By Danielle Olivia Tefft, Jewelry Writer
Did you know you can quickly determine if a piece of metal jewelry is definitely not gold or silver by placing a magnet over it?
If the magnet sticks to the piece, move along, it’s not gold or silver. Now, you can’t automatically assume it’s made of precious metal if the magnet does not stick, but it might be. Further testing might be needed on a piece to which a magnet does not stick. Oh, and never test the clasps of chains. Clasps have metal springs that will cause the magnet to stick-even if the piece is really gold or silver. Test the piece in the middle.
Now, don’t go out and buy the biggest, strongest magnet you can find and throw it in your purse. Strong magnets can mess with cell phones and credit cards. Why risk this? A magnet is a magnet.
A small magnet (the size of a watch battery or smaller-like those found on the back of refrigerator tchotchkes, is sufficient to do the precious metal test on metal jewelry.
I keep a refrigerator size magnet in a side compartment of my purse near my jeweler’s 10X loupe at all times. It never is near or directly touching my cell phone or my credit cards. However, I doubt the minimal magnetic field it generates would be enough to damage these items at all, but why risk it?
Now, a bit about magnets: Followers of this blog may remember mention from time to time of my dear friend, Eva at the local senior center. Eva receives donated jewelry all the time which she tries to price appropriately and resell. The proceeds go into the general fund that keeps the center running.
Anyway, we were chatting the other day and she mentioned she took a bunch of chains to a local dealer to find out what they were worth. (If you go this route, always get at least three opinions before you part with your jewelry. Dealers can be unscrupulous and this particular guy took Eva to the cleaners. But I digress.)
The dealer immediately pulled out a magnet and starting doing the “stick” test. He informed Eva that a special “ceramic” magnet was needed to do the test. He thus implied that Eva couldn’t do the test herself at home without access to a special ceramic magnet. To that I say, “Poppycock!”
Know that most magnets today are man-made (ceramic) because natural magnets from nature aren’t abundant. Rest assured that your refrigerator magnets are probably man-made ceramics! So you DO have access to ceramic magnets, number one. Number two, ANY magnet will do for the “stick” test.
Just remember, the larger and stronger the magnet you carry with you, the more you risk the chance of interfering with your credit cards’ magnetic strips and cell phone electronics. So error on the side of caution. Happy jewelry hunting!
Author's Note: Many knowledgeable and enthusiastic readers have added their experience and expertise on the magnet test subject in the comments section following this article so be sure to read them! I thank them all for taking the time to respond!
Have you tried to use or heard of the magnet “stick” test before? Please tell us about it with in the comments section. Also, if you love jewelry, especially antique and vintage jewelry as much as we do, subscribe to this blog so you don't miss an article!
Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems, jewelry and fashion. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop, Treasure Box Antiques. Current projects include ghostwriting jewelry and fashion blogs for clients worldwide. When she is not writing, she spends time in the garden, spoiling her cats and traveling with her significant other. Would you like to hire her to write for you? Visit her website danielleoliviatefftwrites.com for clips, terms and more information.
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