Often, it can be difficult to tell what kind of precious metals your jewelry is made from (if any). A clear understanding of precious metals and how to test them is needed to value jewelry properly. Out of all the precious metals, platinum is one of the easiest to confuse for any number of precious metals like white gold and silver. We’ll detail how to distinguish platinum from other precious metals through visual cues and using a scratch test.
Identifying Platinum Through Visual Cues and Weight
Even before any precious metal testing, there are a couple of ways to tell if a metal is platinum. The first way is to use visual cues. Pure platinum jewelry, or jewelry that is at least 50% platinum, is typically marked with a stamp (also known as a hallmark). Usually, this mark will include a number like 850 followed by “plat or “pt”, which indicates the piece is 85% pure. If the piece you’ve acquired is marked with the word “platinum”, it is most likely 90-95% pure. A couple other things to keep in mind when identifying platinum is that it may not be marked if it comes from a country that does not require it to be stamped or if it is incredibly old. Also, any metals that are less than 50% platinum are not stamped.
A few other visual indicators exist that can help you determine if a metal is platinum. The first is seeing whether it has a bright, white appearance. When compared to precious metals like white gold, silver, or palladium, platinum has a whiter and brighter color. It’s also important to check and see if your piece has any scratches. Platinum is very scratch-resistant, and you should see little to no scratches on it. The final tip is to check and see if your piece is tarnished. If it is, you are carrying silver, not platinum.
Feeling the weight of your piece is another way to determine if it is platinum. As platinum is more dense than other precious metals, it feels heavier in your hand than white gold, silver, or palladium.
Another interesting way to test if a metal is platinum is using a magnet.
Using A Magnet
As platinum is not magnetic, if your piece is attracted to a magnet, you can safely say it is not platinum. If you notice a slight magnetic pull, then it is more likely your metal is white gold combined with nickel.
Lastly, a scratch test can also be useful in your search to uncover the identity of your metal.
Conduct A Scratch Test
If you’ve exhausted all other methods and are still uncertain of whether you have platinum, you can conduct a scratch test from home by buying an acid scratch test kit. If you don’t want to do it yourself, a jewelry store or precious metal refiner can do it for you.
How a scratch test works is your piece is scratched against a scratch stone, leaving behind a small sample of its contents on it. A dropper is then used to dispense one or two droplets of acid onto the sample. In platinum’s case, if the sample extracted from your piece dissolves, then it is not platinum.
Make sure to wear latex or vinyl gloves to protect your skin from the acid if you decide to perform this test on your own.
If you are ever uncertain about what kind of metal you’ve bought or found, it never hurts to test. With so many ways to test precious metals available, there is no excuse to not be 100% sure of the value of your pieces.