Jewelry, especially valuable pieces of gold jewelry, is probably one of the most pawned or sold items in a pawn shop. So, it’s extremely important that pawnbrokers carefully determine the authenticity and value of each piece of jewelry brought into their shop. Let’s look at how pawn shops determine the price of gold so you know you’re getting a great deal.

Let’s talk about gold

As one of the world’s most coveted and beautiful metals, gold is used for far more than jewelry. Not only can it be easily shaped, but this precious metal also conducts electricity. Furthermore, it does not tarnish, making it extremely useful in modern industries.

While gold’s weight is measured in troy ounces, its purity is measured in karats. This helps identify how much pure gold an item contains. Pure gold, also known as 24k, is too soft for most jewelry. For this reason, gold is often mixed with silver or copper to create a metal alloy that is stronger and more durable. The minimum purity for an item to be called “gold” varies around the world. In the United States, 10k is the minimum accepted standard, with 14k being the most popular.

What about gold-plated, gold-filled, or gold vermeil?

It’s easy to confuse the different types of gold jewelry, so let’s take a quick look at gold-plated, gold-filled, and gold vermeil.

The biggest difference between the three is how they are made. Gold vermeil is essentially gold plating onto a sterling silver base metal, while gold plated jewelry typically uses a brass, nickel, or zinc base metal instead. For these plated items, a thin layer of gold is “painted onto” the base metal. By comparison, gold filled jewelry usually means a thin layer of gold is melted and pressure- or heat-bonded onto the base brass or sterling silver metal.

How pawn shops verify gold authenticity

Pawnbrokers use a combination of inspection and testing methods to validate the authenticity of gold jewelry, including:

Visual inspection

Pawnbrokers look at the piece carefully, searching for distinct markings that indicate the piece’s gold purity. If you look closely, you can usually find a mark, such as 14k or 24k, to represent the piece’s caratage.

Magnet test

Gold is not magnetic, so if your jewelry is attracted to a magnet, it’s probably not real gold. However, this test is inconclusive, as other base metals may also be non-magnetic. So, this should be used in conjunction with at least one other test to verify authenticity.

Acid testing

This test consists of lightly scratching the piece, placing a small drop of nitric acid onto the item’s surface, and observing the reaction. However, acid testing is not 100% reliable, uses harsh chemicals, does not provide an accurate karat count and may even damage the piece during testing, so use caution.

Density test

The pawnbroker uses water displacement volume to determine the piece’s density in this method. If the density falls within the expected range for gold, it provides further evidence of authenticity.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) testing

Some pawnbrokers may use XRF testing. This method uses non-destructive X-rays to accurately determine the elemental composition of the piece, including the percentage of gold content. XRF testing is highly accurate and is considered one of the most reliable methods for verifying metal authenticity.

Is it better to pawn or sell my gold?

If you’re considering pawning or selling a piece of jewelry, you’re probably also wondering how much you’ll get in exchange for it.

Deciding between pawning and selling your gold is a personal choice and should take several factors into consideration. While pawning offers quick cash and the option to keep your gold, selling could earn you more money, especially if you’re OK with permanently letting go of your jewelry. If you want your items back, pawning is the way to go. But selling is the better choice if you want to get rid of pieces you no longer wear.

Preparing your jewelry for pawn

Pawning jewelry can be a great way to get some extra cash. Preparing your pieces is important to ensure you get the best possible price and have a successful selling experience.

Clean and polish

Over time, jewelry can become dull and tarnished, affecting its appearance and value. To clean your jewelry, use mild dish soap, warm water, and a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub away dirt or grime. Once your jewelry is clean, dry it thoroughly and polish it with a microfiber cloth.

Bring your documentation

If you have any documentation, such as certificates of authenticity or appraisals, bring them to the pawn shop. This can help the pawnbroker verify your jewelry’s authenticity and calculate a fair price based on age, caratage, and the jewelry brand or designer.

Choose the right pawn shop

When choosing a pawn shop, look for one with a good reputation and is licensed to operate in your area. Many pawn shops specialize in certain items, like gold or silver, which means their staff have been expertly trained and have the necessary technology to properly test and validate your gold for the highest possible payout.

If you are looking to pawn or sell your precious metals, Gene’s Jewelry & Pawn is ready to help! For more than 30 years, we have provided our customers with the high level of service they deserve. Visit one of our locations in North Charleston, Moncks Corner or Goose Creek, SC, today to see how we can help you, get a free estimate for your items on our website, or browse our outstanding selection from the convenience of your couch!