How to Tell if Gold Is Real
By American standards, fake gold is anything less than 10 Karats. If
you're wondering whether your gold is real, the most reliable way to find
out is to take it to a certified jeweler and have it tested. If you want
to check for yourself, here's a list of tests you can conduct to tell if
your gold is real.
The first thing to do to check if you have real gold is to look at it.
Look for particular signs that point to real gold.
1Inspect the piece for official markings. A stamp will indicate either
fineness (1-999 or .1-.999) or karat (10K, 14K, 18K, 22K or 24K).
Anything less than 10K is not considered to be real gold. A magnifying
glass will make this easier.<An older piece might not have a visible
marking due to wear.
Counterfeit pieces can often have a marking that appears authentic; more
testing may be needed either way.
2Look for noticeable discoloration. It is important to check for
discoloration in areas that face constant friction (typically around the
edges).If the gold seems to be wearing off and showing a different metal
beneath it, you probably have a piece that is only gold plated.
We have all seen a movie where a prospector bites down on a piece of gold
to test it. We also see Olympic athletes bite on their ¡°gold¡± medal
when they receive it. Whether that is of any use is another story
1Bite down on your gold.
2Chew on it for 2-3 minutes. This will allow your saliva to react with
and break down the gold.
3Examine your gold for any markings. In theory, real gold will show
indents from your teeth; deeper markings indicate purer gold.This is
actually not a recommended test, as you can damage your teeth. Not to
mention that lead is even softer than gold and gold-plated lead will
appear to be gold when you bite it.
This is an easy test, but it¡¯s not an all-encompassing or full proof way
to determine whether your gold is real. Something as weak as a fridge
magnet will not be useful, but stronger magnets that you can find in
specialized hardware stores or in common objects such as women¡¯s purse
latches, children¡¯s toys, or even in old unused hard drives will be
strong enough to perform this test.
1Hold a magnet up to the item. Gold is not a magnetic metal, so if it
pulls towards, or sticks to the magnet, it¡¯s fake. However, just because
it doesn¡¯t react to the magnet doesn¡¯t mean it is real, as non-magnetic
metals are used in counterfeit pieces as well.
There are very few metals denser than gold. The density of pure 24K gold
is about 19.3 g/ml, which is much higher than most other metals.
Measuring the density of your items can help you determine if your gold
is real. As a rule of thumb, the higher the density, the purer the gold.
Make sure to perform the density test on gold that has no gemstones of
any kind attached. See the warnings below for important information about
the density test.
1Weigh your piece of gold. A jeweler can normally do this for you for
free if you don¡¯t have your own scale. You will need the weight in
2Fill a vial with water.It¡¯s helpful if the vial has millimeter markings
on the side, since that will make it easier for you to read the
measurements for this test.
It doesn¡¯t matter how much water you use as long as you don¡¯t fill the
vial to the top, since the water level will rise once you immerse the
gold in it.
It¡¯s also important to note the exact amount of the water level before
and after immersion.
3Place your gold in the vial. Take note of the new water level and
calculate the difference between those two numbers in milliliters.
4Use the following formula to calculate density: Density = mass/volume
displacement. A result close to 19 g/ml indicates either real gold, or a
material with a density similar to gold. Here is an example
calculation:Your gold item weighs 38 g and it displaces 2 milliliters of
water. Using the formula of [mass (38 g)]/[volume displacement (2 ml)],
your result would be 19 g/ml, which is very close to the density of gold.
Bear in mind that different gold purity will have a different g/ml ratio:
14K ¨C 12.9 to 14.6 g/ml
18K yellow ¨C 15.2 to 15.9 g/ml
18K white ¨C 14.7 to 16.9 g/ml
22K ¨C 17.7 to 17.8 g/ml
Ceramic Plate Test
This is an easy way to tell if your gold is fool¡¯s gold. Bear in mind
that your item may end up scratched.
1Find an unglazed ceramic plate to use. If you don¡¯t have this, you can
purchase a random piece of unglazed ceramic from a home improvement
2Drag your item across the surface. A black streak means your gold is not
real, whereas a gold streak indicates your item is genuine.
Nitric Acid Test
This is where the term ¡°acid test¡± comes from, and is a great way to
test your gold. However, due to the difficulty is acquiring the acid, and
the inherent safety risks of doing this in your home, it may be best to
leave this test to a jeweler.
1Place your piece of gold in a small stainless steel container.
2Put a drop of nitric acid on your gold and watch for any resulting
reaction to the acid.A green reaction indicates your item is either a
base metal or gold plated.
A milk-colored reaction would indicate gold-plated sterling silver.
If there is no reaction, you mostly likely are dealing with real gold.
When we say 24kt or 24K gold jewelry, we mean that all the 24 parts in
the gold are pure gold without traces of any other metals. This is
considered 99.9 percent pure. 22K gold means that 22 parts of the jewelry
are gold and the remaining 2 parts are some other metal. This is
considered 91.3 percent pure. 18K gold means that 18 parts of the jewelry
are gold and the remaining 6 parts are some other metal. This is equal to
75 percent pure. The purity goes down from there, with each karat
equaling approximately 4.1625 percent.
The markings are a bit different on gold jewelry made in Europe and
indicate an item¡¯s purity. The markings are typically three digits and
are as follows:10K 417 marking: gold purity is 41.7 percent
14K 585 marking: gold purity is 58.5 percent
18K 750 marking: gold purity is 75 percent
22K 917 marking: gold purity is 91.7 percent
24K 999 marking: gold purity is 99.9 percent
In Portugal, gold is typically 80% pure, or about 19.2K, and comes in
three colors:Yellow - Comprised of 80% pure gold, 13% silver and 7%
Red - Comprised of 80% pure gold, 3% silver and 17% copper.
Grey or white - Comprised of 80% pure gold alloyed with palladium and
other metals; mostly nickel.
In gold that is less than 24K, the other alloys in the item give it
hardness and color. We can state that 24K is the softest and 10K the
hardest, because 10K would have 41.6 percent gold and the balance would
be other metals, which are harder than gold. The color from the other
metals enhances the beauty of the jewelry, such as you see with white
gold, yellow gold, red gold, etc.
24K is pure goldbut generally too soft for use in jewelry or coins.
Because of this, other metals are added for consistency and this makes
for different densities.
Density Test Warning:Many chunky looking pieces of jewelry are in fact
hollow. If air is trapped in the piece, this WILL invalidate the density
test, as the air will add buoyancy and increase the volume when the item
is immersed in water. The density test is only valid for solid items, or
for items from which all the air can be expelled by allowing water to
fill the entire internal cavity. A small bubble of air left inside will
result in an inaccurate result.
Nitric Acid Test Warning:Nitric acid is highly corrosive. Precautions
should be taken if it will be used for testing. The gold itself is safe,
as it is insoluble in nitric acid however items that are not gold and are
tested with this acid may be damage in the process.
Density Test Warning:Due to the precise calculations needed to correctly
perform the density test, unless you have a graduated vial that measures
in milliliters and a precise scale, then the density test is very
These tests may not be able to differentiate solid gold from a tungsten
plug covered by real gold.
Density Test Warning:The density test isn¡¯t the most precise way to test
whether gold is real, unless you know exactly what else is in your gold,
and its associated density characteristics.
Things You'll Need
Magnifying glass (for Visual Inspection)
Magnet (for Magnet Test)
Scale (for Density Test)
Vial (for Density Test)
Calculator (for Density Test)
Unglazed ceramic plate (a Ceramic Plate Test)
Nitric acid (for Nitric Acid Test)
Stainless Steel Container (for Nitric Acid Test)
How to Measure the Density of Metals
How to Test Water Purity
How to Buy Gold
How to Calculate the Value of Scrap Gold
How to Tell if Jade Is Real
How to Tell if a Diamond is Real
How to Tell if an Opal Is Fake
How to Pawn Jewelry
Sources and Citations