How can you tell if gold is real?

Professional jewelers have their tricks, but you don't need to go out and buy expensive equipment in order to determine the authenticity of your gold jewelry. Here are 10 tips for identifying fake gold!

THE STAMP TEST: LOOK FOR HALLMARKS

A jewelry hallmark is the stamp on a gold piece of jewelry that identifies the content and manufacturer. Hallmarks show the gold’s level of purity and manufacturer to lend greater credibility to a piece’s authenticity and to make it easier to identify and verify.

However, since anyone can engrave any jewelry hallmark they choose, this level of testing is not 100% foolproof. Plus, not all gold jewelry has a hallmark since older pieces may have had prior markings that have faded.

LOOK FOR LETTER MARKINGS

All gold jewelry marked less than 10k (41.7% purity) is fake. These pieces are a blend of other metals put together to look like authentic gold and only comprise a small percentage of the total gold material.

To illustrate how gold purity levels compare, here are the upper ranges: 24k gold is 99.9% pure, while 18k gold is 75% pure. Gold jewelry is never 100% pure, as it would not be able to withstand the pressure of wear or sizing.

THE SKIN TEST

It is easy to figure out if gold is real: You need to hold the piece of jewelry in your hands for a couple minutes. The perspiration from your hands will either react with the metal and change the color of your skin or leave it unaffected. When authentic gold is in direct contact with your skin there is no discoloration. If the gold is fool's gold then it will cause your skin to turn black, blue or green at the contact points.

THE SIZE AND WEIGHT TEST

This test works well on coins and bars. You can

  • Compare a piece of gold you want to test with one that is verified real gold
  • Use a set of calipers and a jeweler’s scale or use a Fisch Tester

To test if your gold is real, use a scale to measure the weight and compare it to the size. If there’s too much of a difference between these two figures you most likely have fool's gold.

THE MAGNET TEST

Examine the piece of gold to see if it is magnetic. Gold is not a magnet, hence there is no magnetic attraction from a magnet. However, some base metals mixed with gold also do not react in a magnetic field, so this test isn't a foolproof method of determining whether an object is real gold.

THE FLOAT TEST

The Float Test is one of the oldest and most popular ways to test for gold. If you submerge a piece of dense genuine gold into water, it will sink to the bottom if it's real.

THE CERAMIC SCRATCH TEST

To tell if gold is real, use a ceramic plate or tile and scratch it with a piece of questionable gold. If the mark left by the gold is yellowish in color, then it is true gold.

VINEGAR TEST

For this test. apply a few drops of vinegar to the metal. If the piece of metal is genuine gold, there will be no change in color. If the metal is fake (gold-plated) it will have a detectable difference in color.

THE NITRIC ACID TEST

Gold is a noble metal which means its resistant to corrosion, oxidation and acid. To perform this test, rub your questionable gold on a black stone to leave a visible mark. Then apply nitric acid to the mark. The acid will dissolve any base metals that aren't real gold. If the mark remains, apply nitrohydrochloric acid, also called aqua regia (75% nitric acid and 25% hydrochloric acid) to the mark. This mixture dissolves gold so, if the mark disappears, it is true gold.

THE FAIL-SAFE TEST

If you want to know for sure how much gold is really in your gold, the most tried-and-true method of finding out is to take it to a reputable jeweler and have it tested there. Jewelers have a wide range of tools available to test the authenticity of gold. Experience is always the most important factor, but some fakes are so sophisticated that jewelers will also rely on machines for confirmation.

CONCLUSION

How can you tell if gold is real? You should take the time to examine your prospective purchase in detail. Think before you buy and look out for potential signs that someone's trying to sell you a fake gold.