I’m not a gemologist or a jeweler. But, I’m happy to share what I have learned.
Thrift store pricers often go a little crazy over jewelry. One thrift store had a set of fake pearls priced higher than retail for several months. Other items in the case sold but those “pearls” had been there so long they practically had their own lunch order.
Take the phrase buyer beware to heart. Before you fork out big bucks for a piece of jewelry at a thrift store, have a jeweler with you. Or, if your cell has a web connection, check the price of a comparable new item while you’re browsing.
And always do the following:
- Buy what you like. Most pieces will be costume jewelry so make sure you want it enough to wear it proudly.
- Look for wear, such as finish wearing off the metal or beads.
- Open and close the clasp a few times to make sure it works.
- Test how secure the stones are in their setting. Check that all stones are present and accounted for.
- See how well the stones reflect the light. If the stones are scratched they’ll look dull.
You’ll also want to check the metal for marks. Marks are usually on the clasp, the back of a pendant, or inside the band of a ring. The marks are tiny so a magnifying glass comes in handy. Here are some marks you may find:
- 925 means the metal is sterling silver.
- Nickel silver or German silver means no silver content. The piece is copper, nickel, and zinc.
- A number and a K such as 14K can mean the item is real gold but beware: Unscrupulous types have put this stamp on items that were not gold. The wearer’s neck or finger turned green and the giver’s face turned red. That could be how the item ended up at a thrift store.
- A number and a K followed by GF (10K GF) means the item is gold-filled, not solid gold. The mark could also read: 1/20 14K.
- 925 (sterling) but the finish looks like gold. The item is probably vermeil which is usually karat gold electroplated over silver.
For more information about gold and silver marks see Enchanted Learning.