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by Jesus Zabala - 5 min read

How to Tell What Kind of Metal Jewelry Is

There are many materials we use in the jewelry-making process. So, as a customer, it is beneficial for you to know how to tell what kind of metal jewelry is.

Is there a better way to learn the different types of metal jewelry than from the metalsmiths themselves? Since we don’t think there is, we’ve compiled a list of the most accurate ways to identify metal and briefly explained them all. After reading our guide, you will be more than ready to make a purchase and ensure you are getting your money’s worth.

How To Tell What Kind Of Metal Jewelry Is?

There are several ways to tell what kind of metal your jewelry is. We ensured to include various methods so you can find the easiest one to use.

Hallmarks and stamps

The easiest way to check what metal your jewelry is made of is to do a visual inspection. You should clean your jewelry and start looking for a hallmark or a stamp.

Globally, most of the jewelry pieces have a stamp that indicates the materials it is made of. In the US, in particular, it is required by law for jewelry to be stamped if it is made from gold and silver.

Briefly explained the metal stamps on jewelry have the following meaning:

  • 925 and STER stand for sterling silver
  • 10K is 41.6% gold
  • 14K is 58.3% gold
  • 18K is 75% gold
  • 24K is pure gold 
  • 950, PLAT, PT 999 is platinum
Hallmarks and stamps
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Lea Rae

Acid testing as a method for metal identification

The acid test is one of the methods to identify the metal. However, if your jewelry piece is dear to you, we don’t recommend using this method because it can damage it. But if you do decide to go on with the testing, we recommend using hydrochloric acid for gold and nitric acid for silver. The test involves adding a small drop of the adequate acid and observing its reaction. If nothing happens, then the metal is genuine, but if it’s an alloy, it may lead to discoloration of the jewelry piece. 

To get a clearer idea, if it’s not genuine silver, it will oxidize and turn a rust-red color on the slate, while gold slowly dissolves when it comes in contact with hydrochloric acid.

Magnet test

While this is yet another way to test whether the metal is genuine or fake, you can’t accurately figure out what kind of metal your jewelry is made of. Instead, after doing the test, you will discover if it is potentially precious, rare earth, non-magnetic, or magnetic metal.

Precious metals that aren’t magnetic and won’t stick to the magnet are gold, silver, platinum, titanium, palladium, and tungsten. Also, there are bases and other metals such as stainless steel, aluminum, zinc, copper, and others that aren’t magnetic.

Magnetic metals in the category of rare earth metals are neodymium, gadolinium, and samarium. Lastly, metals that have magnetic properties are cobalt, steel, iron, and nickel.

So, how can you do the magnet test by yourself?

To do the magnetic test, you should purchase a strong magnet. We recommend getting a neodymium magnet. Then, you should rub it on the jewelry surface; if it sticks, it is made from one of the magnetic metals.

Keep in mind that there are jewelry pieces that are made of a variety of metals. So, if the magnet sticks to one area and not the other, it might contain different kinds of jewelry metals.

Professional assessment

A jeweler or metal specialist can tell you exactly what metal is your jewelry made of. To determine, they can run various tests, such as:

  • The metal type
  • Metal weight
  • Condition of the metal
  • Purity level

XRF spectrometer analysis

Doing an XRF spectrometer analysis is one of the best non-destructive methods you can use to identify metal. We also refer to it as the touchstone test.

For this method, you will need an XRF spectrometer. How it works is by transmitting X-rays into the jewelry.

The X-rays excite the atoms in the metals and make them emit light. This light is analyzed by the XRF spectrometer, and it determines what kind of metal the jewelry is. The advantage of this method is that you can use it for both precious and non-precious metals.

Why Is It Important to Know What Kind of Metal the Jewelry Is?

Knowing what kind of metal the jewelry is can make all the difference in the world. Being aware of the metal used in your jewelry piece is essential for practical, aesthetic, and ethical reasons.


The type of metal used in jewelry can greatly impact its overall quality. Generally looking, some materials are more durable than others, making them more resistant to wear and tear.

The metal of the jewelry, combined with the way it is made, is a good indicator of how long it will last. If you purchase a jewelry piece made out of precious metals, such as silver, sterling, and gold, chances are you can wear it on a regular basis without worrying about tarnish.


Another reason why you should learn how to tell what kind of metal jewelry is, is to estimate its value. Not all metals in the jewelry industry come with the same price tag. The three most expensive precious metals for jewelry are rhodium, platinum, and gold. Silver is also on the list of the top 10 priciest metals, but it is next to last.

Keep in mind that the technique used in the jewelry-making process, along with the details, can also increase its value.

Skin sensitivity

Not every skin type reacts the same to different jewelry metal types. Consequently, it might be your priority to look for jewelry that is made of hypoallergenic metals.

There are several hypoallergenic choices you can go for that don’t contain nickel, copper, or other metals that irritate the skin. Most of our jewelry is made from hypoallergenic metals, including gold and silver. 

Cleaning and maintenance

One tip we can give you, as professional jewelry makers, is that each metal has specific characteristics and requires unique care methods. So, knowing what the jewelry is made of will help you take proper care of it and increase its longevity. And it is not only the metal that is important. Did you know that even different finishes of gold require different care?

Cleaning and maintenance
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Stanislav71


Voila! Now it’s clear how to tell what kind of metal jewelry is and why it matters. If you are ready to purchase your next favorite piece of jewelry, you shouldn’t miss out on our handmade collection with 100% original designs. In our unique shop, you will find sterling silver, gold, brass, and oxidized jewelry masterpieces you’ll love wearing.

Jesús  is the founder and designer of JewelryLab. He is the Head of Design and also oversees production, quality control, and precious metal sourcing.