Did you ever wonder how pawn shops work? In this guide, I will explain how a pawn loan works, and how we value your items.
4 Proven Ways to Test your Gold
Visual Surface Inspection
The first thing I do when a piece of jewelry comes in is, I look at it. You didn't expect that, did you? Right off the bat, you can eliminate most of the jewelry out there. If you see bubbling on the metal, or copper/brass wearing through, that would be signs of plating. If it seems normal, I look for a stamp that tells me what kind of metal it might be. A loupe is handy to have!
There are stamps that are required to be placed on a piece of fine jewelry that tells you what kind of metal it is. If it is silver, gold, or platinum, it will have a stamp.
It's important to note that just because a piece is stamped, that doesn't make it real.
- Silver will generally be sterling silver, and the stamp for that is 925.
- Gold has many stamps, which relate to the purity of the gold. They could be 8k 10k 12k 14k 18k 22k 24k. Really the only ones we usually see are 10k 14k and 18k. In Europe, those would be 420, 585, and 750 respectively. This is because 10k gold is 42% gold, 14k is 58.5% gold, and 18k is 75% gold.
- Platinum is marked 950. That means platinum is 95% pure platinum. Platinum jewelry costs more because it is a harder metal, which is harder to work with, and the precious metal content is high.
- There are stamps that are somewhat misleading, such as "14K HGE" "14K GE" "14K GF" "14K Rolled Gold" These are all plated. Also, any fractions involved with the stamp mean the piece is plated, such as "14K 1/20"
We have strong magnets. They are called Neodymium Rare Earth Magnets. They're not expensive, get a pack if you check jewelry a lot. Gold, Silver, and Platinum are not magnetic. Interestingly, I have come across some sterling jewelry that is slightly magnetic. It is usually Mexican jewelry, but it passes the acid test. This just means that the jewelry is mostly silver (sterling is 92.5% silver) but there is some iron in the mix. Most jewelry manufacturers don't use iron in their alloys.
So, 99% of the time, if the jewelry sticks to the magnet, it isn't real.
The Acid Test
This is the final test. We waded through the 100s of fake pieces, now we have a small pile of potential gold. For this step, you need a black testing rock and some testing acid. You can get a kit for $25 online. You lightly scrape the piece on the stone, and it will leave a line. You pick the acid that matches up with the mark on the piece. If the piece doesn't have a mark, you will have to make a few scrape lines and test it with multiple acids. For gold, if the line stays solid for 30 seconds, it's good. If it fades, it could be a lower gold content, so test it with a lower acid. If it still fades or burns away, it's no good.
You have never seen a pawn shop like ours.
We clean, polish, and steam all of the jewelry that we put out for sale. That is why they shine like they do! We have over 300 gold rings in our display case. Not to mention our silver rings! We also have gold and silver necklaces and bracelets.
How do we do it?
- We start by inspecting the piece. We look it over to determine if it is damaged or missing pieces. Damaged items will be melted down unless the repair would be worthwhile. We occasionally replace diamonds, and solder clipped ring shanks.
- The next step is to polish the item. We have a professional grade buffing machine, and it works wonders! If you have purchased a ring from us in the past, feel free to ask us to polish it! (Ask for Steven)
- Next, it goes into the heated ultrasonic machine. We can heat it up to 175 degrees and let the ultrasonic waves do most of the cleaning work. We usually let it sit in there for 10-30 minutes.
- After that, we steam the piece with our jewelry steamer. This blasts any remaining goo and ultrasonic liquid off of the piece. By this point, the piece is looking brilliant! We give it a final wipe down with a polishing cloth and it's ready to be priced!
Why is our jewelry priced so well compared to jewelry stores?
- The truth is, jewelry stores sell their products at many times more than their base value. Many jewelry stores buy their rings from a distributor, who has also marked up the price. You have to consider the entire operation from sourcing the gold, having stones cut, designing the ring, to paying a jeweler to put it all together. That gets expensive.
- We buy our jewelry pre-owned, in average condition. We buy based on used market value. When it is restored to great near new condition, we price the item at actual base market value. This is often much less than half of the jewelry store price. Most of the time it will be 3-7X less than the jewelry store. Just the other day we bought a piece that was appraised at $10,000. What did we sell it for?
We sold it for $2000.
Is there anything to worry about?
- We are a pawn shop, so we get asked this question from time to time. The short answer is NO. Everything we buy goes through a Police Database. We have to hold everything we buy for 10 days so that it can be checked. We get all of the information from our customers when they sell us an item, including their fingerprint. For jewelry, we have several special tests and tools we use. We have the newest diamond tester, it tests for the newest kind of diamond simulant. We also use a special acid to test our gold and silver to make sure it is genuine.
We are happy to help!
- If you would like to know your ring size, we can help! We have a finger gauge you can use to find out. We are happy to make you an offer on your jewelry. We have a good reputation for paying well for your jewelry!
- Sometimes we do giveaways! Right below is one that ends 1/21/18, just comment on the post to be entered!
What Happens When We Buy Your Gold?
So, you see one of our ads that we buy gold, or perhaps it was our street sign? Perhaps a recommendation from a friend. You bring in your jewelry, coins, or scrap, and we inspect it. The first thing I usually do it the magnet test.
THE MAGNET TEST
Gold isn't magnetic. The materials they mix with gold also are not. The most common alloys generally contain two or three of the following metals. Copper, zinc, silver, and nickel.
THE VISUAL INSPECTION
If it passes the magnet test, I will look at the piece. Generally, on rings, there will be a mark on the inside of the band. 24K is 100% solid gold. 18K is 75%. 14K is 58.3%. 10K is 41.66%. So a 14K ring will usually be marked 14K, and 58.3% of the weight is solid pure gold. The remaining metal is generally not really worth anything.
If a ring says something like 14K GE or 14K HGE, that is GOLD ELECTROPLATE, and HEAVY GOLD ELECTROPLATE respectively. GF means gold filled. If it has a fraction like GF 1/10 or GF 1/20, that means when it was made, 1/10 or 1/20 of the total weight of the metal was gold. So theoretically if the piece was 14K GF 1/10 and it weighs 10 grams, there would be one gram of 14K gold there.
If a piece is plated, you can usually see the plating wearing off, and generally, you will see a copper color peeping through.
THE ACID TEST
Let's say the piece is unmarked, and it looks like it might be gold. We take the piece, scratch it on a black rock slab, and put some diluted acid on it, (a mixture of Nitric and Hydrochloric acid) and if it burns away (turns green or white and fades) it is fake. If the streak stays unchanged, it is good.
THE GOLD WEIGHT
So, you have some real gold here! We weigh it in groups by the karat, find out how much gold you have total, and pay accordingly. We pay you, you walk away happy. But what happens to the scrap gold?
Well, it's no secret that we have to hold all of our purchased merchandise for 10 days before we are able to sell it. That is to prevent thieves from selling stolen items and them disappearing before any police reports can be made. We get their ID, picture, fingerprint, and a picture of the item, and model / serial number if applicable. But then what?
Then the gold is packaged up, sent off, and chemically dissolved. Kind of like Breaking Bad, but much more legal, 100% in fact! They dissolve the gold to separate it from the other metals, and the stones in the jewelry if there are any. Great, now all my gold is a liquid! Don't worry, those chemists put it right back into physical form. It comes out looking like sand, or flakes. At that point, it's pretty pure. From there, the refinery can do a few things. They can turn it into little blobs for jewelers to use for casting. Then can mint their own coins or bars. A lot of it gets turned right back into jewelry! Don't even get me started on the diamond industry. And now you know!
This thing is sweet, there is a ton of info online about them. This one was made near 100 years ago, it was hand made and engraved. The sheath is leather and bone. It is a beautiful example of a Finnish Lapland Puukko knife.
We almost never get a Rolex, so I get excited when we do. This came in a couple weeks ago (and I wore it around for a few days.) It is a 1979 GMT Master with date. It is a two tone model, which is stainless steel and 18k gold. They're pricey but beautiful, and in general, a good investment when bought at market value (they tend to go up in value.)
This came in one day. It was sitting on my desk in the back room when I came into work. "That's cool." I thought. And so it was. It turns out it is over 100 years old, possibly older. It may be Hetian jade, but I'm not sure. Mainly I was excited to be able to play with it for a few weeks before it sold.
It is always interesting to get artifacts for World War 2, I especially like to see when the Samurai Swords come in. One thing that is neat about them is that they could possibly be family swords that date way back before the war. As many families gave the man of the family that went to war the family sword. Many of the oldest ones are made of Damascus steel. Often times there will be a family name or crest on the blade. Sometimes there will just be a makers name rather than a family name. There are a few blades that were made specifically for the war that were machine made and stamped with serial numbers. That variety is actually illegal to own in Japan. Ours here is a Wakizashi under 24" with a Japanese inscription which I have been researching to see whether it is a family name or a makers mark. Thanks for reading!