Counterfeits, forgeries or fakes... they put a lot of people off buying Tiffany & Co. jewellery on-line. To be honest, I'm not surprised. It was my big fear when I started out. How would I know something was fake? Here's a little about what I've learned...
Fake Tiffany jewellery is generally made in Asia, in bulk by manufacturers attempting to pass off silver plated Tiffany designs as real Tiffany & Co solid silver jewellery. These items are sold on websites which mimic Tiffany's own website but are called things like 'tiffanydiscount' or 'uktiffanyjewellers'. You can only buy genuine Tiffany & Co new from Tiffany itself.
With regards to the second hand market - and Ebay in particular - contrary to popular opinion, this can be a very safe place to get a great Tiffany bargain!
The kinds of sellers on fake sites like 'tiffanydiscount' don't have access to the Ebay market - because they are banned! (That said, it's entirely possible that individuals, having purchased items from fake sites might try to sell them on through Ebay.)
Fakes often mimic popular classics like the 'Return to Tiffany' range. Remember the people manufacturing these fake items are trying to make a fast buck. They are not highly skilled and cannot afford to finish the items to Tiffany's exacting standards. You'll find, for example, that the links in a chain on a fake item will be pushed to, rather than invisibly soldered together like the real thing.
Have a look on the Tiffany website and check the item you want to buy against the genuine item. Has it got smooth links or can you see little gaps where the links have been pushed together? If you can't see clearly enough, ask the seller to send you close ups of the links. Gaps = fake, no gaps = genuine!
If there are no links to check, ask for the weight of the item - remember fakers don't produce items in real silver - it's too expensive. Compare the weight of the item you want to buy against the weight of the same item sold by other sellers. If your item weighs the same as most of the others then it's likely to be real. If it is significantly lighter then it's fake.
Finally look at how long people have been on Ebay and their feedback. If they mostly sell jewellery and have good feedback, the chances are they are running a business. The last thing they want is to ruin their business by selling fakes. A confident seller will also offer a returns policy. That way, if there are any problems at all, you can get your money back.
I've only been talking about TIffany silver because that is where the counterfeiting problem stems from. I don't know of any large scale operation that fakes Tiffany & Co fine jewellery ie. gold, platinum and diamond. The reason for this is that it's impossible to make fine jewellery without skilled craftsmen and fine materials. Imagine filing down the prongs on a gold plated engagement ring - it wouldn't work because you'd see the base metal underneath. Of course you could re-plate the item once you'd got the perfect shape but why bother with all of that when you can make a fast buck with silver plated items? Maybe you could take the diamonds out of a genuine Tiffany ring and replace them with fakes? This is possible but you'd struggle to find enough second hand Tiffany rings to make a career out of it!
Hope this helps. Happy jewellery buying!