How to Test Gold? Gold has always been special to the human race because of its beautiful metallic yellow hue. Its resistance to corrosion, rarity, eternal luster, and strange malleability.
For these reasons, many dishonest people have attempted, with varying succes to replicate gold’s qualities.
Using more common elements, in order to trick prospective gold traders and gain an unfair economic advantage.
However, there are many easy ways to test if your expensive jewelry is made from actual gold, and this article will show you some practical tests that can be used by any layman.
What are the Properties of Gold?
First, let’s remember the chemical properties of gold. The chemical symbol for Gold is Au. Gold is a long-lasting metal because it is:
1. Resistant to oxidation. It does not tarnish or rust unlike copper, brass, silver, aluminum, etc.
2. Not magnetic. Magnets do not work effectively on gold. If your ‘gold’ leaps to a magnet, it is not real gold. There are very weak magnetic forces at play in gold as opposed to iron, nickel, or cobalt which are highly magnetic and used for permanent magnets.
3. High thermal and electrical conductivity. This means it is a great conductor of electricity because it does not tarnish or corrode easily. This makes gold indispensable in electronics.
4. Dissolves only in nitro-hydrochloric acid. Gold cannot be dissolved by single acids, but it will react to a concentrated acid mixture: nitro hydrochloric acid.
Nitro hydrochloric acid, also known as aqua regia, is a mix of 75% nitric acid and 25% hydrochloric acid that has a yellow-orange color.
Other Properties of Gold
5. Gold can be pressed into very thin sheets that can be used for infrared reflectivity (by evaporating the sheets onto the glass), as fillings for teeth, etc.
6. Gold can be drawn into thin wires for circuits, like transistors. It is useful as a brazing alloy, industrial solder, and in orthodontic appliances, jet engine fabrication, etc.
7. This means it’s a relatively soft metal. To combat its weakness, it must alloy with other metals like silver, nickel, copper, or platinum.
Since gold is sectile, its alloys usually measure according to the Karat system. One Karat is the unit that is equal to the 1/24 part of genuine gold in the alloy.
Thus, when you see 24K, it means that it’s pure gold. An 18K gold item indicates that it’s only 18 parts pure gold plus six parts other metals.
Different Kinds of Gold Materials
In identifying fake gold, an important starting point is to gain knowledge about the different types of gold jewelry.
To the untrained eye, all gold products look the same and differ only in the color due to the finishing applied.
There are, however, more subtle differences in various gold products, which we shall discuss shortly.
The first classification is based on time in which we can divide gold into new, old, and fake gold.
1. New Gold
This can be compared to freshly baked bread just brought out of the oven.
New gold refers to gold products that are produced or manufactured immediately after refining and purifying the raw gold.
New gold is what you’re likely to find on display in the show glasses of the world’s top exquisite jewelry stores.
2. Old Gold
Products made from old gold are sort of like a refined version. Old gold products are made exclusively.
From recycling old jewelry or combining the recycled old jewelry with freshly melted raw gold.
Old gold is often slightly cheaper than new gold in the sense that less raw gold is required in producing it.
The old materials can actually be recycled into standard plate-like ingots.
The raw molten gold is then used in the gold jewelry vacuum casting machine for the finishing of jewelry products.
A few unscrupulous dealers make a slightly higher profit by selling jewelry made from old gold at the price of new gold. This is because the difference is not easy to spot.
3. Fake Gold
Fake gold arises when the composition of the gold product is different from the expected composition.
No product can be made from totally pure gold, as it is malleable and will not be strong enough to maintain the expected shape.
Gold products are often a combination of pure gold and various other elements.
Easy Steps to Test Gold at Home
There are six basic steps that you can use to test your gold at home
1. Magnifying Glass Test
The Magnifying Glass Test is the first home test for gold you can perform if you want to determine the authenticity of your gold products.
This test is straightforward since it requires only your gold bullion or jewelry and a magnifying glass.
Through this test, you must carefully inspect your gold item with the magnifying glass to find a few essential visual clues about it. These include:
‣ Any signs of discoloration: If you spot some discoloration marks on your item, this indicates fake gold or gold plating over another material. This is especially obvious if you detect other metals under the discolored areas.
‣ Color and Shininess: Genuine gold has a beautiful soft yellow color and is not very shiny. If your gold piece is too shiny, too yellow, or has another color tone (usually reddish), then it’s not pure gold.
‣ The purity hallmark: This is the most important clue about your item’s value. The purity hallmark can be either in millesimal fineness or the Karat system as mentioned above.
For example, if you own the purest gold, you should see hallmark “999” or “24K” engravings somewhere on the item. You can usually find these on rings on the inside of the band. However, keep in mind that this engraving could also be fake.
Therefore, you should conduct further tests to authenticate your item. The purity hallmark is a good clue to start your testing.
2. Magnet Test
Real gold is not magnetic, but many other metals are, so if you have a relatively strong magnet (something stronger than a fridge magnet), you can easily test if your gold is real by placing the magnet near the piece and seeing if it is attracted to the magnet.
If it is, then it’s likely not pure gold, but rather some form of cheaper metal that has been plated gold or a gold-like substance.
If your piece is not attracted to the magnet, then it’s likely gold!
3. Fire Test
This is an easy-to-do test commonly known by pawnshop owners. First, make sure you have a lighter that produces a constant flame that’s not very small.
Now, hang your jewelry on a piece of metal or some other tool that won’t melt or burn, or carefully hold it using pliers.
Proceed to apply the lighter’s flame to your gold piece. Keep the flame on it for about a minute. If the metal starts to get darker and darker, chances are it’s not gold.
Real, pure gold, when exposed to the flame, will get brighter after a while as it gets hotter, but will not darken.
4. Vinegar Test
This test uses a simple pantry item—vinegar! Simply take a few drops of vinegar and drop it onto your gold item.
If the drops alter the color of the metal, then it’s not real gold. If your item is real gold, the drops will not change the color of the item!
5. Skin Test
This test requires a little more time than some of the other tests but is especially helpful for jewelry.
It will also reveal if a piece of jewelry is fake over time, that you thought was real and maybe had no initial suspicions about it!
Real gold will never make your skin turn green. If your jewelry changes the color of your skin to a bluish or greenish tint, it’s not real gold.
6. Float Test
The float test is a quick test that will reveal whether or not your gold is real without damaging your piece.
This test isn’t completely foolproof, as some metals that aren’t gold are also heavy, so they will sink and make you think it’s gold. It’s best to do another test to make sure.
Fill a clear glass or bowl with water. Gently drop your item into the water.
If it sinks, it’s likely real gold. If it floats, it definitely isn’t real gold. Real gold will sink to the bottom because it’s denser than water.
If you have gold jewelry yourself, it’s important that you know how to test gold at home to find out whether the gold is pure or not, as everything gold is not necessarily real gold.
These methods we’ve given will help you decipher between real and fake gold.