How to know if gold is real or costume

Lots of people have some old necklaces and earrings they are considering selling.

But you may be too embarrassed to bring them to a gold shop, because you figure they're going to tell you it's just worthless costumer jewelry. Who needs that?

So we wanted to see if there is a way to determine on your own if what you have is real, or just fool's gold?

Thought it was costume jewelry

Robert and Bobbie Boyd, like many of us, thought most of their jewelry was costume. They thought wrong.

Bobbie said she was surprised by how much a little bit of jewelry brought her: Several hundred dollars.

Even the back of an earring can bring in $5, with gold close to $2,000 an ounce.

Worthless jewelry not so worthless

Many people are telling a similar story after selling what they thought was worthless costume jewelry. One store owner  says some customers have kissed his staff members, they were so thrilled.

"In a few boxes of costume jewelry, you can find some silver, gold fill and almost every time you're going to find gold," said store owner Jon Saylor.

So how do you know if its real?

What to do, Not to do

Saylor says don't rely on a stamping because older jewelry was not marked 18K, 10K, or 14K. Just because a ring has no mark inside it doesn't mean it's another metal.

So how can you know if something is really gold?

Saylor's employees, and those at most gold buying shops, use a small magnet. Most costume jewelry is made of steel, and sticks immediately to the magnet.

"Anything magnetic is not a precious metal. No precious metals are magnetic," Saylor explained.

But Saylor warns that the magnet test can fool you, because he says even with solid 14k gold, may have a clasp made of steel that sticks to a magnet.

You could toss a bracelet made of real gold simply because the clasp stuck to your magnet, meaning you just tossed $400.

Bring it in

So Saylor says don't be embarrassed to come in to the store.

"Even if you think it might be silly to bring in, if you have any suspicion that it might be good, bring it in, it doesn't cost anything to get it checked," Saylor said.

Professionals also use a nitric acid test to determine if something is real gold, but unless you know what you are doing it's best to skip that.

An old folk recipe for testing gold was to bite it to see if it is soft. If you value your teeth, don't try it.

Remember: Gold buyers don't charge anything to inspect jewelry so bring it in to a local buyer, and that way you don't waste your money.


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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