How to Determine the Condition of Jewelry Like an Expert

This article will explain common condition issues found in jewelry. It will help you determine if these condition issues are present in your jewelry item. 

When examining your jewelry, place it on a clean, flat, and non­abrasive surface and examine it under a bright light. Always handle jewelry with clean, dry hands. Do not wear latex gloves when handling metal because the sulfur in rubber can cause the surface of the metal to darken, a condition called tarnishing. If you have a magnifying glass, use it to examine the stones, setting, and enamel, if present.

Here is a list of common condition issues that could be present in the jewelry you own:

Broken Pieces or Lost Stone 

Are there any broken or missing components? Are there any areas of damage? Look closely at the pattern and design of the piece to determine if any stones are missing or if the enamel is chipped or cracked. Can you see any visible damage to stones? Do the stones have any surface scratches, crazing, or chipped edges? Is the safety clasp broken? Check for missing or broken links in chains and bent pieces.

Loose Stones

Carefully check the stones by pressing them back and forth with your finger or a toothpick – do they wiggle at all?

Thin or Worn Metal

Examine the metal components of the item. Can you identify any places where the metal has become thin and worn down? Pay close attention to the shank or band (the area that encircles the finger), as well as, the prongs holding stones. Do these areas appear thin or delicate?

Scratches or Gouges

Use your magnifying glass and examine the entire surface of the item. Are there any light scratches? These often result from normal use. Are there any gouges, or deeper scratches, in the metal?


Tarnish is a dull, discolored surface film such as the film of silver sulfide that commonly forms on silver. It is caused by chemical deterioration from humidity, handling, or environmental factors. Tarnish can usually be removed by polishing the object.


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