colored residue on the cloth.
With silver items, expect just the opposite. Real silver or silver-plated items will turn the cloth black. Alloy mixtures won’t leave any trace.
Still not sure?
We are here to help! Let our team of expert goldsmiths and appraisers help you not only identify the metal of your jewelry, but also the stone, manufacturer, estimated circa date, and value. Begin the process now.
Now that you know how to identify metal jewelry, inspect your entire jewelry collection to determine your unique pieces. It’s also the perfect time to get your damaged jewelry fixed so you can enjoy wearing it again. Contact us today to fix your jewelry and make it part of your wearable collection!