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Can you spot fake jewellery?

12 top tips on how to spot a fake jewellery item.

Gone are the days of the man on the street corner selling watches from inside his coat, a glittering neckchain with a promise of 24ct gold, “genuine mate, you wont find it cheaper”,  I’ve seen my fair share believe me. From the afformentioned shady fella pulling boxes from the back of his shiny BMW to the very colourful Tommy Hilfigure watch I bought for my then girlfriend from a trusted source, only to be aquainted by headline in the Sunday paper stating “Why is this watch fake?” (insert large picture of said watch) – “because Tommy Hilfigure don’t make watches!”  of course red faced and angry at the merchant who had sold it to me it’s something we laugh about 20 years down the line!!  I live by the philosophy of “Buy Cheap, Buy Twice” or “You get what you pay for” but it’s not always as simple as knowing it’s fake or purposly buying something cheap because you know a guy that knows someone that got them off the back of a lorry.

We’ve heard of reports of companies like Kay Jewellers swapping out diamonds for Glass stones and Gemstones to unsuspecting customers and with the rise in synthetic diamonds and cheap imports it’s easy to be dazzled by the glamour and cheap prices in an economy thats proving tougher to live in. So have you ever been tempted to buy fake jewellery? Maybe you purchased jewellery without doing neccessary checks, I mean who does that anyway, we trust the highstreet jewellers don’t we?

So if you have doubts or are just curious here’s a few things to help you on your way:

1: Check your Hallmark

Check your jewellery for a stamp or hallmark. 9 Carat Gold, 14 Carat Gold, 18 Carat Gold, 22 Carat Gold, 950 Platinum, 950 Silver. There are only 4 assay offices in the UK. These are London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh. Always check for these hallmarks.


Examples of hallmarks for precious metals


2: Check Your sources

Is the item being sold online on an auction site like ebay, or Shpock? Does the seller have an original image, or has it been stolen from a reputable company? If you can’t see the jewellery item in the photograph, it’s not clear, our advice is – Don’t buy it. Check with the seller if it has a certificiate of authenticity or a Diamond Certification such as IGI or EGL for instance.

jewellery sold online

3: Check your returns Policy/Warranty

Does the item come with a return policy or warranty? You should have at least 14 days to bring the jewellery product back as standard. This can give you peace of mind that you can get it checked out by a third party for insurance purposes.


4: Check the item quality

The links on any good quality bracelet or necklace are NOT pinched together, they should be soldered together and really smooth. Good Diamonds will chip but not generally scratch easily. So check the quality of the stones.


5: Brand Marks and Logo’s

Top brands such as Tiffany will stamp each jewellery item with the Tiffany & Co hallmark. (e.g. Tiffany & Co. 925, or T & Co. 925) Look out for these types of stamps when purchasing your jewellery items. Look out for any known differences with fake brands such as mispellings or font changes.

tiffany hallmark

6: Platinum or Rhodium Plated?

Many fakers will use Rhodium to plate metals to look like silver or white gold. Rhodium gives fake jewellery it’s whitish appearance. Tips to help you identify the fakes:

  1. Under a bright light look at the underside of the ring. If the ring is rhodium-plated, the yellow gold can show through slightly due wear.
  2. You can check the underside of a ring for a stamp such as “14k” or “10k” This will signify what type of gold the ring is made of. If you see this stamp, and the ring is silver-coloured, it’s rhodium-plated.

7: Diamond Certification

Real diamond rings come with a certificate, normally from the GIA, IGI, EGL for instance. If your new diamond jewellery item does not come with a certificate, ask for it. Read more on fake diamonds here.

gia certificate

8: Check your documentation

Check the cards, or other paper work that comes with your jewellery item. They should be of good quality and the writing will be sharp not blurry. Look out for spelling errors, poor english or bad grammer. These can be good indicators that something is wrong. A high quality merchant will care abour their print marketing .

9: Test your metal!

How to test if the gold is real.
real gold

  1. The magnet test. Gold it not magnetic. If your gold sticks to a magnet, its not gold.
  2. The byte test. Gold is a soft metal. You should be able to make a slight indent on gold with your teeth.
  3. Check for the stamp: karat (10K, 14K, 18K, 22K or 24K).
  4. The ceramic plate test: Press your jewellery item across the surface of a ceramic flat plate. A black streak means it’s fake, a gold streak will show you it’s the real deal.
  5. If in doubt take it to a local jeweller who can do further tests to see if the item is real.
  6. Use your common sense and don’t jump to conclusions. The tests above are guide only.

10: Costume Jewellery

Costume jewellery will generally fake glass, plastic gemstones and cheap base  metal alloys, such as polished brass. Look out for corrosion which then leads onto itchy skin, discolouration or inflammation. . They can look great and extravagent but the build quality will be poor. Use your judgement here and look at the item thouroughly for imperfections, glued in stones, tarnishing or damage.

fake gemstones


11: Buy Cheap buy Twice!

Does the price seem too good to be true? Chances are it’s a fake. Do you research. Jewellery doesn’t have the profit margins it once had so discounts of 50% are rare. Diamond Jewellery will generally offer 10-15% discounts at certain periods. Watches however can still offer great reductions at holiday times. Buy froma reputable high street store or well know local Jeweller to gurantee quality.
99p jewellery

12: Use your common sense

Certainly the best tool you have. Judge your intincts. If it’s too good to be true, too cheap or someone is pressuring you into making a quick decision, walk away and think about it. Do your research, check online for similar products to compare prices and ensure you are buying the correct product. Jewellery and Watches are gennerally emotional purchases and a good salesman or offer are designed to invoke a sense of urgency.

What is the UK Government doing about it?

The fight against digital piracy and counterfeit goods was boosted from (23 October 2014) by £3 million of new government funding to the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).

The Minister for Intellectual Property (IP), Baroness Neville-Rolfe announced the government’s funding commitment to the national crime unit at the Anti Counterfeiting Group Conference in London. The unit has now been operating for 1 year and this new funding will cover the next 2 years, up to 2017.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe said:

“We’ve seen significant success in PIPCU’s first year of operation. This extra support will help the unit to build on this impressive record in the fight against intellectual property crime, which costs the UK at least £1.3 billion a year in lost profits and taxes.

“With more money now being invested in ideas than factories or machinery in the UK, it is vital that we protect creators and consumers and the UK’s economic growth.

“Government and industry must work together to give long-term support to PIPCU, so that we can strengthen the UK’s response to the blight of piracy and counterfeiters.”

Since its launch in September 2013, PIPCU has investigated more than £29 million-worth of IP crime and has suspended 2,359 internet domain names. It has seized more than £1.29 million-worth of suspected fake goods and has diverted more than five million visits to copyright-infringing websites.

PIPCU has established itself as an integral part of the national response to a problem that is costing the UK more than a billion pounds a year. Much of this success is down to PIPCU moving away from traditional policing methods and embracing new and innovative tactics, to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks responsible for causing huge damages to legitimate businesses.

The recent IP Crime Group Report, detailing all UK enforcement activity between 2013 and 2014, highlights innovative initiatives used by PIPCU to dismantle and disrupt criminal activity.

The High Court in London ruled in favour of luxury goods group Richemont, ordering Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block or impede access to websites selling counterfeit goods.

What if I get caught selling fake jewellery?

Confiscations under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

Four men were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud at York Crown Court after selling and distributing counterfeit copies of branded clothing, jewellery and other items. The ringleader was sentenced to 52 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, any offence in that time triggering 250 hours community punishment; another was fined £1,000 and the other two ordered to each do 100 hours unpaid community work. The last three were ordered to pay a total of £1,750 prosecution costs and a lengthy financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act resulted in a Confiscation.

Order against the ringleader for over £82,500 which must be paid to the Court within six months or he will go to prison for another 21 months and still have to pay the amount of the Order.

A woman offering various fake goods for sale on the Facebook social networking site was also investigated. She offered for sale clothing, jewellery, footwear, purses and handbags which on searching her address the officers found over 200 items with counterfeit trade marks. As a result, she faced 18 charges, under the Trade Marks Act 1994, of having the goods with a view to sale, the number of charges showing the range of different trade marks and types of goods. She pleaded guilty to all the offences and was sentenced at York Crown Court to 150 hours of unpaid community work. Once the financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act is complete the same Crown Court will deal with any confiscation order.

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