Tag Archives: Jewelry

How Can I Tell if Jewelry is Real or Fake?

Question from Dean in Chicago:

Dirk, I took your advice and bought a storage unit. There was a really nice box of jewelry. It looks to have some gold, silver and diamonds. I don’t know how to tell if any of it is real. Help!


Dean, congrats on scoring some jewelry – it’s great to open a little treasure chest isn’t it. Ok, second hand jewelry is almost it’s own specialty. There are many people that just trade jewelry, making a great living. I’m going to give you some tips to get the best price you can for it. First, you need a magnifying glass or loupe. You need to inspect each piece for markings. You’re looking for the amount of karat for gold or the marking sterling or 925 for silver. The higher the karat, the more pure the gold. With silver, the marking “sterling” or 925 indicates that it is .925 percent pure silver. Then you need to do some internet research on what the going price for gold and silver is, it fluctuates on a moment to moment basis. This is just so you know what you have. If it’s not marked, take a strong magnet and run it just over the piece, if it has no magnetic pull whatsoever, it’s a precious metal. If there’s some magnetic pull, it’s plated. Plated jewelry is worth much less – it’s about the artistry of the piece at that point. There are acid tests that you can buy to determine the purity of the metal but you shouldn’t need to go that far – you just want to get top dollar for it so I’ll give you some ideas how to go about that.

Take a piece that you think has some value to a pawn shop or jeweler that “buys” jewelry. In a matter of 30 seconds or less, they’ll tell you if it is real or not. They may even give you an offer but you’re not going to take their offer. They will offer you a third or less of what they think they can sell it for. You’re not a sucker so you don’t accept their offer, but now you know you have something of value. If they offer you $50 for the piece, take four photographs of the item and list the item for sale on craigslist at 4 times the pawn shop offer. If you get a call within 30 minutes from your ad, you under-priced it. Tell them you already sold it and put it away for a couple weeks and re-list it at a higher price or go pay for an appraisal of the piece. If you get a call later in the day of your ad or the next day, you probably are close to the best price you can get. If you get no calls, re-list it a week later less $50 or whatever and try again. If you don’t like selling on craigslist, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t, list the item on ebay at the pawn shop’s offer and let the auction do it’s thing.

If you have gold and silver that doesn’t have precious stones, consider trying cash4gold.com. We sent off a package of body piercings and got a check for $900 in the mail a couple weeks later. This method is not top dollar, it’s scrap value and you’re taking a chance on being swindled but it worked for us.
If you think you have real diamonds or really like selling second hand jewelry, there’s an easy way to tell if the stone is real or not. All you need is the electronic diamond detector which works surprisingly well and is less than $100. It’s a great tool in your arsenal.

I hope this helps and thanks for the question.

Who’ this Dirk? Read about Dirk

How do I become a buyer and reseller of Jewelry?

Hi Dirk, I read your post about selling jewelry and wonder how I go about becoming a buyer and seller of jewelry?  I’ve been to storage auctions as you suggest and there’s too much other junk involved.  Any suggestions?

Tamara, Kansas City, MO.

Dear Tamara, thank you for the question, I haven’t had one in such a while that I thought nobody was interested in buying and selling things anymore.  My faith is restored!

Ok, so you want to be a buyer and seller of jewelry; here’s how you do it.  First, recognize that you can be anything you want to be in this world.  If you want to be a jewelry buyer, imagine your self or pretend that you are and be prepared to take action on it.  You need to start with research.  I recommend you start with costume jewelry.  You need a price guide to train your eye to spot pieces that people are selling cheap because they do not know their true value.  Here’s a great book that we often use in our business:

Learn all that you can before you set out to buy. Your next step is to shop at garage sales, flea markets and on craigslist. There are sellers of jewelry all over the place and the three places I mentioned above are the most likely to be selling pieces under value. At every garage sale you should ask, are you selling any jewelry? Even if they are not displaying it, they might have some they hadn’t even considered selling. We find this all the time and when we do, we make an offer to buy everything. People have garage sales for a variety of reasons and if they’re not professionals, they WILL sell you their stuff for practically nothing. They just want to get rid of things, make the rent or whatever. You are most likely to get gold, silver and diamonds from this buying situation.

After you have bought some jewelry, you need to identify and grade what you have before you re-sell it. There are some tools you can acquire to help you with this task. You need a simple test to determine if it’s predious metal and what karat. Consider the following:

This is an inexpensive tester you can start with so that you are not ever underselling any piece. You can also take the tester with you when you’re re-selling at flea markets, craft shows or wherever you will be selling your merchandise and make a few extra bucks by testing pieces for $5 per test. You’d be surprised how many people need metals tested. You should also invest in a diamond tester. I once sold a piece of jewelry with diamonds for $40 and heard later that the buyer re-sold it for $1400. I wasn’t sure if they were real diamonds or not and he pulled out his tester on the spot and happily handed me the forty bucks I was asking for. You don’t want to have that happen to you so get a diamond tester.

We had a funny jewelry buying experience I’ll leave you with. My wife found a seller on craigslist – she was offering 50 pieces of costume jewelry for $40. It sounded promising just from the title; at a dollar a piece, we’re guaranteed profit. We showed up to their house with cash in hand and checked out the goods. This place was straight up ghetto and we walked into a crime scene in progress. I was overwhelmed by the smell of dog piss and the seller was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in their living room. Her toothless husband showed us the jewelry and we looked over just to make sure that the earrings had pairs and what-not. While we were looking over her costume jewelry, he sat on the mattress and she said, “get off of me, I’m sleeping.” ”Whatever, you f–king wh-re,” he said as if we weren’t even there. ”Do you have a grocery bag?” I asked and handed him the $40. We wondered if that was going to be enough for the pair to get their fix of whatever. Later we looked over the stuff, took our price guide out and found several vintage pieces, worth several hundred dollars. We found some sterling silver. Overall, we’ll probably make 5-6 hundred dollars from our $40 investment. It’s not without some risk but the risk is outweighed by the reward. We bagged and tagged the items and put it with our portable sales stash. When we get to Venice Beach next month, we’ll have quite a sale.
Much success!