Can you tell what metal your ring is made of just by looking at it?
What happens when the colors and other elements of the metal make it easy for you to confuse one metal for another?
Are there things you should look out for when looking at rings to determine what metal the ring is made of?
If you are worried about buying a ring made of a different metal than you expected, or you just wish to educate yourself on how to easily identify metals just by looking at them, this article is for you.
So, let’s get right into it!
How to tell what metal a ring is
If you don’t have much time to inspect rings, the most important piece of information that will guide you is this – if the ring is made of precious metals (gold, silver, or platinum), it will feel significantly heavier than the rings made of non-precious metals, even when the rings have been made to look alike.
The best way for you to identify the quality of a ring and the metal it is made of is by checking the hallmark sign incorporated.
Jewelers are also required to incorporate the hallmark on their jewelry, and this is essential, the absolute minimum requirement for them, and it ensures that the customers are also protected.
3. Identifying Gold
Gold has to be the easiest metal for you to identify because genuine gold is always marked with the karats mark to represent the different karat values for the gold.
When it comes to gold rings, you should always look out for the k mark, like 10k, 14k, 18k, or 22k. The k or karatage hallmark shows how much pure gold is present in the gold ring.
10k gold translates to 41.7% pure gold, 14k gold is made of 58.5% pure gold, 18k gold rings have 75% pure gold, while 22k gold contains 91.67% pure gold.
Well, you may come across 24k gold, but it is the unique version of gold and also the most expensive gold ring you will come across. Well, the value of the gold could be higher, depending on the stones encrusted or set on the gold.
What does the karats symbol mean? Karat is the term that is used to describe the percentage purity of gold. 14k gold, for example, is gold made of 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts other metals.
If you come across a ring with the karat mark on it, it’s definitely gold. Just take note of the number before the K to determine the value of the gold. How about the fact that gold rings come in different colors – yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold?
Well, the karats remain the standard identifying mark for the gold, and they will also have the same karatage number to represent the purity and the value of the gold.
The good news is that most gold rings come with the karats number and the name of the gold. So, a gold ring will be described as a 14k rose gold ring, etc.
What about the gold-filled pieces and the gold-plated rings? Well, these versions of gold rings will have hallmarks too. Look out for the GF hallmark for the gold-filled gold rings and GP for the gold plated pieces.
4. Identifying Silver
Sometimes, silver rings can be confused with stainless steel or even platinum rings. But if you’re keen on the details of the rings, it should be very easy for you to identify rings made of silver.
Unlike rings made of gold, say white gold, silver is never marked in karats. Instead, silver will always have the sterling silver mark, which is either ‘Ster,’ ‘Sterling,’ or more frequently, ‘925.’ So, if you see the ‘K’ or karats mark on the metal, you should always know that the metal is not silver.
Note that the Sterling or the 925 hallmark on silver or sterling silver rings is there as a representation of the minimum silver content in the ring, which is equal to 92.5%.
If you like platinum rings for the unique silver finish and the natural patina built over time, you’d want to make sure that you are actually buying real platinum.
The platinum ring will feature a hallmark sign, too, like the other precious metals. Since high-quality platinum rings contain a minimum of 95% pure platinum, you should look out for the ’Plat’ or ‘950 Platinum’ hallmark on them.
Palladium, on the other hand, will have a ‘Pall’ or a ‘Pd’ hallmark.
6. Feel of the metal when rubbed against a piece of cloth
The other way of identifying the metal that a ring is made of would be by rubbing the ring against a piece of cloth, preferably a white piece of cloth. This is a trick that works well when you cannot find the markings on the ring.
With this test, you should know that if you rub a ring made of real/ solid gold on a piece of cloth, it will not leave any mark behind, but plated or counterfeit gold rings or cheap gold alloys will leave behind some gold-colored residue on the cloth.
The opposite is true for a sterling silver ring. If it’s made of real sterling silver, even if it’s silver plated, it will leave a black or dark grey residue on the cloth. But silver alloy mixtures or even platinum/ stainless steel will not leave this residue.
7. Test the metal’s magnetism
It is important to know that precious metals are not magnetic. So, a ring sold off as gold, silver, platinum, or palladium will show no magnetism.
If you place a strong magnet on or next to the ring, it should not stick to the magnet if made of precious metals. You can take this test a notch higher by seeing if it will slide to the ground if you tilt the ring.
Any attraction to the magnet tells you that the ring is not made of precious metal and that it is probably made of an alloy mixture with iron, cobalt, or a high concentration of nickel.
8. Scratch Test on Glass
If the ring is really made of gold, it will not be scratched. For this test, get the ring and use it to try to draw something on the window or glass.
As long as the ring is made of real gold (base), it will not cause a scratch on the surface of the glass. This is the case because glass is too soft and also quite malleable to scratch glass.
Alternatively, you could run that ring on a small tiled section. If the ring leaves behind a black residue, it is not made of pure/ solid gold.
A solid, high-quality piece of gold will leave gold or yellow streak on the tile.
Silver feels warm to your touch, unlike a metal like stainless steel, which is often used as a substitute for sterling silver.
The sterling silver generally feels closer to the room or body temperature when you hold it in your hand, but stainless steel feels cold on first contact, then heats up fast when you hold it.
10. Rusting and tarnishing
Silver and sterling pieces are known to tarnish over time, but gold, regardless of the alloy type, never tarnishes or rusts. Though it may dull a bit, the yellow or rose gold color pretty much lasts forever.
Gold is denser than all the other metals used for jewelry making.
11. Chemical tests
There are chemical tests that could be carried out to determine the authenticity of the metals, but this should be the last resort and only carried out by a professional since there is a risk of damage.
The most common chemical test for metals is the nitric acid test. If the tested ring has a milk-colored reaction, it means that the ring is a gold-plated sterling silver piece, and if green color is formed, it means it’s gold plated, but the base is made of copper or metal-rich in copper.
A gold color means the gold piece is gold-plated brass. Pure gold/ solid gold will not react with nitric acid.
Not sure how to tell if the ring is made of the metal the seller says it’s made of or the ring has no markers for identification?
Try the test methods above.
Read more useful tips here or here!
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.