Gold jewelry is a beautiful and timeless accessory that can be worn in a variety of ways. Gold rings, necklaces, and earrings are all classic gifts that a person can receive as a gift. However, its popularity leads to many dishonest people to create counterfeit gold jewelry and try to sell it as the real thing.
When shopping for jewelry, it is good practice to know how to spot fake gold. Though they are not 100% conclusive, there are methods that a person can use to check if gold is fake. Only a professional jeweler can give a definitive answer on the authenticity of a piece of gold jewelry, and the service comes with a fee. However, the following methods are the perfect place to start when trying to determine whether a person’s gold jewelry is real.
Use the Magnet Test
One quick way to find out if a piece of gold is by using a magnet. Gold is not magnetic, but many of the metals used in counterfeit gold are. Performing this test does not require any specialized equipment.
A person can use a reasonably strong magnet, hovering it over the thickest part of a piece of gold jewelry. Try to avoid tiny areas on the jewelry, such as the clasp of a necklace. If the jewelry is attracted to the magnet, then it is not pure gold. However, even if it is not attracted to the magnet, it still may not be pure. Some metals that are used in the production of fake gold, such as copper, as not magnetic either.
Look at the Jewelry Closely
Another way to tell if a piece of gold jewelry is real is by visually inspecting it for a stamp or hallmark. This marking rates the gold by one of two methods. It can be graded by fineness, which is represented by a number between 1 and 1,000 or .1 and .999. The other method is by carat, which is represented by a number between 1 and 24. Ratings less than 10 carats are not considered real gold in the United States.
Though these systems were instated to measure the purity of a piece of gold, it is not a 100% certain method of testing its authenticity. Counterfeit gold can display fake numbers, and old jewelry may not have been given a rating or may have had it wear off. This method of testing should be a starting point used with other testing methods.
Check its Weigh and Size
One of the best ways to tell the authenticity of a piece of gold is by checking its weight against its size. Gold is a dense metal, even more so than lead. Many counterfeit pieces of gold use much lighter metals, making it easy to spot a fake by using a balance.
Once a person has a balance, they will need a piece of confirmed authentic gold jewelry that is the approximate size of the piece they are checking. Put the real gold on one side of the balance and the gold in question on the other side. If the real gold piece sinks lower than the gold in question, then the piece of jewelry is likely a fake.
Use the Ceramic Test
Gold is a very soft metal, which makes it easy to scratch and dent. It also means that small streaks of gold are left behind when it is scratched across a rough surface. This is the basic principle behind the ceramic test.
Using an unglazed piece of ceramic, drag the piece of gold jewelry in question across its surface. If the jewelry leaves behind a streak of a gold metal, then it is probably an authentic piece of gold. If it leaves behind a black mark, then it is a fake.
Use the Nitric Acid Test
Most jewelers use the nitric acid test. This test runs the risks of causing permanent damage to the piece of metal being tested, so it is important to exercise extreme caution when doing it. However, if the piece being tested is pure gold, it will not be damaged at all.
The nitric acid test can be dangerous. Be sure to take all the necessary safety precautions, such as gloves and goggles, and perform the test in a well-ventilated room. Take a drop of nitric acid and apply it to the piece of jewelry in question. If there is green discoloration, then the piece of jewelry uses a different base metal, such as copper. If there is a milky discoloration, the piece of jewelry is a silver and gold blend. To be sure that the piece of jewelry is not just gold plated, a person should score it in a spot not easily seen while wearing it.
There are nitric acid test kits available online for those interested in using this method to test their jewelry. These kits may come with different strengths of acid to test the purity of a piece of gold. This can show a person what rating (24 carats, 22 carats, etc) their piece of jewelry is.
Use the Ping Test
The ping test uses the sound a piece of gold makes when it is struck to determine if it is real. Precious metals produce a long and high-pitched sound when struck. Conversely, base metals produce a dull, short sound.
Balance the piece of jewelry on a person’s finger or hang it from a string. Strike the piece of jewelry with another piece of metal, such as a coin or a piece of cutlery. Listen closely to determine the sound produced by the piece of jewelry. It should be obvious what kind of noise the jewelry produces.
Some Final Thoughts
There are many ways to test the authenticity of a piece of gold. Often the first sign that a person is wearing fake gold is a discoloration on the skin of the person wearing it. If a person suspects that their piece of jewelry is made of fake gold, the above methods should show them the answer.