Basic Tools Needed for Testing Vintage & Antique Jewellery

Basic Tools Needed for Testing Vintage & Antique Jewellery

Here are some basic tools that are helpful for collecting and / or buying and selling vintage and antique jewellery. All of these things can be found on Amazon. I find these, along with information readily available on the Internet and in books, is usually sufficient for most situations. I haven’t found it necessary to purchase specialist hallmark books because I’ve found all the information available online; however, you may decide to invest in some appropriate to the country you buy your jewellery from.

jewelers loup1. Gem dealer’s loupe. I would recommend x20 or x30 amplification. They are good for hallmarks, inspecting for damage, looking for inclusions in gemstones and for examining materials.


41+0SNODCjL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_2. Diamond tester. A precious stone analyzer is a must-have tool if you want to collect and / or buy and sell precious stones. They can be expensive but are worth the investment.

61yKiaAs91L._SX679_3. UV torch light. This can be used for identifying glass and some gemstones which glow under UV light.

4. Unglazed white tile. This is a good base to rest jewels on and can also be used for testing certain materials (i.e. jet).

5. Digital Scales. It’s essential to have some digital scales. I would suggest ones that can weigh from 0.01 grams to 500 grams.

6. Jewellery Caliper. These are generally made from brass and measure up to 80 mm. They are very helpful to measure jewellery and get ring sizes etc (I don’t find a ring measure is necessary if you have this and a ring size conversation chart, available online).

7. Electronic gold tester. Very useful if you’re dealing in non-hallmarked gold. Tri-Electronics make a variety of good gold testers. I know a lot of people like the acid tests but I prefer not to deal with chemicals when I can help it. Note: If you have gold tested something yourself please be certain to let anyone buying the piece from you know this. Fire assay is the only 100% accurate gold test.

8. A small magnet. One of these is useful to have if you visit markets / small shops and you want to quickly eliminate non-gold

9. Chemical silver testing kit. This is helpful if you want to identify the carat of unmarked silver.

10. Simichrome polish. This is useful if you want to identify Bakelite.

11. Silver dip. This is useful if you’re handling larger silver pieces i.e. myrtle crowns.

Please also see:








Gold Testing with a Tri-Electronic Tester

Gold Testing with a Tri-Electronic Tester

Many pieces of antique gold jewellery (particularly from the Georgian era or pieces which are handcrafted) are unmarked and therefore gold testing is necessary. This article is a practical guide to using an electronic gold tester made by TRI electronics (I personally have the GXL-18 model.).  

This is my decimation of the information in the TRI Electronics user manual which I hope makes a good quick reference for those interested.  HOWEVER – PLEASE ALWAYS REFER TO THE MANUFACTURERS INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE FINAL SAY ON HOW TO USE THESE TESTERS. 



The procedure for testing can be shortened to the following easy to remember four words:


For more details, see below: 

1) Load the polyethylene gel tube in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.

2) Connect the following:

a) The black wire to the sensor’s plug outlet.

b) The black and red wire connector to the display unit.

c) The red wire to the testing plate.

3) Turn the unit ON. The unit should now read ‘G-XL-18 READY TO TEST…’

4) Selecting a point to test: 

a) Make sure the point to test is close to BUT NEVER TOUCHING the alligator clip.

b) Do not allow the gel to touch the alligator clip as this will corrode it.

c) Thoroughly clean the testing point with the eraser.

5) The First Part of the Test

  1. Place a tissue, paper towel or rag under the tip of the sensor.
  2. Hold the sensor in a vertical position with the nozzle down.
  3. Twist the Rotary Cap counter clockwise, one click at a time, until a drop of gel appears.
  4. Wipe this first drop of gel away.
  5. Turn again (usually one or two clicks) until more gel appears.
  6. Touch the sensor to the selected area of the test object.

6) Select a gold colour button. 

Depending on the visible colour of the metal you are testing, select one of the following buttons on the unit (see manual for diagram of button locations):





7) Keep the sensor in a vertical position for about 5 seconds. This is is when the gold value is calibrated.

8) The karat value and European Standard are displayed on the instrument. (Tip: Write this down with a pen and paper you keep to hand, along with your reference for the item).

9) Turn off the instrument.


1) Electronic tests are not infallible.  If you achieve a result which is outside of expectations then retest in a different location after cleaning your equipment and your item and use new gel. Keep testing until you get a consistent result. Always make a note for the customer if you are selling gold items tested with an electronic tester explain that the test is not infallible and should be seen as a guide only. 

2) Be careful with fine chains. Very fine chains  can be crushed by the dispenser. Avoid pressure with fine gold chains whilst keeping gel contact. It’s recommended to get the results of two or three tests.

3) Be aware of air bubbles. Sometimes air bubbles with give a high or low reading. Always retest and apply common sense to the results of your readings.

4) Clean Tip. A clean tip is essential for an accurate reading.

a) If you are not using the gold tester more than once a week it is advised that you remove the gel tube from the sensor and store it to keep the gel from drying out.

b) Before replacing the gel, whether with a new tube or with one previously removed, clean thoroughly with SC-10 Cleaner Kit. 

c) If the tester has not been used for over a week, clean the tip with the plastic cleaner provided by inserting the tip into the nozzle of the sensor.

d) If gel drops are not dispensed by rotating the twist cap, clean the sensor with the SC-10 Cleaner Kit. 

5) Solder areas and heavy castings with unevenly dispersed metal can give false readings. Always retest in different areas of the piece.

6) Italian Gold may be waxed and can give a false reading. If you suspect the metal may be waxed, clean the testing area with heavy erasing or with nitric acid (only a drop is required).

7) Skin oils can give a false reading. In heavily worn pieces clean the testing area first with the eraser or with non-acetone nail polish remover.

8) Plated Gold. Usually a tiny scratch or a pin prick will allow gel penetration to the base material on plated pieces. If this is not sufficient, two or three tests are recommended with a thorough eraser cleaning in between. If the item is gold plated, the karatage will decrease with each testing. A solid gold piece will not decrease with each test.

9) Dispose of the drop of gel following each test. 

10) Use every other gel drop for best results. 


12) When removing the cable from the sensor, do not pull the wire! Pull the plug itself to avoid damage. 

13) Testing objects larger than the Alligator Clip. In this instance, unhook the red wire from the testing plate and proceed with the test as per instructions but with the tip of the red wire touching the object.

14) Do not retest the same spot without eraser cleaning.

15) Refer to the manual for full care and maintenance of the tester and follow their recommendations.  


1) Problem: Brown spot on test surfaces

Solution: Rub the spot with eraser

2) Problem: Display unit reads “NOT GOLD”

Solution: Check the wire contacts and the connections

3) Problem: Display has no reading

Solution: Check batteries or switch to converter or change the wire set.

4) Problem: Inaccurate or different readings

Solution: Keep gel away from alligator clip

5) Problem: Gel does not come out

Solution: Clean sensor nozzle and check gel tube and replace if empty.

6) Problem: Sensor’s rotary cap is hard to turn or is tight.

Solution: Check gel tube and replace if empty.

7) Problem: Changed or reduced karat value on the display from previously.

Solution: Check gel tube and replace if empty.

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.