The differences between real and fake jewelry is rather simple for most. Real jewelry is made out of precious metals and maybe precious stones while fake jewelry is made of low grade materials that might only look good when they are new.
By law all precious metal has to be properly stamped. As you might guess this is US law. Unfortunately many overseas manufactures import large amounts of fake jewelry with misleading markings and much of it gets past the customs inspectors. For this reason you should know how to spot fakes.
Real gold and silver jewelry have specific stamps that must be placed on jewelry made from them. Gold can be 24, 18, 12 or 10K while most silver is marked with 925 or the name sterling. Even when these are stamped on the claps or other sections of a piece of jewelry, you should still inspect every piece closely.
When it comes to plating a precious metal, there is only one that is done to a precious metal that is considered acceptable while it still retaining its value as a precious metal. . This is when rhodium is plated on Sterling Silver. This is done to prevent the silver from tarnishing when being wore.
With gold jewelry most are not pure or 24 k gold. The process for making 18, 14, 12 and 10 k yellow gold is with the adding of copper and silver. For white gold the addition of nickel and or palladium is added. These other metals are less expensive and add strength to the metal while lowering the price and value of the gold.
The process of plating a precious metal over a less valuable metal is done to make it more appealing and less expensive to sell. These items are not supposed to be marked like the real precious metals. To make sure you are not handling a fake, there are many tests that can be done long with a good visual inspection. The best place to notice if an object is plated is around the joints and other places where solder was used to attach the different pieces together. Because these sections are not smooth, many times the plating process is incomplete. In these instances black, green or other discolorations can be noticed. Gold of any karat does not discolor in the joints or soldering points.
The easiest fake jewelry to spot is the costume jewelry. This has absolutely no precious metals in it or plated to it. The finished products do resemble gold, silver and platinum but the shine, reflection and gleam of the metals are not as pronounced or give a brassy reflection. They also tarnish and discolor rather easily when worn or even handled. What most people need to remember is that their skin, including their hands has a mild acid on them that initiates the tarnishing process. The purpose of costume jewelry is for one time use or when children are playing dress up. Long term use is not advisable because the appeal of it will quickly diminish.
Precious gemstones and semi-precious gemstones are made y natural process and most are thousands or hundreds of thousands years old. The only exception is a natural pearl. Fake precious gems are very common. Many of them are made out of glass or a polymer. These are generally used in costume jewelry but fake jewelry sometime try to also pass them off as genuine. The better fake jewelers use lab made gems because they more closely resemble the real thing without the associated price.
Of the gem stones you can identify as real or fake that is the easiest is the beautiful pearl. A real natural pearl will be cool to the touch when first handles. Polymer pearls are closer to room temperature while glass ones require a longer time to warm up. If the pearl only takes a few seconds to rise in temperature, more than likely it is authentic.
The luster and light refection of a real pearl is also different than the fakes. Most fakes give the gleam of a glass type reflection. Real pearls also have a kind of depth to them when you look at them. Fakes are uniformed and appear to be perfect on color with not variation.
In a strand of pearls, a natural cultured set will not be perfect. Each pearl will vary in size, shape, color and weight. Manufactured pearls are identical and easy to spot as fakes.
One of the oldest ways to determine if a pearl is real or fake is to rub it against your teeth. A natural pearl is like any other natural item, they are not perfect which includes their surface. When rubbed a person should fell a slight abrasive texture of the pearl. Glass and other fake pearls have a smooth surface.
Knowing what you have in your jewelry box is easy to determine if you know what to look for. Not all pretty jewelry is real but discolored jewelry generally is not. If you polish your precious metals and the color changes, then you know for sure it is plated and does not have the high value you wish.