If you find yourself with an item that looks like it’s made of gold but you aren’t too sure, then you may want to do a few tests. Many people have been scammed into buying fake gold, and there’s an entire career that is dedicated to creating gold from other metals (alchemy). That’s why we always recommend buying bullion gold from a dealer that uses an LBMA certified refinery like Minted. If it’s a piece of jewellery, it’s always best to take it to a certified jeweller who will check if it’s made from real gold.
However, if you do find yourself in the possession of gold and want to find out if it’s real from home, the good news is that there are a few tests and strategies you can do to check if something is gold.
Counterfeit gold is gold that looks like gold, may even act like gold, but is not gold. Anything that is less than 41.7% pure gold or 10 karats, is not real gold.
There are different reasons an object may not be fully made of gold. Many pieces of jewellery are gold plated – this means they are made of copper or aluminium and have a coating of gold on top. Other pieces will have a mix of gold and another metal. You should be aware of the composition when you receive your item – if not, then someone is trying to sell you a piece of gold for a higher price than it’s worth. You could also find yourself in a situation where your piece of jewellery is very old or worn down, and you can no longer read what it’s made of.
Here are a few tests you can do to see whether your jewellery, gold coin or gold bullion is made of true gold. Do note that it’s best to do a combination of those tests rather than just one.
Every piece of commercial gold should have a mark with its purity or type of gold. Gold coins and gold bullion will have the weight and purity, and gold jewellery will have details on the type of gold (gold plated, pure, etc). These markings are called “hallmarks” and will include the information you need to find out whether the gold is real or plated.
The first step is to get a magnifying glass and inspect the hallmark. You should be able to see what kind of gold it is and any other details. Gold is chemically unresponsive, which means it does not react to environmental factors. Look for any signs of discolouration, or too much shininess – those are signs that it’s not 100% made of gold.
After doing an inspection, the first test you can do is the magnet test. For this, you will need a reasonably strong magnet – one you would likely need to get at a home improvement shop.
Gold is not magnetic, so it won’t stick to any magnet. Approach your gold bar or bullion bar to the magnet and see if it sticks. If it sticks to the magnet, then it’s not real gold. However, there are other metals that are non-magnetic – that’s why it’s important to do the other tests in order to be certain that it’s gold.
With gold bullion, the hallmark should include the weight and purity of the bar or coin. Since gold is such a dense material, it’s very difficult to replicate its weight.
Get a kitchen scale or any other weight measurer, and weigh your piece of gold. Does it match the weight inscribed on the gold? If it doesn’t, then this could be a sign that this is not real gold.
Grab a large bowl or bucket of water and drop your coin or bar into it. Gold is such a dense material, that it should quickly drop to the bottom. If it floats, that’s a sign that your item isn’t entirely made of gold.
The water shouldn’t cause any discolouration or other issues and will help you tell if your jewellery is real gold. Once again, this test is not 100% reliable as there are many other metals that are also heavy.
If you’re serious about testing your gold, you can buy a gold testing kit that uses nitric acid. This test might affect your item if it’s made of gold, so be aware of the risks.
You can buy a gold testing kit online which includes various bottles of nitric acid. With this test, you will be instructed to scratch your piece of gold somewhere that isn’t too visible. You’ll then need to add a drop of nitric acid. If the material turns green, then the gold is fake. That’s because regular gold will not react to acid.
Once again, this method may damage your item which could reduce its overall value (that’s why it’s a lot better to get it tested at a certified gold dealer).
For this test, you’ll need a ceramic plate, which you can buy at a home maintenance shop. It’s a simple test: scratch the piece of gold against a ceramic plate with the purpose of leaving a mark; it should leave a colour streak. If the streak is yellow, your gold is real. If it’s black, the gold is fake!
These are some of the safest and most common ways to check whether your gold is real. There are a few other “pro” methods that involve more sophisticated devices, however, those do require some sort of expertise and additional tools. If you’re very unsure about your piece of jewellery, it’s best to head to a gold jeweller so they can test to see if it’s real. If you buy your gold with Minted, you won’t ever have to worry about buying fake gold!