Gold is one of the most counter-fitted products in the world. It doesn’t help that gold containing products come in a wide variety of forms. Pure gold (24 karat), gold alloy (less than 24 karat), solid gold, gold plated, white gold, rose gold.
To the untrained eye, knowing what’s real, and what’s not can be confusing. When you want to sell gold, knowing what you’ve got, and more importantly, whether its worth selling, can be very tricky. What might appear to be real gold, could infact be a very low quality alloy, or even not gold at all.
How to test for real gold
Check for hallmarks
Letter and number markings are an easy way to quickly determine the purity of gold and application. For instance:
- GP – Gold plated
- GF – Gold filled (minimum purity of 10k)
- GEP – Gold electroplate
You may also see numbers indicating the purity of the gold:
- 375 = 9K
- 417 = 10K
- 585 = 14K
- 750 = 18K
- 916 = 22K
- 999 = 24K
Check for wear
Gold is a soft metal. When items are gold plated, the thin later of gold can wear over time leaving small discolorations where the metal underneath snows. The best place to check is around the edges of your jewelry or coins as this is often where the most skin contact is. This may not be immediately obvious, so check carefully.
The magnet test can only be used to prove you have real gold. Since pure gold is not magnetic, an attraction would indicate either gold plating, a lower purity or that the gold is fake.
The magnet test is only a rough guide, it will tell you if you have 24k gold, but won’t definitively tell you anything else. A strong magnet from a hardware store is best when performing this test (not one you’d stick on your refrigerator).
Pure gold is dense and therefore does not float. If you place gold in a container of water and it floats, it’s probably fake.
This test is one of the most reliable, but also one of the most complicated and risky if you are not sure what you are doing. Pure gold is resistant to corrosion so by subjecting it to acid such as white vinegar will prove whether its pure or not.
If your gold items are not pure, dropping acid on them can be risky and cause irreversible damage. If you wish to test for a purity below 24k, purchase a specialist acid testing kit for 10k, 18k or 22k; this will ensure that you can test for lower quality gold without problems.
Of course if you are not sure, it’s always best to have your gold professionally appraised by an expert.