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Video:How to Tell Costume Jewelry From Precious Jewelry

with Jonathon E. Stewart

Costume jewelry and real jewelry can look very similar to the untrained eye. This video shows you some tricks for telling the difference between costume jewelry and precious jewelry.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Tell Costume Jewelry From Precious Jewelry

There are two primary types of jewelry – costume and precious. And, depending upon what you are in the market for, there are some specific differences to look for to separate the two types of jewelry. You may be surprised that it is not necessarily always the price, especially since many auctions and websites might be trying to dupe you.

Definition of Costume Jewelry

Costume jewelry is defined as a jewelry that has no precious metals or gems. It has been popular over the years, especially from the early 1900's through the 1960's. It still has a place in the accessories market today because it is more accessible to those who may not be able to afford precious jewelry. However, antique or vintage costume jewelry, especially by famous designers like Chanel, can also sell for a significant amount of money.

Different Metals Are Used

One of the first places to determine if something is costume or precious jewelry is to examine the metal used. Precious metals include silver, gold, and platinum. These will resist corrosion and are non-reactive. The precious metal must be solid (as opposed to plated) to be considered fine jewelry. Some jewelers also include titanium and tungsten within the fine category, which is just below precious. Costume jewelry may include a base metal combined with a precious metal, which has been plated together with an electrical current and electrolyte solution. It looks very similar to a precious metal and often difficult to detect. The cheapest costume jewelry simply uses metal alloys, such as polished brass. However, these can be detected in older jewelry, especially because of the corrosion that will appear. Also, these will be reactive, which means that wearing the jewelry can lead to itching, skin discoloration with a green or black stain, or inflammation.

Costume Jewelry Will Use Fake Gems

The next area to check is any gems that are used within the piece of jewelry to determine if it is precious or imitation. Precious gems include diamond, emerald, ruby, and blue sapphire. These are usually only found with precious metal settings, which effectively help to protect the precious gems. Costume jewelry relies on lab-created or imitation gems. Lab gemstones are manufactured or synthetic versions of the real gemstones found in nature. They come very close in resembling their real counterparts when examined for density, shine, and hardness. Other costume jewelry will have imitation gems that are easier to spot because they are made of plastic or glass, like faceted crystals or rhinestones. These are often partnered with plated metal or metal alloy settings.

Identify Jewelry By Marks and Signatures

Lastly, you can also look at specific marks and signatures that identify a certain brand that is known for precious jewelry or that may identify it as a known costume jewelry designer. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the marks and signatures to also help distinguish any counterfeits. When in doubt, don't hesitate to have a piece appraised by a trusted jeweler before taking a big purchase plunge.

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