How to Tell Whether Your Old Jewellery Is Worth Anything

It’s a common story: you’re selling the estate of a loved one, downsizing the old family home or simply clearing out your closet when you chance upon some old jewellery. For the life of you, you can’t remember where it’s from, what it’s made of or even to whom it once belonged. It is a glittering, gleaming mystery. 

Remember, though: Some mystery stories end with lost treasure. You may be sitting on a very valuable array of jewellery without even knowing it. 

Determining the value of jewellery ultimately boils down to testing it for precious metal content. While it’s challenging (if not downright impossible) to thoroughly, accurately test the purity of gold, silver and platinum items at home, there are simple steps you can take to get a sense of what your jewellery is worth. Once you have a sense, take the jewellery to a trusted buyer like Muzeum Toronto to have the piece accurately appraised and fairly sold. 

To start, here’s how to tell whether your old jewellery is worth anything.  

Inspect It for Hallmarks

“Hallmarks” are official engravings that certify the content of noble metals (gold, silver and platinum, usually) in a piece of jewellery. Hallmarks vary from country to country according to who assays them, but, in general, they are a reliable indication of purity and (occasionally) provenance. 

On a ring, you will typically find the hallmark stamped on the inner circle. On chains and necklaces, hallmarks are generally found around the clasp. And on coins, the hallmark is conspicuously stamped on the front face. 

The “standard mark” on a hallmark lets you know the purity of the precious metal. For gold, these standard markings run from 375, denoting 9 carats (37.5%) purity, all the way up to 999, which indicates 24k (99.9%) purity. Of course, the higher the purity, the more valuable the jewellery often is. 

Get Magnetic

Let’s say the hallmark is absent or indecipherable. Don’t worry: all is not lost. 

Get yourself a strong magnet, either online or at the local hardware store, and perform “the magnet test.” This simple test involves hovering a magnet over top of the jewellery item and feeling for a pull. If the magnet pulls toward the item, chances are the jewellery isn’t pure since precious metals like gold aren’t magnetic

Try an Electronic Gold Tester 

Don’t trust the hallmark or magnet? A more accurate (albeit imperfect) way to test for gold is with an electronic gold tester. Cover the jewellery with probe gel and rub it against the electronic tester. The device measures how the item responds to electricity and can give you a reasonably reliable read of purity. Take the readings with a grain of salt, though – even well-made electronic gold testers can be improperly calibrated.  

Take It to a Trusted Jewellery Buyer

Assuming that the reason for inspection is that you want to sell the jewellery, consider simply taking it to a trusted gold and silver buyer for testing. A quality gold and silver buyer should have an XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) machine on hand that they can use to test the purity with startling accuracy. Home tests are great for sating your personal curiosity, but only an expert can accurately determine purity. 

Think you’re sitting on a literal gold mine? Try these tips and tests at home, then take your jewellery to a trusted, transparent and well-reviewed gold and silver buyer. 

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