Tradio: Prospecting

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[audio:http://westchestergold.com/MP3/tradio-05-25-12.mp3|titles=Prospecting ]

I’m going to talk about prospecting for you.

Man:  
He’s getting out the old sluice, the old shovel, the old pickax.

We’re going to make it easier on you than that. We’re going to tell you that you need to go out there for starters, get yourself a magnet. That’s right, a simple magnet. Get yourself what we call a loop. A loop is a magnifying device that you can a lot of times just fold up, put it in your pocket. It doesn’t take up a whole lot of room.

As you get a little bit older, your arms get a little bit shorter, and you can’t seem to see all those marks that you’ll find on different things that you’re looking for. If you need a loop, we sell those over at Westchester Gold and Diamonds. I think they’re all of five dollars and they could make you a whole lot of money.

Now you got to find yourself a lucrative spot to look for goodies. How about flea markets, garage sales, thrift shops? All these places take in items from other people or these are places where people are going to have items for sale.

What are you out there looking for? Basically, you’re looking for things that are of value. There are lots of people that go out looking for collectables. Those are great. You have to have some sort of knowledge to go out and find some sort of a collectible because in your mind, you’re buying this thing because either, number one, you’re a collector.

At the end of the day, you’re going to look at that item, touch it, fondle it, it’s going to make you smile, and you’re going to enjoy it. That’s my explanation of what a collectible should do for you. There are also people out there who are looking for collectibles that besides doing all that, it’s going to put a jingle in their pocket.

These people have some sort of a working knowledge of what that collectible should be worth. Granted, there are lots of people out there who just go out there, buy this stuff because they’ve seen pictures of it or they’ve watched television and somebody on television said, “I’m sure you got this because I could buy it and sell it for $300.”

Those are television numbers. Let me just stress that. These are for the camera. They’re not bringing that kind of money. I know there’s lots of people out there who have been buying storage sheds lately because they see all these people making all this money on these storage sheds. Now they’re inundated with all kinds of piles of things that really are not worth what they thought they were because television people said, “Oh, this camera is worth $300.”

You know what? That old Pentax is not worth $300. Go out there on eBay and you’ll see the same one for $10, $15, and $20 and it’s not selling. I wish I could get the kind of money they advertise and talk about on television for these items. It’s just ridiculous.

But the one thing you know you can always sell if you find it is some sort of a gold or silver item, or platinum item. These are ferrous metals. These are precious metals that have value to them, regardless of what kind of condition they’re in, regardless of what size they are. They all have some sort of value that you can easily turn into cash.

What do you do now that you’ve got a loop and a magnet and you went to your first garage sale? You want to look around. There are usually boxes of costume jewelry. You want to dig through that box of costume jewelry. If you look at that jewelry and it has big colored gemstones and things, 99 times out of 100, they’re not going to be genuine.

Most of the time, if you’re looking for some sort of a gold or silver item, it could have gemstones in it. It could actually even have synthetic gemstones in it but for the most part it probably won’t. If you find a piece that you think might be good, take out your magnet. You got to be on a QT about this.

Take your magnet out and hold that to the piece of jewelry or the item that you think might be real. If it sticks to that magnet immediately, put that in the no good pile. That means it cannot be gold. It cannot be silver. It could be marked one of these items but if it sticks to that, it’s definitely not going to be gold or silver.

Gold or silver items will not stick to a magnet. Are there other items out there in jewelry that look like jewelry that won’t stick to a magnet? There are lots of them. There are lots and lots of stuff that will not stick to a magnet because it’s a white hot metal, a spelter metal. The alloys in it still will not stick to a magnet. They’re not magnetic.

Now, we pull out our loop and we look for little markings on that particular piece that you think might possibly be gold or silver. We have to remember some of the markings that we talk about that are going to be on gold, some of the markings are going to be on silver.

Some of the European markings will be three numbers. If you just see two numbers, it’s probably not going to be gold or silver. If it’s 10 karat gold, you’re probably going to see the number 417. If it’s 14 karat gold, and it’s European, it’s going to say 585. If it’s 18 karat gold, it’s going to say .750.

What does this actually mean? Why would they just pick these random numbers and put them on a piece of jewelry? They don’t. Ten karat gold is theoretically 41.7% pure gold. Unfortunately, when the manufacturers make this jewelry and they stamp it 417, when it’s refined, it’s usually not 41.7% pure.

It could be 38%, it could be 39%. They generally what we call under karat that particular piece of jewelry. You say to yourself, “Why would they bother doing that? How much money can you possibly save?” Imagine that they save no more than 10 to 15 cents or 25 cents on every piece of jewelry that they made, and they make 100,000 pieces a month.

This adds up to an enormous amount of money at the end of the year. Lots of times, regardless of what that number is, that’s not always going to be the purity of the gold, but theoretically it is. When you see that three digit number like 417, 585, 750, it could be 333. There are lots of different variations on this as far as gold goes.

Now, if it was made in America, made in the US, you might see the number 10 with a K in the back of it, which would mean 10 karat. You might see a 14 with a K in the back of it, meaning 14 karat. You might see an 18 with a K in back of it, that would stand for 18 karat gold.

Now here’s another curveball. After that K, you might see the letter P. I’ve had a lot of self-proclaimed experts tell me that, “I was going to buy this stuff but I wasn’t going to fall for that. It said 14 KP on it.” I said, “Really? What do you think that mean?” “14 karat plated.”

“Unfortunately, you were wrong. You went out there with half of the knowledge instead of all of the knowledge.” Now I’m going to sit here and make you guys out there in radio land as smart as I am. I am going to give you my knowledge.

Don’t open up your own store and put me out of business but this will help you a little bit. If you see the letter P in back of the letter K, K stands for karat. Karat is the fineness or the purity of the gold. If you see 10 K, it’s going to be 10 karat. That’s the purity.

If you see the KP, that P stands for the word plum. The word plum in the metal industry means that that has been inspected and is guaranteed to be whatever fineness it should be. If you see 14 karat KP, it means that it’s definitely 585 purity and the K stands for the karat, the P stands for plum or the purity, that it is what it is.

It’s good that you didn’t fall into the trap because there are things that are marked plated or you’ll see what we call a little fraction. You may see 1/10, 14 karat K, GF. That’s golf filled. That’s sort of a plated type of an item.

If it’s going to be plated, it will say HGE, heavy gold electroplate. Various other initials would be in front of that P rather than just the K that stands for the karat gold. If you see that KP, then you’re okay. It is gold.

Now we’ve taken a look. You’ve used your magnet and it didn’t stick to it. That’s good. You use your loop and you couldn’t find any kind of identifying mark on it. You looked everywhere. You’ll be surprised where you’ll have to look for all these different markings. You have to understand that these markings are stamped into that piece of jewelry by a machine, or sometimes they’re done by hand.

If it’s going to take a big hit from a piece of jewelry that has to stamp these numbers into it, it has to be fairly solid. A lot of times, you look at an earring, and it’s hollow. There’s no way they could possibly stamp that without crushing the earring, so where could they mark it where it wouldn’t mess up the piece of jewelry?

We look for a flat spot or a solid spot on that piece of jewelry. On an earring, the little gold post that goes into your ear, that’s solid gold. If you look at it, this is why you’re going to need that loop. It’s really tiny. If you turn it around and around, somewhere on there, you may see that 14 K mark or 10 karats.

Generally, this will be where earrings are marked. If it’s a solid piece and it’s not a hollow earring, generally on the inside of that earring, of that solid piece of gold, it will generally be marked with the gold mark on it.

The reason is because if after they’ve hit it with that gold mark and they’ve stamped it, there might be some sort of pattern on the outside that disguises that mark. You don’t really see that mark or it could be high polished again and you wouldn’t see where that mark was from the outside so always look on the inside.

Let’s say you’re looking at a bracelet and it looks like it’s gold. You tested it. It didn’t stick to your magnet but you can’t find it. Where the heck did they put this mark on this thing? It just seems like it would be impossible.

Look at the clasp. Lots of times, if you have a clasp that opens and closes like a little hinge, if you look on the back of that clasp, it could be marked or if you open inside of that clasp with your loop, you may find the gold mark on the inside of that clasp.

It’s not always going to be easy. You went out there and looked for a place to prospect. You started testing, you found a piece. Now you don’t know if it’s real or not but you’ve eliminated the stuff that didn’t stick to your magnet as being possible gold or silver but you weren’t able to find a mark.

Now what do you do? This is where the next step comes in. This is a little bit more difficult, a little more sophisticated. There are actually types of acid that we use to test gold when you come in. What we actually do, we have what we call a touchstone. This is almost like the thing they use to sharpen a knife with.

We rub that piece of jewelry on the stone. It leaves a little mark, a little trace of gold color to it. The next thing we do, we use different strengths of concentrated nitric acid to test for that particular type of gold. Over a period of years, we’ve learned that if you use 14 karat acid on the mark that we left on the stone, it starts to turn a little bit dark.

Then that’s going to tell us it’s probably 10 karat gold. If it stays nice and bright and shiny, it’s going to be at least 14 karat gold. Now we have to decide, “Is it 18 karat or a higher karat gold?” Then we use a higher concentration of acid. We put it on the touchstone. If it makes that line disappear, then it wasn’t 18 karat gold. It was only 14 karat.

If it stays, then that gold is at least 18 karat gold. There are also higher karats of gold. There’s 22 karat gold, 24 karat gold. How do we arrive at what these items are? There are even higher concentrations of acid. We generally use AquaRegia which is a combination and a much stronger acid to test our higher karats of gold.

We’re trying to be on the sly when we’re doing this at a garage sale. You don’t really want to pull out all these types of acid and stuff. What do you do? Lots of times, you can take a touchstone. You can buy these. They’re little square pieces, like a flint type of material.

You can make a mark on that touchstone. If the piece of jewelry started out as a yellow color, and all of a sudden when you used the touchstone, it shows up white, that’s going to tell you that it was plated. Regardless of the fact that it didn’t stick to your magnet and couldn’t really find a mark on it with your loop, when you put the touchstone on it and it turns white, that’s going to tell you automatically this is not a piece of gold.

Put it back and keep on prospecting. We’re also out there looking for silver. Let’s backtrack a minute here. You picked up this item. It didn’t stick to your magnet. You see sort of a mark on the inside but when you put it on your touchstone, it turns silver or turns white.

Now let’s examine the mark a little bit closer with your loop. It doesn’t look like a 10, it doesn’t look like a 14 but there are three numbers in there. What does it look like? Wait, I can read it now. It says 925. Guess what? You still struck it rich because what you have there is a piece of sterling silver jewelry.

How do we know that? Because sterling, when we go back to the 1500s, you’ll remember that the first silversmiths would actually melt down silver coins. The coins at that time were 92.5% pure. They began making jewelry. They began making hollowware with them or eating utensils, or things you could drink out of.

In order to prove the fineness or the purity of that silver, the king made them mark those items with the purity. The purity was 925 because they would melt silver coins down. They knew the coins were alloyed with a certain amount of copper so the purity would be 925. That became as a standard, it was called sterling.

Lo and behold, the piece of jewelry you have in your hand now is marked 925 so it’s silver. We went prospecting, we picked up a thing that was gold colored, we put it on the touchstone, and it turned white on that touchstone which means you rubbed off the gold plating but you still scored a piece of silver.

Put that in the keeper pile. It may also say Mexico on it because in Mexico, they make a lot of silver jewelry. It may say hecho en Mexico, made in Mexico. It might say alpaca silver on it. If you get a piece that says alpaca silver, no, it wasn’t made from an alpaca. They do not deliver silver to us.

It would be cool but it’s just a way of making you believe that that was actually silver. No, it’s not against the law for them to try to mislead you. They used the word the silver but they also used a description in front of it that said alpaca silver, which means that it really had no silver content.

You may see the numbers 800 on a piece of silver. You may see the numbers .900. Again, all these are to tell you the fineness of that particular silver. When you’re dealing with ferrous metals, they generally carry the fineness out to three places. If you just see 90 on something, it’s probably not going to be the content of that silver. It could be a catalog number, something to that effect.

The fineness will generally be carried out to three places so when you’re looking out there prospecting, make sure that if it has a decimal point in front of it, it has three numbers in back of it. Because it’s made in America, you’re only going to see the two numbers. They don’t bother using the three. We don’t carry it out that far. We just use the karat mark. We put that K in back.

Sometimes, you’ll see a fineness number and the lettering CP. This also stands for karat. When you see this, that’s going to tell you that it’s generally English. It was made in England. They use the initials CP as opposed to in America we use the letter K to show the fineness.

Let’s say you’re going through this and you’ve found a bunch of gold jewelry that’s marked 10 karat, 14 karat, 18 karat, and you found a bunch of silver. Now what do you do? I guess if you’re at a garage sale and they have 25 cent, a dollar, and three dollars, you have to decide do you think there’s that much gold or silver in that particular item?

You can always take what we call the shot. Maybe it has this much value to it. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t really know. Maybe these people are smarter than I am and I’m just starting out. At that point, it would be good to have some sort of a scale. There are little pocket scales out there that you can buy.

They run anywhere from somewhere around $50 to $100. They’re battery operated. You can turn around, get your little corner inside there on the sly and weigh that stuff up, and figure out how much it’s worth. Then you know you’re making money.

How do you find out what it’s worth? There are formulas that you can figure out. There are formulas that all dealers who buy metals work with. It’s complicated. It’s not something I’m going to jump on the radio waves with you right now and explain. I’m sure there are Web sites you can go to.

If you really want to understand it, you can come to the shop and I’ll be more than happy to talk to you, Westchester Gold and Diamonds in the Bear Plaza in Port Charlotte. I’m always happy to take a look at the stuff you bought. I’m always interested in buying it.

Most dealers will work on a pretty small percentage of profit. If you’re out there prospecting, you’re the one that’s going to make the big money. You do have to have some sort of a working knowledge. I’ll give you some of the tools. You’re going to have to go out there and get your loop, get your magnet.

If you’re going to really get into it, go out there and get your test kit with gold and silver acid in it. When you’re really getting into it, you’re going to need your scale to be able to weigh these items.

Another item you’re going to bump into, another metal you’re going to bump into is platinum. Platinum is a little unusual. Platinum for years and years has always been worth a lot more money than gold. Right now, depending on what day it is, some days, gold is worth more than platinum.

Gold has a lot of different uses in industry. Platinum has very few. For awhile, they used it in catalytic converters in cars. It drove the price of platinum up because there was a big demand on it. They’re not really doing that too much anymore so platinum is pretty much an inert metal. It’s used for jewelry.

It’s a very hard metal to form things with. It’s very difficult to use. It’s much more expensive in a piece of jewelry for this simple reason. It’s got to be fashioned. It’s got to be worked with, and it’s not alloyed with anything.

When you look at a piece of gold, it might be marked 14 karat. It’s approximately 58% gold and it’s going to be 42% alloy. If you look at a piece of platinum, it’s 100% platinum. The value of the metal itself is generally going to be much higher than a piece of gold.

What are the markings for platinum? You may look on the inside and it might say the word platinum. It’s pretty simple. It’s pretty cut and dry. You may see the word Plat. It’s an abbreviation for platinum. A lot of people have seen this on the inside of jewelry, assume that it meant plated, and pass on that piece of jewelry.

Now there’s no reason for you to do that. Now you’ve just learned that Plat. is the abbreviation for platinum. You may see Plat. and a 10% mark, and the letters Irid. What does this mean? It means that it’s 90% platinum and 10% iridium. Iridium is an extremely expensive metal. The reason it’s alloyed with platinum, it makes it much more malleable.

When we say the word malleable, that means that the platinum becomes a little softer and is easier to work with. It’s easier to shape in that piece of jewelry. They alloy it with the iridium to make it easier to work with.

Does it help the value because the iridium is much more expensive? Unfortunately not. The only refinery that really does anything as far as refining platinum with iridium is in Germany. There are very few of the refineries that will repay you for the iridium. That’s sort of their profit.

If you see that 90% platinum, 10% iridium, believe or not, it’s not worth as much as normal platinum. It’s unusual because platinum, you may find in a lot of different forms that you don’t really assume to be platinum. They make these in crucibles. They make it in wire. This is generally used in scientific areas.

The reason they would make a crucible, and a crucible would be a little object that would hold something else in it, sort of like a shot glass size type of thing. They would put an object in there. They didn’t want to get any other alloys mixed with it. It’s generally burned off. They weigh the ash. It’s a way of finding the pureness of a particular element or another item for scientific reasons.

It won’t always be marked. When you see platinum, an older piece of platinum will not stick to your magnet. Look for the markings in it. It will tend to be a grey color. It won’t be a real bright white like white gold. It will be very dull and very dense. When you pick it up, over a period of time, you learn to be able to heft.

You put it in your hand and feel it. For its size, it’s extremely dense and heavy. It could be an unmarked piece of platinum. There’s acid out there that we could test it with. Again, you’re always going to look for those marks. You’re going to look for the fineness. You’re going to make sure it doesn’t stick to your magnet, and you’re going to look with that loop.

That’s going to be probably one of your most important things out there. You’re going to look for any kind of those markings on that piece of jewelry that you’re prospecting for. I’m Steve Duke, the owner of Westchester Gold and Diamond. I’ve been prospecting for 37 years now.

If I could help you at all, go out there and make some money while you’re prospecting, give me a call over at the shop or if you’ve prospected and like to turn your stuff into cash, bring it by. We’ve been voted the number one place in Charlotte County to sell your gold. We will pay you the most.

 Have Questions about your antiques, estate jewelry, collectibles or old treasures? 

If you have questions for Steve Duke to answer about your jewelry, antiques or collectibles, just send a photo of the item and your question directly to Steve Duke at WGDiamonds@HotMail.com and Steve will research it for you and you may be contacted to participate in an upcoming Tradio episode. Be sure to include your name, email and phone number along with your question and email it to: WGDiamonds@HotMail.com

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