How to Spot the Differences in Authentic and Knockoff Jewelry


Times are hard and you’re low on cash. Looking for a quick way to make some money, you look through your jewelry box and find a diamond ring you decide to sell. Excited, you rush down to the pawn shop in your town and give it to the jeweler to see how much the piece will sell for. After a quick look the jeweler says that it’s not a diamond ring, but a fraud. You walk back out, hurt and still broke.

This could have been avoided had you known it was a fake… But how could you have known? Below are ten questions you should ask yourself when deciding on whether a piece of jewelry is the real deal or a convincing fake.

Is there a hallmark?
Metals are assessed by an assay office to test their purity. If found to be of sound quality, a stamp known as a hallmark is placed on the metal. You should know that not every assay office does hallmarking, so do your research. Famous jewelry companies also have their own hallmarks, such as Tiffany, Cartier, Harry Winston, and a host of others.

Is this piece available online?
If so, is the image an original or a copied image from another jewelry site? If the item you are searching for is not the item shown in the picture, do not buy it. As an aside, selling fakes and replicas of jewelry is illegal, which can get your site shut down and charges brought against you.

Is there a return policy on the jewelry?
“Any real piece of jewelry will come with a return policy, which shows how many days you have to return the item and under what conditions,” said DeMesy Fine Watches & Jewelry. Most jewelry stores have a return policy that states that any piece of jewelry can be returned within 30 days with the receipt and in good condition.

Are the links pinched together?
This applies to bracelets and necklaces. Any real jewelry will not have links that are pinched together, but that are soldered and smooth. These links will look continuous, while links in fake jewelry will look noticeably pinched together.

Is it silver, white gold, or rhodium?
Rhodium can plate metals and mimic silver and white gold, and can give jewelry a whitish appearance. There are two ways to identify rhodium-plated jewelry:

  1. Look at the underside of the ring under a bright light. You can see yellow gold if the piece has been worn heavily.
  2. Also check the underside for a hallmark. If it has a karat stamp, such as 10k or 14k, it’s gold and the piece is fake.

Did that diamond ring come with a certificate?
Diamond rings and other real pieces of jewelry will come with a GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certificate. If you’re not given one, inquire to see what you get. While we’re on diamonds, real ones can be found through various tests such as the:

  • Newspaper Test
  • Fog Test
  • Weighing Test
  • Rainbow Test
  • UV Test
  • Flaw Test
  • Metal Test

A thorough explanation for each test can be found here. Still check with a jeweler when it comes to finding real diamonds.

Of what quality is the paperwork/card?
You should look for clear, sharp writing on the paperwork or card you receive with your jewelry. Blurry writing indicates a problem.

Does your gold pass the gold test?
Can your gold pass the:

  • Magnet Test
  • Bite Test
  • Karat Stamp Test
  • Ceramic Plate Test

A thorough explanation for each test can be found here. If in doubt, check with a jeweler.

Is it costume jewelry?
Costume jewelry uses fake glass, plastic gemstones, and metal alloys like polished brass. To spot this fake jewelry, look for corrosion, which can cause itchy skin, discoloration and even inflammation of the skin.

How about that price?
If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. A diamond ring will never go for $100, but it will go for $1,000 and up. Be careful.

I bet you feel like a professional jewelry appraiser now huh? Speaking of, even after trying all of the tips above, take your jewelry to a professional for the final word. Everything that glitters isn’t always gold, or even real for that matter. Shop smartly!