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A New Way to Pan for Gold; Estate Sales & Flea Market Gold Digging

Updated on January 23, 2014

How to Find a Gold Treasure

Who doesn't like a treasure hunt? Especially if you find real gold and no one else was the wiser. I mean the kind of fine gold that is not marked, but is in fact,14k for $5.00 or a heavy gold box chain necklace marked 585 for $2.00. Sounds ridiculous? How can one find such deals and how can the seller make such obvious mistakes? Much like the guy who pans for gold you have to know what to look for. It can become a profit-making hobby if you get good at it!

You only need four things to be good at hunting for gold: one, a love for jewelry; two, a love for shopping; three, a love for treasure hunting; four, a good loupe. Always carry a loupe, which is a simple, small magnification device used to see details more closely. Usually a 10x (power) correct lens is the best to buy. Once you start shopping for gold you will never want to be without your loupe.

Information and a Keen Eye

Marked or Not Marked Can You Tell The Difference?

As a rule all jewelry should be marked. Sometimes it is gold and not marked; and sometimes it is marked gold but it isn't gold. This is very rare but it does happen. Either the jewelry was too delicate to mark or a mark is dishonest. Learning all you can about gold jewelry is an important start. Especially understanding how it is made. Since gold will always be valuable; even broken pieces of fine gold jewelry can be sold for a nice profit. Train your eye to know what fine gold looks like. Visiting jewelry stores and antique stores is a good way to see the different types of jewelry.

Terms like rolled gold, gold filled, electroplated gold, vermeil, and plated are not the purest forms of gold jewelry. This kind of jewelry will have markings like: "14K HGE" or "14K HG" or "14K GP" or "14K GF" (these are not real gold, they just have a thin layer of gold on top of a non-gold metal). Fine gold jewelry is made from units of measuring proportions of pure gold mixed with an alloy. The proportion of pure gold (24k) is measured in karat weight. The word karat is used to define the number of parts of pure gold. Pure 24 karat gold has a very deep, shimmering yellow color. An amount of pure gold when mixed with an alloy takes on other color characteristics. Yellow gold made in measurements of 18K,14k, 12k, 10k, and 9k contains varying amounts of silver and copper. Rose gold, which was popular at the turn of the century, also contains silver and copper but in different proportions. White gold is mixed with silver, nickel or palladium. Other colors, green and blue gold were popular in the art nouveau period. Green gold was created using a mix of pure gold, cadmium, and silver to reflect a greenish sparkle. Blue gold is an alloy with iron to give a blueish nuance.

Ever Been Fooled? - It was Too Good to be True

I once purchased a ring on eBay from China. It showed a picture of a turquoise and yellow gold ring. The ad claimed it was solid 14k gold. After receiving the ring I thought it looked strange. It did not look rich and elegant like I imagined it to be. I took the ring to my jeweler and he took one look and said this is a cheap metal and the stone is resin. He did an acid test to prove that he was correct. I was shocked that the ring was stamped on the inside 14k.

Have you ever been fooled into thinking the jewelry was real gold?

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How Not to Get Fooled

Tricks of The Trade

There are some important points to be made about gold markings. Not all fine gold will be marked with a number and a "k" beside it. European gold is measured in the same manner but has different forms of marking the karat weight. If its not marked with a single "K" than it is not gold. This is a common mistake people make if they are unaware of European markings.

Not to long ago I went to an estate sale. There was a table with bits of jewelry spread out. The sign above said $2.00 a piece. Most everything on the table looked like junk. There were two chains laying there; one was a heavy snake chain and the other a heavy box chain. The chains were a dark dirty gold tone. I pulled out my loupe to read in tiny print, 585 in an obcsure spot, (enough about where to look for markings later). European gold that is 18K is marked 750, 14k gold is marked 585 and 10k gold is marked 417. When I got home I polished up the necklace to find a beautiful gold shine. To learn more about markings click on the image. It is a good idea to print this page and keep it with you when you go treasure hunting.

If you shop at flea markets, garage sales and estate sales is it very likely that European jewelry might be found. Each country has a minimum standard of gold. This information may come handy.

*German minimum standard of gold is 333 or 8k

*England's minimum standard of gold jewelry is 375 or 9k

*U.S. minimum standard of gold is 417 or 10k

and 585 which is 14k

*Dental minimum standard of gold jewelry is 620 or 14.8k and 750 or 18k

*Portugal minimum standard of gold is 800 or 19.2k

*Egypt's minimum standard of gold jewelry is 18K

* Arabic countries minimum standard of gold is 875 or 21k, 916 or 22K, 990 or 24k, and 999 or 24K

On three separate sales I came across jewelry that was marked 14kP. Everyone of the sellers claimed it meant "plated". Do not get fooled by this. The "P" stands for PLUM. Much of the gold jewelry made can be marked 14k (or any other number) and actually fall short of what it is marked. In other words that 14K piece is actually 13.2K when tested. The "P" after the k indicates that is is exactly what is marked.

If the gold is not marked, and it is very dirty wipe it clean and use a loupe to look closely at all parts of the jewelry. Gold plated jewelry often will show areas of wear where the gold is missing, but not necessarily new ones. Also, check all jump rings to be sure they are soldered closed. It is easy to attach a chain tag to any chain. If it is not soldered the chain my not be what the tag says.

Carrying a small magnet can be useful. If you have a piece of jewelry you are not sure of you can do a quick magnet test: does your chain/ring/bracelet stick to a magnet? If so - it isn't real gold.

There is a Little Bit of Gold Digger in All of Us! - Tools to Help you out.

Buying gold will always be a desirable investment. But, anyone can easily be ripped off. Don't be one of the unsuspecting buyers that gold dealers love to prey on. These are the best tools that I have come to find. I personally have read these books and would gladly recommend them to you.

Buy Gold and Silver Safely: The Only Book You Need to Learn How to Buy or Sell Gold and Silver
Buy Gold and Silver Safely: The Only Book You Need to Learn How to Buy or Sell Gold and Silver

This is a great book for understanding gold. How its role plays out as a currency standard.

The Average Americans Guide to Buying Gold and Silver
The Average Americans Guide to Buying Gold and Silver

This book is perfect for the average buyer. It points out all the common mistakes that can be made when buying gold or silver for an investment.


How to Find the Markings on Gold Jewelry

Sometimes Marks Are Hard to Find

Gold markings can be hard to find on some jewelry. Chains are probably the easiest to find the gold mark. The mark can be found near the clasp. Rings are also easy to find the mark; always marked on the inside of the shank. Bracelets, earrings, pendants and brooches can be harder to find as well as see. Sometimes the marks are so tiny they are easily missed all together.

Post earrings will have a small marking on the post with another on each backing. If there is not a mark on any of these parts it is most likely not gold. Bangle bracelets are sometimes overlooked. I have purchased three 14K gold bracelets, ranging in price from $8.00 to $20.00 because no one checked for the markings. Bangle bracelets are not marked on the inside of the bracelet but rather you have to pull the clasp open. The mark can be found on the "tongue" of the clasp. Brooches are often easy to find the mark, however I have one where the mark is on the pin part of the brooch.

Go to the Costume Jewelry Table

Finding the Good Stuff

All over the U.S. estates sales are happening. Log on to and will see the map of the U.S. just click on your state and there will be a list of main cities. Each sale service features pictures of the items they will be selling. Look for the costume jewelry picture or a listing for jewelry. You would be surprised at how much fine gold jewelry gets mixed in with the costume jewelry. Do not shy away from a table that looks like junk. Often that's where the best deals can be found. Old gold jewelry that has become dirty is usually missed.

See What Gold is Going for on eBay

The price of gold is always fluctuating. I use eBay as a starting point for how much to expect for weight in gold price. I also look at eBay to see what kind of jewelry sells best. Check out these items. Sometimes you can catch a really good deal.

Welcome Comments and Suggestions

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    • FleaMarket profile image

      Russell Smith 

      3 years ago from North Attleboro, MA

      You can also get the pricing of gold and other metals on this site yes, it gives you oil price, but look at upper right. You will see a listing for a bunch of metals and commodities. For example today at this time it lists gold at 1208.10 an ounce.

    • karMALZEKE profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      I would be very suspicious. By law, gold is required to have karat markings. If it is really old gold, markings were not required by law. The best thing to do is test it yourself with a simple gold testing kit which you can buy on line or take it to your jeweler. A simple acid test will give a pretty valid result.

    • karMALZEKE profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      I would be very suspicious. By law, gold is required to have karat markings. If it is really old gold, markings were not required by law. The best thing to do is test it yourself with a simple gold testing kit which you can buy on line or take it to your jeweler. A simple acid test will give a pretty valid result.

    • profile image 

      3 years ago

      brought 14ct gold bracelet from chains but can't see any markings is it real gold it says would what do this mean have I been done please tell me

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I brought a 14ct gold bracelet from chains but can't see any markings on it, is it real or have I been carned

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This was very informative...will definitely help me on my search for gold!

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 

      6 years ago

      This was very interesting...i learned a lot of things i did not know. Thanks

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great article. I am going to get my junk pile out, clean it and do some more acid testing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I need a loupe! Thanks for the tips. d

    • SellClean profile image


      6 years ago

      Great tips! Nothing like finding treasure!

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 

      6 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      These are great tips. I also can't wait to try them out. What fun.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 

      6 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I enjoyed these tips.

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 

      6 years ago from Keller, Texas

      Thanks for the tutorial - I hope I find a sale to try these skills out on. Was hoping you had a loupe for sale on your lens that I could buy. Maybe you should add that!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great info to make us rich or at least get a good deal right? Thanks so much for the blog post and sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very helpful information, thank you for sharing. :)

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      6 years ago

      Last year we discovered that our housekeeper was mining for gold in our drawers. She had a good eye and got most of the real gold, including our wedding rings.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Fantastic information! I'm ready to hit some sales aremd with this knowledge.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Great info and tips. Sad when people get fooled.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This information is very useful to me, I love to find treasures at estate sales.


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