How to tell if an item is gold or silver

To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell if a piece of gold or silver jewelry is genuine or simply a close representation.

Whether you’ve inherited some jewelry or would just like to know its value, here are some simple steps you can take to help identify the legitimacy of your jewelry and to see if an item contains gold, silver, or platinum.

Different levels of gold content

There are several different classifications to be aware of that can help describe the gold content of a piece.

Here are some examples of both plated gold and solid gold that we commonly see:

  • Gold-toned items contain little or no gold, and are simply colored to mimic gold.
  • Gold-plated items are made of a base metal (that isn’t gold) and are covered in a very thin gold coating.
  • HGE or heavy gold electroplate items are similar to gold-plated, but contain far less gold content.
  • Gold-filled items are not filled with gold like the name suggests. The most common stamp is generally “1/20 14k GF”.
  • Karat gold items indicate the purity of the piece. The “karat” equates to the percentage of gold in the item. You may see stamps such as 8K, 9K, 10K, 14K, 18K, 20K, 21K, 22K, and 24K but it may also have a decimal equivalent.
  • Solid gold items have the same content throughout the piece, but the term “solid gold” does not denote specific value in the way karat does.

Next, we’ll take a look at some things that you can easily do at-home to help determine if your gold is real.

The magnifying glass test

With a magnifying glass or lope and a bit of good lighting, you can often identify the hallmarks on a particular piece of jewelry.

Here are a few things to look for:

  • When in doubt, bring your items in for a free evaluation.
  • The color of your gold will most often be a nice, soft yellow. If it is overly shiny, this may be an indication that it is plated or costume jewelry.
  • Gold is chemically inert, meaning that it should never show any discoloration. It can be common to see Black Hills Gold (BHG) or tri-colored gold. You will often see a mix of yellow, pink, and white.
  • Lastly, the purity hallmark will usually be displayed somewhere on the item, often in terms of karat or the decimal equivalent as listed above under karat gold.

The purity hallmark

The hallmark (sometimes referred to as the karat stamp) is typically placed in specific locations depending on the type of jewelry.

  • For rings, the purity hallmark can usually be found inside the band.
  • For earrings, the mark is typically placed on the post or on the backside of the piece.
  • On pendants, you’ll want to look on the bail or on the back of the piece.
  • For chains or bracelets, purity hallmarks can most often be found on the tag (at the end of the piece) or on the clasp.

If you have any uncertainty about a piece’s content or value, your Gold Guys are here to help.

What about silver?

Most genuine silver items will be stamped with a fineness or hallmark which indicates the precious metal content. Here are just a few examples:

  • Sterling
  • Sterling silver
  • Ster
  • 925
  • 830 S or 800 S

Sell your gold and silver online with the Gold Guys

It’s important to remember that just because a piece doesn’t pass one of these tests or doesn’t have a purity hallmark, that doesn’t mean it has no value. We invite you to mail in the items or to stop by our conveniently located stores to assess the value of your items.

The Gold Guys are the number-one-ranked mail-in service in the U.S. We walk you through the process as we assess your jewelry.

Here’s how selling gold online for free with the Gold Guys works in five easy steps:

  1. Fill out the form to request a mail-in kit
  2. Receive your mail-in kit from us within 3-5 business days
  3. Package up your items
  4. Mail back your prepaid, insured package through USPS or UPS to our location
  5. Receive your offer over the phone or via email

Our risk free process means that if you’re not 100% satisfied, we’ll return your items completely free of charge. We look forward to serving you!

Contact us today to learn more about how to sell your unwanted jewelry.