They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. While that might be true, they don’t seem to get along with my wallet. At all.
For those of us wanting to bling up our lives without the price tag (or fiancé), there is hope: second-hand jewellery stores. These troves of hidden treasures will be your new best-kept secret whenever someone asks you where you got that gorgeous, one-of-a-kind antique ring – and we’ll do our bit to keep our lips sealed, too.
We spoke to Michael Pearce, a jewellery specialist with more than 12 years’ experience in the industry, about his top tips for anyone interested buying or selling second-hand jewellery.
Here are six things to keep in mind when evaluating jewellery, so you can figure out whether the pre-loved piece you’ve fallen in love with is actually the real deal.
1. Look for the hallmark.
When buying or selling jewellery, the first thing appraisers will look for is the hallmark and stamp. “All jewellery should have an identifying mark stating the quality of gold in the piece which tells us that it is actual carat gold and not costume or fake. Diamonds can also have identifying serial numbers to signify what it is and its authenticity. These generally come from an independent authority, like the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA) who are an international authority on diamond grading,” comments Pearce.
Apart from the hallmark, many pieces of jewellery will also come with a marker’s mark, which is the stamp signifying the artisan or company that produced the jewellery. These are more common – and also more valuable – when looking to buy or sell designer or brand-name pieces, such as Tiffany & Co or Rolex. When buying luxury, second-hand pieces such as these, they will also often come with a certificate of authenticity.
2. Test the stone.
Whether they be rings, bracelets, necklaces or earrings, often the value of pre-loved jewellery comes from the quality of the gemstones that you find in them, and the best way to test if gemstones are real is by using diamond testers. You can purchase these online for about $10.
"Makes sure to ask for a certificate of authenticity". Image: iStock.
“A diamond tester is a small, hand-held device that sends a signal through the stone to see how much heat it conducts,” explains Pearce. “Different stones conduct heat in different ways, so you can tell straight away if it’s the real deal or not. This is the most accurate way to test the difference between real diamonds and cubic zirconia, for example, because cubic zirconia don’t conduct heat at all.”
3. Look for the inclusions.
The amount of inclusions in gemstones is another way to differentiate between real and fake pieces. Inclusions are essentially the “birthmarks” of stones – any natural flaws or unique markings within the rock itself. “Natural stones, such as emeralds and sapphires, will have a number of inclusions in them, whereas synthetic stones will often be perfectly clear,” comments Pearce.
In order to figure out the amount of inclusions in a stone, you would need a high-grade magnifying glass. Jewellers and evaluators will typically use 10x loupe, which is a glass with 10-times magnification. For those of us who aren’t professionals, usually the valuation certificate will include information about a stone’s natural inclusions.
4. Measure the colour.
All gemstones have a colour grade, ranging from ‘D’ (colourless) to ‘Z’ (highly coloured), and this is one of the determinants of their value.