HOW CAN YOU TELL IF GOLD IS REAL
The old saying goes, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." The same can be said for gold. If you're looking at a piece of gold and it seems too good to be true, there's a chance that it might not be real. Here are a few ways to test gold at home and know if what you're looking at is the real deal:
The Stamp Test: Look for Jewelry Hallmarks
Look for Letter Markings
When you buy gold jewelry, you may wonder how to tell if it is real gold. There are a few ways to do this. One way is to look at the karat mark. Depending on the karat weight, gold jewelry contains different karat marks, such as 10K, 14K, or 18K. The higher the karat number, the higher the percentage of pure gold in the jewelry. Gold that is 24K is 100% pure gold.
Check the Weight & Thickness
When buying gold jewelry, you should also consider the weight and thickness of the gold piece. Real gold is a heavy metal weighing more than fake gold. Genuine gold pieces have the same thickness all the way through because real gold doesn't have any weak spots or hollow areas. So the jewelry should feel consistent regardless of where you're holding it.
Look for Flaws
Gold occurs naturally in nature, so real gold jewelry will naturally contain flaws. These can include scratch marks or air bubbles visible to the naked eye. The value of a piece of gold jewelry depends on its karat weight, so if you see a flaw, it does not necessarily mean that a piece is cheap or fake gold.
The Skin Test
The Magnet Test
The Float Test
The Ceramic Scratch Test
The Vinegar Test
You can use vinegar to test gold, and it is one of the best at-home techniques for doing so. Simply place the gold in a cup of vinegar and observe whether it retains its luster or changes color. Real gold does not change color or lose its luster when exposed to vinegar.
The Nitric Acid Test
Most gold jewelry has a karat mark stamp (10K, 14K, 18K, 585, 750, etc.). However, some authentic gold jewelry is not stamped, although rare. If the gold item contains no stamp and appears to be gold, test the "core" of the jewelry rather than just the surface. Make a deep incision into the item's center or file the object's surface beyond any gold plating. In gold buying, what matters is the core of the item, not the surface, because the core is the majority of the mass. The plating is only a paint job. Apply a few drops of nitric acid to the exposed core material.
1. What Does Nitric Acid React With?
Although a few drops of nitric acid will react with many different materials, its strongest reaction is with copper-based alloys: the greater the copper concentration, the more powerful the reaction. Most fake gold jewelry is copper-based, meaning a form of copper alloy, mainly brass (copper and tin). It also reacts with low-karat gold, which means 10k and under.
A. Nitric Acid Reaction with Copper
B. Nitric Acid Reaction with Low Karat Gold
2. What Does Nitric Acid Not React With
For the purpose of gold buying, jewelry buyers must distinguish gold alloys from other metals; nitric acid does not react with the following metals.
- Aluminum (standard in inauthentic gold jewelry)
- Stainless steel (standard in faux gold jewelry)
- Zinc (standard in inauthentic gold jewelry)
- Tungsten (standard in faux gold jewelry)
- Gold 12 karats and above gold
How to Interpret Nitric Acid Gold Testing
Here's how to read gold nitric acid test results.
- The hard cupric reaction indicates that the surface in question is copper-based.
- No cupric reaction means the core is not copper-based. Its base is another metal.
- No cupric reaction does not mean that the jewelry in question is gold.
- If the gold jewelry features a karat stamp and its core does not react with nitric acid, the item is likely a gold alloy with content as per the stamp. However, it might also be something else. There are some fantastic fakes available.
There is high-quality fake gold out there! Pay attention to the following when testing with nitric acid:
- Gold plated silver – exposing the core metal helps, but it may be less evident when testing white gold. It is harder to differentiate between white gold and rhodium plating than yellow gold plated over a silver base.
- Gold/zinc alloys. This is a light material with some actual real gold content. It features the appearance of authentic gold but blackens in a similar way to low carat gold. The actual real gold content is very minute.
- Test chains with nitric acid in multiple locations; this ensures a valid result.
The Fail-Safe Test
If you want to know how much gold is really in your gold, the tried-and-true method 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 fake gold is so sophisticated that jewelers will also rely on advanced equipment for confirmation.
In conclusion, you can test gold at home by looking at the karat mark, weight, and thickness, looking for flaws, using the skin test, using the magnet test, trying the float test, or using nitric acid. But the fail-safe test is to take it to a professional for evaluation. No matter which test you decide to use, always use caution when buying gold jewelry, or else you may end up with fake gold.