Before you can learn the right way to clean up your finds and make them more presentable, you have got to identify them. Identifying your finds can be really simple, or it can be really difficult. It really depends on what you think your find is.
If you have something and you have no earthly idea what it could be, then joining one of the many metal detecting communities out there will give you an answer.
Many of the metal detecting communities have members that love to help people identify the
things they have uncovered. I have posted several unidentifiable things to these communities myself, and there is always someone who can positively identify them. Once you know what you have, you can move on to cleaning it up, but only if that is the best choice.
Identifying Old Coins
You can use some of the metal detecting communities to help you identify older coins, or you can do a little bit of research yourself. The Internet is a great resource for this type of research. Sometimes all you need to do is Google some of the writing that can be seen on the face of the coin. Pay particular close attention to dates and mint marks. These are often the best clues for helping you identify older coins.
This is a great method for identifying coins, but what if you can’t get to the Internet? I recommend buying a really good coin book to help you identify your coin finds. One of the best books for identifying American coins is called: The Official Red Book. You can find this book at just about any bookstore, and of course you can also order it on the Internet.
I always keep a copy of this book, and I love looking through it. It has helped me identify many coins, and because I have looked at this book so much, I often know what the coins are the moment I see them.
For those of you that are not in America, there are books that can help you identify just about every coin in the world. One of the most popular is called: Standard Catalog of World Coins.
Another good book for identifying world coins is called: The World Encyclopedia of Coins & Coin Collecting.
Identifying Old Relics
Relics can be really difficult to identify, especially if they are made from iron and they have spent a lot of time in the ground. They may only slightly resemble their former selves. If you did a fair amount of research on the area where you are hunting, then you should have a good idea of what you may have found, but there will be plenty of instances when you find relics that just don’t belong in the area.
When this happens, I always turn to the metal detecting community for answers. No matter what it is you have found, there will always be someone who can help you positively identify your relic.
You can also use the Internet to help you identify some of your older relics, especially if they happen to be war items like Civil War bullets. There are plenty of great resources out there that document these types of relics. You can do a Google search for, “Civil War bullets” to get some excellent results.
There is a really good chance that some of the treasure you find will be old jewelry. It can be a thrilling experience removing a plug and seeing a glimmer of gold in the earth below. It can be an even more thrilling experience when that glimmer of gold turns out to be an old gold ring that is loaded with diamonds, rubies, emeralds or any other type of precious stone, but how can you tell what that ring is made of? How can you tell if those stones are real?
Believe it or not, identifying old jewelry is not all that hard. You will need a couple of tools to help you in the process. A good jeweler’s loupe is a must for identifying jewelry. You can find them on the Internet for just a couple of dollars. A magnifying glass will work too, but not quite as good.
Almost all rings are marked along the inside of the band. Here is an example:
Not all pieces of jewelry have clear concise markings and some are not marked at all. I will
talk a little more about this a little later.
Use your jeweler’s loupe to closely inspect the jewelry. Look over every single centimeter.
- For rings, most of the markings will be along the inside of the band.
- For necklaces, bracelets and chains, most markings are somewhere close to the clasp.
- For earrings, look around the backside of the earring.
Take note of anything you can legibly read. These markings can tell you what the jewelry is made from. They can tell you who originally made the jewelry and what the stones might be too. Here are the most common jewelry marks and what they mean.
10k – This means 10 karat gold. It can be white, yellow, or rose. About 40% gold.
10kp – There seems to be some speculation on this one, but every time I have found this, it meant 10 karat plumb, which means exactly 10 karats. About 40% gold.
14k – This means 14 karat gold. It can be white, yellow, or rose and it means that the jewelry contains 58% gold.
14kp – This means that the jewelry is pure 14 karats. About 58% gold.
18k – This means 18 karat gold. It can be white, yellow, or rose. About 75% gold.
20k – This means 20 karat gold. About 83% gold.
22k – This means 22 Karat gold. About 91% Gold
24k – This means 24 karat gold. This is 100% pure gold!
.417 – Same as 10k.
.585 – Same as 14k.
.750 – Same as 18k.
.833 – Same as 20k.
.999 – Same as 24k.
PD 950 – This means that item is made from 95% palladium.
PLAT – This means platinum.
PT – This can also mean platinum and can be prefixed, or followed by a number.
900 – This means platinum. It is 90% Platinum.
950 – This also means platinum. It is 95% Platinum.
Stainless Steel – These rings have gained popularity. They are usually marked: Stainless
Steel, S.S., or Steel.
Silver – Self Explanatory.
S. Silver – This means Sterling Silver
Sterling Silver – Self Explanatory.
925 – This means the item is silver. About 92.5% pure.
Titanium – These rings are very light.
Tungsten – These are becoming more popular too. Most of the times they are an odd flat black color.
CZ – If you find a ring with a stone in it, this means that the stone is cubic zirconia.
CW – If you find a ring with a stone in it, this could be prefixed or followed by a number. This number would be the amount of total carat weight of the diamond.
Before you get too excited and start doing the happy dance, a ring mark does not always mean that the ring is real. There are plenty of counterfeit pieces of jewelry out there. Luckily there are ways to easily test the authenticity of a piece of jewelry or anything that may be made from a precious metal.
You can get a small acid test kit that will let you test a small portion of the item in question. The acids are for testing different purities of metal. You will have to scratch a small portion of your jewelry on a small stone, and then place a drop of acid on the stone where you scratched the metal object. If the metal residue dissolves, your item is not real. If it does not dissolve, congratulations on your find!
There are different acids for different types of metal. You can purchase an acid test kit that will help you test the purity of a variety of different metals.
What About Diamonds or Other Precious Stones?
Learning to spot a real diamond from a fake is an art form. It can take years to master this art. When you are looking at what you think may be a diamond, you are looking for small pieces of carbon. They will appear as black dots throughout the stone. A high powered jeweler’s loupe will give you an up close and personal look at the suspected diamond.
A diamond with more carbon or black spots will have a smaller value. A diamond with less carbon will have a higher value. These bits of carbon affect the clarity of the stone. If you don’t see any carbon, you could have an extremely valuable diamond in your hands.
There are some other signs that your precious stones may or may not be real. You will rarely find diamonds mounted in silver jewelry. I am not saying they don’t exist because they do, but they are very rare.
If your piece of jewelry is gold or platinum, then there is a 99% chance that any stones in the jewelry will be real.
You have a few other choices for testing the authenticity of your newly found treasure. There are electronic diamond testers on the market that will tell you whether or not your diamond is real. They are not very expensive. If you are finding a lot of jewelry with diamonds, then you can afford to pick up a diamond tester.
Your other option is a local jeweler. Your jeweler should have no problems identifying your newly found piece of jewelry, but be careful around jewelers. I would not let them go into the back room to “get a closer look” if you think you have something that is extremely valuable. There are a lot of dishonest people out there and they will take full advantage of your lack of
The jeweler should also be able to tell you the value of your new find. Just understand that value is always relative. Just because a jeweler states your new piece of jewelry is worth thousands does not mean someone will be willing to pay this.
You may also want to pay the jeweler to give your new piece of jewelry a good professional cleaning, or you could use some of the cleaning methods.
There are two rules that you should live by when you are trying to identify your finds. Never assume anything, and never throw anything away until it has been positively identified. You never know what you may have.