Tips on how to spot a real diamond
These hints can help you cash in or avoid being scammed.
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Earlier this month, a ring that a British woman bought at a yard sale in the 1980s sold for over $1 million at an auction. Assuming it was a pretty costume piece, she’d been wearing the priceless, antique-cut diamond — whose silver setting had long turned black — nearly every day for years. Many of us have piles of old jewellery bequeathed from long-departed grannies or aunties, stuffed into drawers or sitting in bags at the bottom of closets. How do you know if you’re sitting on a fortune? We asked Duncan Parker, vice-president and jewellery specialist at Dupuis Fine Jewellery Auctioneers. These are his top tips on how to spot a fake — and when to get something appraised, just in case.
FLIP IT OVER
Precious jewellery looks precious from all angles, while costume jewellery often has hidden parts that look pretty busted. Look at a stone set in a ring or necklace from the bottom or back. If you can see the gem through the setting, or there’s material with a rough, stippled or stucco texture, or it looks like there’s a bit of foil or a piece of mirror stuck on, it’s probably not very valuable.
LOOK FOR A STAMP
Historically, costume jewellery acted as a walking advertisement for itself. If a piece has a trade name, stamp or hallmark visible to the naked eye, there’s a good chance it’s not going to make you a millionaire. That’s changed with today’s brands — many contemporary Tiffany’s products prominently display the letter T, for instance.
TAKE THE TEMPERATURE
Precious gems usually feel very cool to the touch, while glass feels a bit warmer. Plastic heats up in your hand very quickly.
WEIGH THE POSSIBILITIES
Cheaper materials used in costume jewellery, such as copper and zinc, weigh more than precious metals. Weight isn’t a great indicator of value.
CHECK THE CORNERS
If it looks like the colour has worn off at the corners or edges, and a different-coloured metal is showing through, that’s a dead giveaway that an item is cheap enough to let the kids play dress-up with it.
DON'T JUDGE THE APPEARANCE
A lot of fine jewellery from the past “doesn’t look normal to us,” but just because something is “hideous” to modern eyes doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable, Parker said. He said a woman once came to him with a blackened tiara in a plastic shopping bag, assuming it was worthless. It turned out this junk-shop find was a tarnished silver piece that dated from Victorian times. Its weird pink gems were rare conch pearls from the Caribbean. It was worth $44,000.
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