scales, digital balances, jewellery scales, pocket scales and approved
balances for diamonds, gemstones, jewellery, scrap, coins and bullion.
NOW: CLICK ON A PICTURE
refer to weighing machines as 'scales' and sometimes as 'balances' - today
both words mean exactly the same.
basics: capacity (maximum weight) and resolution (minimum weight)
how to choose the scale for your application
for use in trade
stuff: names; resolution (readability) and accuracy; repeatability
THE BASICS: CAPACITY
The readability (resolution)
is the finest weight on the display of a digital balance, or the finest
divisions marked on a spring balance; the capacity is the maximum weight.
Some models read down to ('have a resolution of") 0.001g, some models
read down to ("have a resolution of") 100g...and anything in
between. The resolution most-used for jewellery, scrap and coins is 0.1g
(and the capacity anywhere from 100g to 8000g)
Some people are easily
confused by decimal points, e.g. 0.001g, 0.01g, 0.1g etc.
Before ordering please do think for just a second:
0.001g = a piece of paper the size of a pin head
0.01g = a small staple
0.1g = a couple of small matches
1g = two or three small paperclips
10g = a one pound coin (actually 9.5g)
100g = nearly half a pack of butter, a large chocolate bar (not a 'giant'
1000g = a small bag of sugar or two medium packs of pasta
The gold and silver prices below are taken from http://goldprice.org.
How do you convert the dollar price for one Troy ounce of pure gold into
the price (in pounds) per gram for 9ct or 18ct? See The
Gold & Silver Buyer's Handbook.
- For weighing diamonds. Switch the scales carat (100 points = 1 carat,
20 carat = 1 gram). Whether you get an accurate (true) reading to the
nearest 1 point will depend on the quality of the scales. If you pay £20.00
or £30.00 Ė unlikely. If you pay about £50.00 they will probably
be OK. If you pay closer to £100.00 they should be good.
- for testing diamonds and gemstones using the specific gravity (relative
density) method, see our specific
gravity tester for gemstones.
- outside of the jewellery trade, 0.001g is for scientific applications,
you really do not need to weigh down to this level for everyday purposes.
- for weighing gemstones (not diamonds)
- for testing precious metals using the specific gravity (relative density)
method, see our specific
gravity tester for gold
- for catalysts for adhesives; components in miniature gliders (flown
for competition); bullets (Iím not sure if anyone makes their own ammunition
these days); strong spices (one customer bought one for weighing "Half
a teaspoon of turmeric powder or 4-5 whole black peppercorn")
- for checking gold coins, look up the weights of coins in The Gold &
Silver Buyer's Handbook (if the coin is the wrong weight, itís not genuine).
You could just about get away with 0.1g for this, but 0.01g is better.
- for gold. 0.1g of 9ct gold is worth £1.60
(as of 27 March 2020). This is the 'middle' (the 'official') price,
you will never get this much when selling scrap, you will never pay this
little when buying jewellery, full details in The
Gold & Silver Buyer's Handbook.
- for other precious metals, platinum and Palladium
- silver isnít so valuable so you can get away with a resolution of 1g,
but if you buy a high-capacity 0.1g balance, you can use it for gold and
- for checking the weight of coins to see if they are genuine, look up
the weights of coins in The
Gold & Silver Buyer's Handbook
(if the coin is the wrong weight, itís not genuine).
- catalysts for adhesives; photographic chemicals; medicinal herbs; eggs
(to see which are likely to be fertilised); rare foods (some mushrooms,
Other factors to consider when buying a 0.1g gold scale:
- the physical size. Must it be pocket-size? Or might you be weighing
teapots and salvers? Or maybe something in between that will take jewellery
from small earrings to large bangles.
- the price. Low-capacity scale are (with the 0.1g resolution) cheap,
e.g. you can get tiny 100g / 0.1g for about £5.00. If you want the
same 0.1g but up to 3000g, then aim to spend £30.00 to £50.00.
Once you want 0.1g up to 5000g or 8000g the price starts creeping up towards
- for silver. 1g
of Sterling silver is worth 35p. 1oz Troy (31.1g) of Sterling silver is
worth £10.95 (as
of 27 March 2020).
This is the 'middle' (the 'official') price, you will never get this much
when selling scrap, you will never pay this little when buying jewellery,
full details in The
Gold & Silver Buyer's Handbook
- bulk-counting coins (110g of silver coinage always has a face value
packets and parcels.
digital balance or digital
- for heavy silver items (large teapots, salvers, entire tea sets)
- heavy parcels (but not good enough for lightweight letters)
- food (though a resolution of 1g is better)
There are two ounces.
The Ounce Avoirdupois (often called the "English Ounce") = 28g
and is for weighing food and goods; the Troy Ounce, ozt = 31.1g and is
for weighing precious metals. The Pennyweight (20 dwt = ozt) was discontinued,
here in the UK, over 30 years ago but is still used in the U.S.A. The
sub-division of the pennyweight was the grain (gr, originally based on
a grain of wheat) and is still used for weighing powder for ammunition.
A carat (metric carat) is 0.2g, used for weighing diamonds (divided into
100 points, pts) - not to be confused with carat as a measure of purity
(spelt Karat in the U.S.A.). See a conversion
chart, useful for weighing gold and silver. Or there's a conversion
chart that will convert
dozens of different weighing systems.
with springs (spring balances) are out of fashion, people tend to think
that any machine with batteries and an LCD display must be accurate, and
anything purely mechanical isn't so accurate. Not true, a good quality
spring balance is every bit as accurate as a digital balance (see below
for definition of 'accuracy'). The high precision PESOLA
spring balances are smaller (thin and long) than any digital balance,
battery-free, difficult to overload, and survive being dropped.
Spring balances are
the best choice for hanging (with a clip or a hook) letters and small
packets, or bulky items such as silver teapots or bags of silver scrap.
The pocket-size digital
balances are best for tiny object such as rings, earrings, rare coins,
especially if you intend to carry it around. The larger, table balances,
should be chosen for fixed use on a workbench or table. Both are available
in a large range of resolutions and capacities.
USE IN TRADE
If you buy or sell
on a weight-for-value basis you must, by law, use an approved balance.
"Approved" means approved by Trading Standards. We do sell approved
digital balances. An approved balance must be used whether selling
(or buying) in a shop, antiques fair, street market, boot sale or even
from home. Even auction houses must use approved balances, even though,
technically, they are not 'buying and selling." See the QUICKTEST
article explaining approved balances.
If it is a tube with
a spring we call it a spring
balance (they weigh down
to about 1g or down
to about 0.1g). One variation is a 'digital
spring balance' - you hang the item on the hook and read a digital
display (it works by deforming plates of metal rather than stretching
a spring, but the principle is the same). A variation is a semi-circle
of metal with a hook and a loop (no springs), popular as a letter
balance. A good name to describe all these is 'hanging balance'.
If it is flat-ish
and has a battery and a digital readout and sits on a table (many are
small enough to fit in a pocket) we call it a digital (or electronic)
balance. Since these have flat weighing platforms, they are somtimes known
as 'platform balances', as opposed to digital 'hanging balances' (like
a spring balance but with a digital display).
Technically-speaking none of the above are 'balances' at all, it is only
a balance if you 'balance' the goods against weights, e.g. two weighing
pans balance over or under a beam (a beam balance)...which we don't sell.
The accuracy of a
beam balance depends purely on the accuracy of the weights; the accuracy
of a spring balance depends on the quality of the spring; the accuracy
of a digital scale depends on many factors including the quality of the
strain gauge (weighing element) and the temperature and variations in
(resolution) and accuracy
Put a 100g. weight
on two digital scales, you might get two different readings, both have
the same readability (resolution) but one might be more accurate than
Nothing is 100% accurate.
Accuracy is measured in 'percentage'. Multiply the percentage by the weight
(any weight you like, any weight you are likely to weigh) to calculate
the possible error. I've never been able to find out the percentage accuracy
of the miniature digital scales used in the antiques trade, but from my
experience of manufacturing them many years ago, I would guess it's about
0.1% for low-cost (under £100.00) scale, 0.01% for an expensive
(over £300.00) scale.
An example. You weigh 10g, the calculation is 10 X 0.001 = 0.01g possible
error. On a scale with a resolution of 0.1g. you would never notice an
error of 0.01g. But now try a heavier weight and you will see that the
error is noticeable, e.g. if you weigh 3000g the calculation is 3000 X
0.001 = a possible error of 3g. There's no point in complaining that at
3000g the scale reads 2997g (or maybe 3003g) because this is simply the
accuracy you will get with a low-cost scale.
In practice, it's not that bad. Even the cheaper (under £100.00)
balances can often (and with careful calibration - see below) weigh 3000g
and get a reading of 3000g ±1g. This is technically, quite impressive...but
it is not guaranteed. Basically, the more you pay, the better the accuracy,
you would not expect the same accuracy on a £20.00 balance as you
would with a £450.00 balance. Be wary of very cheap balances (e.g.
under £10.00), if they become inaccurate (and if you canít fix them
by recalibrating, see below) Ė donít struggle, throw them away and buy
You would expect that if you weighed some gold and it read, for instance,
ď126gĒ, and then you weighed it a few seconds later Ė that you would still
get a reading of 126g. Not so with very cheap scales (e.g. under £10.00).
With these, you might get inconsistent readings. This can happen if the
temperature changes, or if the balance is tilted by a tiny amount, or
if you donít place the item in the very centre of the weighing platform,
or for no reason in particular. This is what you get for under £10.00.
The reading on a measuring
device (any measuring device, e.g. thermometer, weighing machine, clock...anything)
must match the units it is measuring (e.g. degrees, grams, minutes). This
matching-up is called calibration. Electronic machines go out of calibration,
it is the nature of electronics. Most can be recalibrated. In the scientific
industry all machines need to be recalibrated regularly (usually once
a year), a technician will call to do this, the charge is about £100.00.
But nobody is going to spend£100.00 to recalibrate a scale that
Nearly all balances include calibration instructions which involve pressing
buttons in a complicated sequence and placing a weight (or sometimes two
weights) on the weighing platform. But the weight is never included when
you buy the balance. I would suggest buying
a weight when you order buy the balance, they are not expensive and
buying the balance and the weight together will save on postage. There
is an article about calibration.
For more details about
calibration (and how to calibrate your balance) click here.