Q&A with a Jeweler [‘Real or Fake?’ Edition]

Mom Pic (Resized)Peggy Woon is a GIA-accredited jeweler; now a retiree, she was in the jewelry industry for more than 30 years. For 28 years, she and her business partner co-owned the Silver Lining Jewelry store in Oakland, Calif.  Today, she spends her time spoiling 3 grandchildren and 2 German Shepherds, as well as volunteering with local non-profits. Unable to stay away from her first passion, she can also be found working the jewelry counter at the Oakland Museum of California’s White Elephant Sale and occasionally at Given Gold Jewelers on Piedmont Avenue.

How can you tell if a piece of Silver or Gold is real? If silver is stamped 925, that’s the international code. If it sticks to a magnet, it’s not all silver; it’s some other metal. As for gold, you should also look for stamping; e.g.: if you see 565, 14k, 750, 18k or 24k, then that’s a good indicator that’s it’s real, but not a certainty.


What about Pearls? Rub pearls together. If it has a gritty feeling, they’re usually real. If it’s super smooth, they’re most likely not real. [If you only have 1 pearl to test, try rubbing it against your tooth to check the texture.]

Fine Gem Stones? They might be real, but could be color-enhanced by dye injection. This is hard to figure out for the untrained eye. I’ve looked at enough stones, though, that I can get a sense for whether they’re dyed, usually by noticing if the color is too even (no striations) or if it has a fake glass look to it.

Diamonds? At home, you can try to look at the stone closely for carbon and other natural flaws. If it looks too good to be true, it may not be real. This is very difficult to do with the human eye, though. Many jewelers have instruments that can be used to detect carbon in real diamonds. The invention of moissanite (a simulant) complicated things a bit because it can trick some diamond testers. While moissanite is more expensive than a cubic zirconia, it’s not as expensive as a real diamond. For instance, a moissanite 1 karat might be US$800 vs. US$5,000 for a real 1 karat diamond. Today, though, there are tools that can test for moissanite versus a real diamond.

Fine Watches, such as a Rolex? Some watch makers or repair experts can verify a watch by checking the serial numbers. In the case of a Rolex, oftentimes a consumer can look at the watch face and see if the hands have a smooth sweep. If it’s tick-tick-ticking along, that’s not a Rolex. A real Rolex will have hands that appear to glide. Also, if there’s a battery, that’s usually not a real Rolex; most Rolex watches are automatic.
When in doubt, you can bring your pieces to an expert who has instruments that can be used to probe the material to check the authenticity and integrity of the jewelry.

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts featuring experts.

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