BUYING a piece of jewellery can be a little treat or a major expense, but all the different terms can be really confusing.
So how do you know that you’re not being ripped off?
On the Extreme Couponing and Bargains UK Facebook group this week the debate was raging over whether jewellery from Warren James was worth the hype.
Its cheap prices are attractive – but some people warned that the silver jewellery made their skin go green.
Kelly Hill, 32, from Birmingham, said she bought a ring from the store but was annoyed to find it turned her finger green.
“They said it was costume jewellery when I complained and blamed it on me wearing it too often,” she said.
Another poster, Audrey Marie Rose, 50, from Huddersfield, said: “They are lovely rings from there but sadly all that I’ve bought from there turn my finger green.”
But others, such as Donna Saqladi, from Sheffield, said: “I’ve had a lot from there…never had any problems.”
Here’s a guide to telling whether your silver or gold jewellery is the real deal or not.
What is sterling silver and is it real silver?
There are different types of silver jewellery – and the more silver included in the metal, the more expensive it usually is.
Any item described as pure silver, or sometimes as fine silver, is as silver as you can get: it is made of 99.9 per cent pure silver.
However, this metal is quite soft and difficult to shape properly, which means is not generally used to make fine and delicate jewellery items.
More commonly, manufacturers use sterling silver, which is 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent other metals, usually copper.
It is often known as 925 silver for this reason – look for the ‘925’ hallmark stamped on the piece.
Sellers can’t call it sterling silver if it doesn’t meet the purity standards.
Are there other types of silver on the market?
Less common is Britannia silver, which also usually contains copper but also has 95.8 per cent silver, and a hallmark stamp of ‘958’.
Silver plated jewellery contains even less silver, and is not obliged by law to have a minimum amount of the precious metal.
It is often made of brass or copper and then covered with a thin layer of silver.
It can look very pretty, but is unlikely to last as long as sterling silver.
Jewellery sold by high street clothing shops is often silver plated, or even just made from another silver-coloured metal.
How silver is my silver jewellery?
Keep an eye out for these different descriptions of silver jewellery
- Pure silver – 99.9 per cent silver
- Britannia silver – 95.8 per cent silver
- Sterling silver – 92.5 per cent silver
- Silver plated – tiny amount of silver in a thin layer
How can I tell if my silver jewellery is genuine?
Some sellers offer authenticity certificates with the jewellery they make, especially artisan businesses, so do ask if you want to double check.
And ask if your jewellery is hallmarked.
In shops, look for the ‘dealers notice’ which the British Hallmarking Council produces for jewellers and silversmiths.
What is the best gold jewellery to buy?
If you have the money to buy real gold jewellery it can be a good investment.
The precious metal tends to hold its value and will last a lifetime – but there are different types of gold on the market.
Yellow gold is naturally occurring and is the purest form of the metal.
For jewellery, it is made into an alloy by combining pure gold with metals such as zinc and copper.
The number of carats gold has indicates how pure it is.
Nine carat gold has 37.5 per cent pure gold and is the most affordable form of gold jewellery.
Its higher percentage of other metals makes it stronger and more durable, making it really good for making jewellery.
Meanwhile, 18 carat gold contains 75 per cent gold, so is more expensive.
What sort of gold is my jewellery made of?
Here’s how to identify what carat your gold jewellery is (but be warned – hallmarks are usually tiny so you made need a magnifying glass!)
- Gold vermei – items made of silver that are plated with a thin layer of gold
- 9 carat – 37.5 per cent gold, hallmark 375
- 14 carat – 58.5 per cent gold, hallmark 585
- 18 carat – 75 per cent gold, hallmark 750
- 22 carat – 91.6 per cent gold, hallmark 916
What about different coloured golds?
White gold is mixed with palladium or nickel to give it a colour close to silver or platinum.
Rose gold is a mix of gold and copper, which gives it a pinkish colour.
How can I tell what sort of gold I have?
Again, the number hallmark stamped on a piece of jewellery will tell you the percentage of gold it contains.
So for example, nine carat gold will have ‘375’ stamped on it, and 18 carat gold will have ‘750’ stamped on it.
A jewellery shop cannot sell something as a certain carat unless it has been hallmarked.
Lots of high street shops and jewellers will also sell much cheaper gold plated jewellery.
Gold plated jewellery is made by using electricity or chemicals to spread a very thin layer of gold over another more affordable metal, usually silver or copper.
Noel Hunter, chairman of the British Hallmarking Council, said: “Our research suggests that around 150,000 items of fake ‘gold’ jewellery could be listed for sale in the UK each year.”
He said customers should be careful when buying and recommended using “a reputable and recognised source”.
How do I know if jewellery will make my skin go green?
Lots of people complain that some jewellery turns their skin green, even after just a few hours of wear.
There are a few reasons why this might happen: if you wear silver jewellery which contains any copper, you run the risk of the copper element oxidising and turning a green colour.
And because rose gold contains copper too, you might find that it has the same effect.
Similarly, if gold or silver plated jewellery has copper as its base metal, that can also discolour your skin.
The good news is in all cases it is totally harmless and should wash off easily.
One way of preventing the green stain is to brush the side of your jewellery which touches your skin, such as the inside of a ring, with clear nail varnish.
This will form a barrier between the metal and your skin.
Other silver-coloured metals, such as platinum or rhodium, don’t react in the same way, although they are often more expensive.
If you’re looking for something special for a Valentine’s Day gift, check out The Sun’s selection of the best jewellery gifts around.
One lucky buyer discovered a ring they had bought for £10 at a car boot sale was actually a huge diamond ring worth £350,000.
And one jewellery shop display had passers-by giggling at its rather suggestive shape.