Everyone wants to look expensive – unfortunately, that desire has led to a jewelry market flooded with fakes designed to look like the real thing. Don’t let yourself get cheated from your money – or worse, wearing an unconvincing fake without you knowing. Here’s how to spot fake jewelry, including how to spot fake gold and silver.
How to Spot Fake Silver
925 sterling silver (a blend of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or another metal) is one of the most common jewelry metals. It’s durable, hypoallergenic, versatile, and looks great on most people. To know if a piece of jewelry is authentic 925 sterling silver, look for a small stamp that says “Ster,” “925,” or “Sterling Silver.”
If you can’t find a stamp, try these methods to see if the piece contains mainly (or any) silver:
- Take the item to a jeweler. They’ll be able to test jewelry for authenticity and can tell you with certainty whether or not it’s authentic.
- Hold a magnet to the item. Pure silver isn’t magnetic, so if a piece of jewelry has a significant amount of silver in it, it won’t be drawn to the magnet.
- Rub a soft cloth onto the piece, then check the cloth. If you see black marks, you’re in luck. Real silver tarnishes when it’s exposed to air, which is exactly what those black marks are.
- When in doubt, give it a sniff. Cheap metals usually have a smell, while silver doesn’t. A strong smell usually indicates the metal has a high percentage of copper, meaning it’s less valuable.
How to Spot Fake Gold
First, take a look at our Jewelry Metals 101 post for a complete rundown on gold jewelry. Getting to know gold jewelry in general is the best first step to developing an eye for quality. Similar to silver jewelry, one of the most reliable ways to test whether a piece of gold jewelry is authentic is to hold a magnet to it. You’re looking to have a piece with enough gold in it that it doesn’t attract to the magnet.
How to Spot a Fake Gold Chain
With hip hop fashion now in the mainstream (finally), it’s hard to find a red carpet anywhere that isn’t full of men wearing gold chains. What used to be a niche style just for rappers is now everywhere. If you want to emulate the style and buy your own, follow these guidelines to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.
- Compare the size to the price. That huge gold chain 50 Cent’s wearing in his music video probably costs tens of thousands of dollars. Either that, or it’s a piece of costume jewelry. Similarly, if you see a very large chain studded with diamonds for a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that gold is expensive. Be realistic about what you’re getting.
- Pay attention to the color. Real gold (even yellow gold) isn’t the bright yellow we’re used to seeing. It’s striking, but not loud. Get used to the way real gold looks so you can spot a fake.
- Look for a jeweler’s stamp. Skilled jewelers are proud of their handiwork, and a stamp is how they sign their work, just like an artist signs a painting. If you can see a stamp, it’s probably real gold.
- Check the piece’s weight. Gold feels heavy to the touch. An authentic solid gold chain will have some heft in your hand.
How to Spot Fake Jewelry
Here are a few rules of thumb to live by when you shop for jewelry, regardless of what the jewelry’s made of:
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you find what looks like a ruby ring for $50, you can count on it being glass.
- Stick with reputable sellers. If it’s really important to you that your pieces are authentic, shop from stores that vet their merchandise for you. If you don’t care whether your diamond necklace is real or not, go wild at a thrift store.
- Check the workmanship. Does the item seem well-made? Are the fastenings secure? Does it look like it will stand the test of time? If so, that bodes well for authenticity.
- Check the gemstones. Real gemstones have flaws in them – even the best ones. If something looks a little too perfect, that’s a red flag.
Is it Tacky to Wear Fake Jewelry?
This answer is really up to you. Personally, I see jewelry as a means of self-expression. How do you see yourself? If costume jewelry goes with your personal style, go for it. If you’re all about classic, understated elegance, you’ll probably want to stick with the real thing.
But most importantly, consider whether or not you can pull it off. I’ve known plenty of models who could make a bargain-bin dress look like a million bucks. But I’ve also worked with men who lied on their resume, skated by at work, and never wore a piece of designer jewelry their whole life – and it showed. If you can make fake jewelry look good, by all means, do it. But stay authentic within yourself.