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Gold, the eternal symbol of wealth, luck and abundance. A highly malleable material, resistant to the passage of time, reacts to virtually nothing, does not damage on contact and is rare and beautiful enough to be considered a material of great value. But... how to tell if gold is real or fake?
In this guide we will discuss several simple methods, that anyone can use, to measure the authenticity of gold.
The first thing to look for when inspecting gold jewelry is the hallmarks that are usually stamped on gold jewelry. They are usually located in an inconspicuous area, so as not to affect the visual appeal of the jewelry.
The hallmarks usually indicate its purity level, which ranges from 24 parts gold (completely pure) to 0 (no pure gold content). A solid gold piece will potentially be marked with the following hallmarks:
Remember that completely pure gold is not viable for jewelry making as it is too soft to withstand wear without damage. Any markings that do not match the above may be referring to silver or platinum. Gold under 10kt (41.7%) is considered counterfeit.
Some markings that may tell you that your jewelry is not all gold, but a potentially coated alloy, are as follows:
GP - Gold Plated
HGP - Heavy Gold Plated
GF - Gold Filled
GE - Gold Electroplated
HGE - Heavy Gold Electroplated
GEP - Gold Electro Plated
PAT - Platinum
Being attentive to markings is the starting point in any investigation. Any anomaly can be a warning sign. Always keeping in mind that hallmarks can be removed over time, so not having one does not necessarily mean that the gold is counterfeit.
Another reason this method is not a definitive test is that if the tools are available, anyone could stamp a stamp.
There are some good home methods to determine if the gold you own is real or not. Many of them are not foolproof, so a combination of several methods can yield much more accurate data.
Before continuing with the details, keep in mind that some methods can become very aggressive. If the jewelry is genuine gold you have nothing to worry about, but if it turns out to be an imitation, consider that some tests such as those involving acid can cause partial or total damage to non-gold metals.
If your jewelry has great sentimental value, always prefer non-destructive methods. In addition, we recommend being very careful with your jewelry during testing as noticeable damage can diminish its value.
Did you know that gold is not magnetic? Strictly speaking, 100% authentic gold will never be attracted to a magnet, so this is a basic way to test it. Get a good magnet (not necessarily very large) and try to attract your gold jewelry.
If your jewelry has been immediately and strongly attracted to the magnet, this is a red flag.
If my gold is attracted by a magnet, can I be sure it is a fake? No. A good jeweler knows that there are elements such as nickel, for example, that are attracted by magnets and are often used in white gold jewelry before rhodium plating.
This is generally a reliable test, but needs to be combined with other methods to give a definitive result.
The scratch test is one of the least popular and you can probably imagine why. It involves rubbing a small piece of jewelry on a slab of unglazed marble, unglazed tile or unglazed ceramic. A gold piece always leaves a very well-defined gold trace or streak.
A mark of any other color is a clear indication that the piece is not genuine gold.
Jewelers and appraisers often have a test tablet that is not very aggressive and may be helpful. Be aware that this is a potentially damaging method to the surface of your jewelry.
The density of gold, similar to home methods for testing the authenticity of a diamond , makes it impossible to float in water. If you fill a container with pure water and drop your gold piece, it should fall to the bottom completely.
This test is not foolproof as other dense alloys do not float either, but at least it ensures that it is not an imitation with the ability to float.
Although it may not get you out of doubt, it does not require a lot of effort to perform, so you have nothing to lose, but some bad imitations to rule out.
Bleach is a chemical commonly found in most households due to its practical household applications as a corrosive or bleach. Believe it or not, bleach can seriously affect many alloys, but not gold.
To test, make a hole deep enough to penetrate the plating of the piece and reveal the interior. When you are ready, drop the piece into a container with bleaching lye and watch for a reaction. Most imitations will change color, bubble or leave a green trace.
This is not a definitive test and can seriously affect the esthetics of the jewelry. Apply it only as a last resort and if you are not concerned about permanent damage to the piece.
Warning: Handle bleach carefully and dispose of it properly once you are finished with the test.
Of course, it is highly recommended to purchase and apply a test kit if you are in constant contact with jewelry that requires testing, such as at auctions or a physical store.
These types of test kits usually include:
Although each test has its peculiarities, almost all consist of making an indentation in the plating with a needle and adding the indicated acid. It is expected that real gold will not react, while other metals will dissolve or oxidize.
To find out which reaction is relevant to your kit, read the product instructions.
When a metal is in contact for a period of time it can cause reactions depending on the person using it. Many imitations of gold tend to stain the skin or the metal itself green or red when in contact with sweat.
Authentic gold will never stain due to sweat or skin contact. Unless you are allergic, your skin should also not stain or react in any way.
If, despite all the alternatives, you still have doubts about the nature of your jewelry, the only 100% definitive solution to ensure the authenticity of the gold is to have it checked by a reputable jeweler with references.
As jewelers, we have specialized tools, ultrasonic testers, electronic, high density profile weighing or radiation exciters that allow us to differentiate any jewelry metal.
Also remember that not everyone who claims to be an appraiser in the jewelry industry is really an appraiser. Take precautions and put your trust in responsible brands.