Spotting the difference between real gold and fake gold can be a little precarious. Sometimes, the appearance of jewelry will look gold, but it’s simply gold plated. The most reliable method of checking the authenticity of your gold is to have it tested by a Master Jeweler, like Leo Hamel’s. However, there are simple at-home tests you can perform on your jewelry to verify if it is real gold or not.
Closely Examine: The quickest and simplest way to check if your jewelry is real gold is to check the piece for an official stamp. The stamp will show the purity of the gold in karats (10k, 14k, 18k, 22k, and 24k) or fineness (1-999 or .1-.999). Pure gold is 24k or 999 fineness. In the United States, anything less than 10K is not considered real gold jewelry. If you have a gold heirloom, it’s possible the official stamp has been worn off due to wear or repairs. Use a magnifying glass to get a closer look at your piece to better inspect. Keep in mind some fakes have an official looking stamp so you may have to do a bit more investigation.
Another key aspect to look for is discoloration. It’s not unusual to find discoloration on the edges of jewelry or areas that experience more friction- the important indicator is what’s underneath the gold that is rubbing off. If discoloration reveals another metal underneath the gold layer, your jewelry is most likely gold plated, not real gold. Discoloration can also appear on your skin. If your jewelry leaves any green or black discoloration it is not real gold.
The Tests You May Use
Use a Magnet: Gold is not magnetic. On the other hand, imitation gold and other alloys are, so they will attract a magnet. To test if your jewelry is real gold, you will need a stronger than average magnet (this can be found at your local hardware store). If your piece is attracted to the magnet, it is not real gold. It is common for the clasp on some gold jewelry to be another metal besides gold. Steer clear of the clasp on your piece when testing with a magnet to prevent any confusion.
Float and Rust Test: Another quick method to test the authenticity of your gold at home is to place it in a cup of water. Real gold is dense and will immediately sink. Fake gold will simply float. Real gold will also not rust.
The above DIY tests are the quickest and simplest ways to test gold at home. The following tests are a bit more complicated and have the potential for some risk. If you’re not comfortable performing the following tasks, especially if you’re trying to sell your gold, consult an expert.
Scratch Test: The scratch technique is a gamble because there is the possibility you might damage your piece. Find or purchase any kind of unglazed ceramic. Then, run your jewelry across the surface of the ceramic, leaving behind a streak of color. If there is a black streak, your gold is imitation. Real gold will leave behind a gold marking.
Nitric Acid Test: This test may be difficult since it can be hard to acquire nitric acid and it’s dangerous to bring any type of acid into your home. If you do perform this task, you should wear goggles and a mask since this can be a potential health hazard if not handled properly. Drop a small amount of nitric acid onto your piece and wait for a reaction. If the acid produces a green reaction, your jewelry in question is most likely gold plated or a base metal. If a white, milky reaction occurs your piece is gold plated silver sterling. The ideal reaction would be no reaction at all, meaning your piece is real gold.
All of these tests can be performed at home; some with more caution than others. However, none of these methods are infallible. You always run the risk of inaccurate test results when testing yournew or old gold jewelry at home. The best and most reliable way to test if your gold jewelry is real is to have it examined by an expert jeweler. Here are Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers, we are happy to perform these tests for you. If you are in the San Diego region and would like your jewelry or watches tested to see if they are real gold, please contact us.