How to Distinguish Between Real and Fake Jewelry
You see, to give money value to an item of jewelry is 90% or more of the work needed for an appraisal. The printed part is easy and often done with forms from a computer, with values from the previous inspection and evaluation typed in. If you want a value, this will mean appraisal. No store able to accurately valuate jewelry is going to guess and risk their reputation on a guess. A customer may leave the store with a "guess" and tell other that "the store" said the item was worth so much money. See what I am getting at?
This is a suggested approach which might help. Many jewelry stores will check the karat of metals for a reasonable fee. This is not an appraisal and no statement of value comes with it. I do not know of those who will grade diamonds and gemstones unless it is an appraisal since the grading is the largest part of appraisal work!
Still, it might be worth your time to call a few jewelers and simply ask if they will check the metal and how much is the fee. Ask if they will determine the weight, clarity and color of the stones, with no written appraisal. Tell them you do not want a dollar value, only the information mentioned. Some will be surprised to hear this question. Ask if they will do that and if the service will cost less than regular appraisal services. You might also explain the reasons, for the family essentially.
I suspect they will only provide appraisal services for the stones but should provide inexpensive service in telling the karats of metal items. The only way to know is to call and ask.
Have you examined the jewelry for stamps or marks showing karat? If the jewelry is from the Middle East then the marks will be unknown to most jewelers in the USA and the jewelry should be tested. If from European countries, most show karats by number marks. British jewelry uses symbols in many cases and numbers on more recent items with the added symbols from the regional assay offices.
10k gold is marked as shown or with the number 417. 14k is also shown as 585 18k is also shown as 700
Heavy electroplate, meaning the metal is not gold but has a heavy gold cladding contains the letters HGE.
Gold Filled, meaning there is a bonded layer of gold on a base (not precious) metal is marked in various numbers but always with a fraction and a GF. For instance, if the layer of gold is 12karat and is 1/12 by weight of the total piece, the mark is 1/12, 12k GF.
Sterling silver is marked "sterling" or 925, showing the silver content in the item.
Marks are often on clasps of bracelets and chains. On rings, the marks are on the inside. Sometimes magnification is needed to read the marks. If the jewelry has been worn a long, long time or a ring resized, the mark may be gone.
BUW, a greenish discoloration on a chain or on a ring generally means the ring is NOT gold. Copper and brass corrode with a green color. Gold will darken but does not show any green color. The metal testing should be inexpensive. Stone grading might require an appraisal charge; that is up to the jeweler.