Gold is the ultimate representation of prestige, riches, immortality, and power and is frequently only used by royalty. It is one of the most expensive and sought-after commodities in the world. Due to the value of gold, cheap jewellery can be made to appear more valuable if it has a gold-like appearance, even if the gold is false.
If you own a piece of gold, whether it be scrap or a priceless inheritance or you’re into precious metals trading, you might be curious to learn how to identify genuine gold in order to prevent purchasing any false copies. This is especially true if you want to purchase the item in question. Here are several methods for determining whether the gold you own or are wanting to purchase is real.
Remember that these tests cannot take the place of a professional’s judgement and are not intended to assess the level of gold content or quality in a specific piece of jewellery. It is also advised that you examine your gold item using a number of techniques, as counterfeit gold items have been known to imitate some features and attributes of genuine gold.
1. USE NITRIC ACID TO TEST
Find a spot on the jewellery where you can make a tiny scratch, maybe inside a ring or under a clasp. Make a scratchy mark that is deep enough to penetrate the gold surface. Apply a drop of nitric acid very carefully to the mark to see if it changes colour to milky or green. If the jewellery is entirely or primarily made of gold, there won’t be any reaction.
When handling nitric acid, you should use extreme caution because it is a hazardous substance. Make sure the space is sufficiently aired, and put on gloves and safety glasses. You might not want to use this test on something of significant personal value because of the potential harm it causes to the jewellery.
At the very least, think about having a qualified jeweller do the test for you.
2. USE A POWERFUL MAGNET
You can try using a magnet to see whether it attracts the jewellery because gold is not magnetic. Since most kitchen magnets are insufficient, you might need to purchase a magnet from a hardware store. Be advised that if the gold is combined with a magnetic material, such as iron, you can experience a reaction from the jewellery. Additionally, stainless steel, which is not magnetic, may make up the majority of the jewellery.
3. THE SMELL TEST
Even while this test is far from the most accurate way to distinguish real gold from imitation gold, it is one of the simplest, fastest, and won’t harm your jewellery.
You know that horrible odour your hands acquire after holding coins in them for a while? In this test, we’re seeking that smell.
You see, brass, a combination of copper and zinc as well as other elements, is one low-cost metal utilised in the production of coinage (and imitation gold jewellery). Brass can be alloyed with other metals to simulate the weight and colour of gold, giving it a gold-like appearance. Brass, on the other hand, is far more receptive than gold, and when exposed to air and salty liquids (such as sweat), it reacts electrolytically to produce the familiar acidic smell that most coins have.
As a result, if your “gold” jewellery has the same odour, it is very likely not pure gold or real gold. Your gold jewellery may still be phoney gold even if it passes our test.
4. LIGHTER TEST
The owners of pawnshops, who are frequently presented with gold jewellery that can be fraudulent, are familiar with this simple test. These simple steps make it extremely simple to complete:
First, check that your lighter creates a moderately sized, steady flame. Although not ideal, a standard disposable lighter can be used. Additionally, confirm that lighter fluid—and not another fuel—is being used as intended in your lighter.
Now, hang your jewellery on a piece of metal or another non-melting, non-burning object. Using pliers, you can also carefully grip it. To lessen the chance of breaking your jewellery, you might wish to tape over the ends of your pliers.
Finally, proceed to flame your gold piece with the lighter. For about a minute, keep the flame there. It’s likely not gold if the metal starts to turn darker and darker.
When exposed to the flame, real, pure gold will eventually become brighter as it becomes hotter but will not turn darker. When exposed to fire, fake gold items like fool’s gold, which is actually an iron sulphide called pyrite, and items made of brass, iron, or copper alloys will darken or undergo various colour changes. Additionally, the thin gold plating should begin to melt, revealing the inner metal if the jewellery item is simply gold plated (coated with a thin layer of gold but constructed of other metals inside).
5. TEST AGAINST CERAMIC TILE
Your gold item will need to be scratched for this test, but you should be able to achieve results with little damage. Find or buy a ceramic tile that is unglazed. Since tile glaze impacts the outcomes, it must be unglazed. Rub your object gently against the tile until you notice bits of gold peeling off. There is a high possibility that your object is genuine gold if it leaves a gold streak. The presence of a black mark denotes false gold.
6. DROPPING THE ITEM IN THE WATER
A container should be at least half full of water, with enough extra to cover your gold object. Drop your gold object into the water with care. If your gold object floats, you can be sure it is not real gold because real gold is a heavy metal and will not float. Additionally, rust or tarnishing on the object after exposure to water is another indication that it is not genuine gold because gold does not rust or tarnish. You might not want to try this experiment with a precious item to you due to the possibility of tarnishing.
7. FIND A LETTER MARK
The letters GP, GF, or GEP are indicators that a piece of jewellery is not manufactured from genuine gold. GP stands for “gold plated,” GF for “gold filled,” and GEP for “gold electroplate.” That is, a tiny layer of gold is applied to a piece of jewellery that is composed of some other metal. Despite the possibility that the gold plating is genuine, there isn’t enough of it to qualify the object as genuine gold.
8. LOOK FOR A HALLMARK
The best way to tell if the gold you are purchasing is real is to look for a hallmark. This is a small stamp indicating the gold’s karat weight. Different locations use different measurements. In the U.S., the hallmark number is a fraction of 24. This means a hallmark of 12K, or 12 karats, means that half the jewellery is gold. Pure gold is 24K. In Europe, you should see a number between .000 and 1.000, with 1.000 being 100 per cent gold — pure gold.
If the hallmark is absent, this could mean the jewellery does not contain real gold. However, there are other possible explanations. It is possible the hallmark has worn away over time, which can happen if the item is in constant contact with skin. Also, if the jewellery is old, it might be real gold but the item was made before hallmarking became a consistent practice.