How to Tell if it’s Real Gold

By Jay White

June 7, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Gold collectors know that this precious metal has specific, unique properties that can be properly identified through several tests as well as careful examination. Individuals interested in learning to detect genuine pieces of gold must understand the characteristics of the metal to avoid being misled through devious or incorrect practices. The following are five simple ways to tell if an item is real gold.

1. The Skin Test

It is no myth that wearing fake gold jewelry causes skin discoloration. For this test, hold the piece for a few moments. The perspiration on the skin will create a chemical reaction, and the skin will turn green or black if the gold is not authentic.

2. The Float Test

This test can be conducted using a simple cup of water. Any piece of genuine gold will immediately sink to the bottom of the cup, but imitation gold will hover or float above the bottom. Additionally, authentic gold will not discolor or rust in any way when wet, so keep an eye on the alloy to watch for color changes after you remove it from the cup.

3. The Magnet Test

One of the most common, convenient and portable tests for genuine gold is the magnet test. To perform this test, it is typically recommended to use a stronger-than-average magnet, and local hardware stores can provide one if necessary. Imitation or fake gold and other metals will attract the magnet, but real gold will not. However, keep in mind that the some pieces may have a clasp that is not real gold and therefore magnetic, but the charms and chain are authentic.

4. The Acid Test

Every precious metal can be tested with acid that will only destroy fake materials. For this test, make a tiny mark on the piece to scrape and penetrate the surface. Use a dropper to transfer a small amount of liquid nitric acid on the mark and wait to see if a chemical reaction occurs. Fake gold will immediately turn a green color, and gold-over-sterling will appear milky. Real gold will not react to the acid, and the spot will remain unaffected.

5. The Stamp Test

Each gold piece that is crafted from genuine molten gold bullion is stamped with an impression to indicate its authenticity. On bracelets and necklaces, the stamp is typically on or near the clasp, and rings often have a stamp located on the inside surface. In some cases, a jeweler’s loupe or magnifying glass may be necessary to see the stamp, and the indentation will also include the karat, or purity, of the piece. Avoid stamps that say “GF,” or gold-filled, “HEG,” or heavy electroplated gold, and “HGP,” or heavy gold plate.

Jay White

I started Dumb Little Man many years ago so great authors, writers and bloggers could share their life "hacks" and tips for success with everyone. I hope you find something you like!

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