I’m so glad that you’re here, ready to learn about one of my favorite topics: whether gemstones are genuine or not. Since you’re here, I’m guessing that you’re probably interested in one of two things:

  1. Is the jewelry I inherited from grandma real?
  2. How do I know that gemstones are genuine when I’m shopping for jewelry?

Whichever the case, I’ve got you covered!

I also have detailed information to share about some of the most popular gemstones used in jewelry, including jade, amber, opals, turquoise, emeralds, and diamonds. I’ll be adding these topics to my blog soon, so be sure to subscribe to my rss feed.

A Few Words of Caution

Anyone – even the experts – can be fooled by a good fake. This guide is meant to help you learn to spot the more obvious fakes. When in doubt, always consult your local gemologist.

Today’s Topic: Are Granny’s Jewels Genuine?

My mom recently mailed me a big bag of my great-grandmother’s old jewelry. It turns out great-grandma really loved costume jewelry. Out of the entire bag, I found one piece to keep: a tarnished, broken, sterling silver bracelet with really pretty links. The rest of the bag was base metal with plastic and glass “stones.” How could I tell?


In the case of my great-grandma’s treasures, it was fairly easy to tell that it was costume jewelry. Since so many of the “stones” were made of plastic, they were very lightweight.  Hefting the jewelry in my hand, I could tell they didn’t have much substance. The plastic in some cases was very pretty, but it was definitely not stone.

Two notable exceptions to the heft rule are amber and jet, which are both extremely lightweight and can be quite valuable!


Inspect the jewelry carefully. Does the construction seems shoddy? Is there paint or metal chipping from the jewelry anywhere? If there are flimsy settings, the gems set in the piece aren’t likely to be genuine.

The Metal

Metal used in jewelry-making can be divided into two basic categories: precious metal or base metal. Precious metals include alloys containing gold, silver, or platinum. Base metals can be made of just about anything, including iron, brass, steel, nickel or even lead. Jewelry made from base metal typically won’t have genuine gemstones set in it.

Look for stamps on the metal parts of the jewelry. A quality mark tells you what kind of metal the piece is. If you find stamps such as 14K or 925, you most likely have a genuine piece of jewelry. Other stamps (such as SP) will let you know that you have plated metal. A simple web search can usually tell you what the marks mean. If there are no stamps present, check if the piece is magnetic. If the jewelry is attracted to a magnet, it definitely isn’t made of precious metal. (Please note: there are base metals – such as brass – that are not magnetic, so this is not a definitive test for the presence of precious metal.) If anything is flaking off the metal, it is not precious.

Common Sense

If you know a little about granny’s lifestyle, you may have some insight into the type of jewelry she could afford. If she was anything like my relatives, she learned to make the most of every scrap during the Great Depression, and she wouldn’t have spent money on gemstones. If she had a fabulous wardrobe, an expensive car, and lived in a mansion, then you’re more likely looking at the real McCoy.

Next Time on Faux or Fabulous

In my next post, I share tips to help you shop for jewelry with confidence