A client of ours recently found an interesting piece of gold jewelry. It was a brooch, probably more than 100 years old, that he found in an estate sale. He bought it for $40.00, took it home, and tested it using a gold testing kit.
He rubbed one part of the brooch with the stone that came with his kit and dripped on some testing fluid. He found that the brooch was made of 14K gold and got excited. So he weighed it and estimated that the gold in the brooch was worth nearly $100 at current trading prices.
But when he sent it to Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners to be tested, he learned some interesting facts about the brooch that lowered its value to only about what he had paid for it . . .
The upper part of the brooch, which held a gemstone, was in fact made of 14K gold. The jeweler who made the piece probably did that because 14K gold is very flexible, and the bendable tines that held the stone in place needed to flex without breaking.
The pin assembly that was designed to secure the brooch to a garment was made of 10K gold. That was probably because the jeweler who made it bought the whole clasp assembly as a premade finding that he bought to make his pins and brooches. And apparently at that time, gold was selling at low prices that made it possible to buy batches of pre-manufactured findings that were made of gold. (Today, they would almost always be made of base metal with a thin gold plating.)
A piece of decorative flexible mesh that hung beneath the stone was made of brass that had been thinly plated with gold. Not a surprise. Using pure gold mesh would have elevated the quality of the brooch, and its price, beyond the category of costume jewelry to which it belonged.
Silver solder had been used. It had been used to attach the pin assembly to the back of the brooch, for example. That makes sense too. In the period when the brooch had been made, silver solder was widely used to attach the different parts of a jewelry piece together.
Four small screws that were used to assemble the brooch were made of steel. No surprise there. Steel screws were, and still are, used widely in jewelry. If you went looking for screws that are made of gold, in fact, it would be all but impossible to find any.
The Lesson for Gold Investors
When you find a brooch like our client did, by all means buy it for an attractive price if you can. But do be aware that different metals could have been used in its manufacture, even if part of it is made of karat gold.
Don’t be discouraged as a gold hunter. But to know just what you have, call a qualified gold testing lab like Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344. For an expert opinion, you need the services of an expert testing lab. That is why we have been the testing lab of choice used by precious metals investors for years.
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