Genuine Gold vs. Fake Gold Jewelry: How to Tell the Difference

Genuine Gold vs. Fake Gold Jewelry: How to Tell the Difference

Your significant other gifted you a beautiful gold chain for your Anniversary, but you find yourself a bit tinged with an ounce of suspicion each time you spot it sitting on your dressing table? It is natural to find yourself wondering if they really splurged on high-quality 10k gold rope chains just for you.

Well, the good news is, you can always find out if your gold jewelry is genuine or fake. The bad news is, if you find out it is fake, someone might be sleeping in the doghouse tonight. But maybe they too didn’t know that what they were buying was fake?

Sometimes buying valuable and expensive jewelry like 14k gold rope chains can be a risky business if you have no idea how to tell real gold from fake gold. Hence, before making any major gold jewelry purchase, you should always make sure you are buying from a trustworthy company.

With every significant jewelry shopping, do your research, read people’s reviews, and always check the product description before investing all that cash in a hot new gold chain.

We look at some of the standard methods for identifying fake gold to help you prove the authenticity of any gold jewelry you may have purchased in the past.

Look for Gold Marking

Before taking all your pieces to a jeweler, consider doing a visual inspection. The most telling sign of whether the gold chain is fake or not is found in the jewelry hallmark. All jewelers have been required to include a stamp that reveals the jewelry piece’s purity since 1906.

The U.S government then instituted another regulation sixty years later, requiring that the hallmarks indicate who produced the jewelry article. The hallmark is supposed to tell you what percentage of gold is in the piece.

You will often spot the marking on the surface of bullion or coins. Depending on the grading type used, the stamp number can fall between 1-999 or 0k – 24k. With smaller pieces like rings, you might need to use a magnifying glass to identify the hallmark.

However, unless you are certain that you are holding gold, don’t rely solely on the hallmark because counterfeit pieces also have markings that make them look authentic. There are letter markings that can be spotted on the jewelry like GF(gold filled), GP(gold plated), or GEP(gold electroplate) that indicate that the piece was plated.

These letter markings show that the marker added a thin layer of gold over another metal like silver or gold. So even though the piece has some gold in it, it is not real gold. Plated gold tends to rub away over time because gold is very soft for metal, so by checking around the piece’s edges, you could notice some wearing away.

Heaviness and Magnetization Test

Gold is a heavy metal, and so if dropped in a jug of water, real gold should sink. If you drop your gold piece in water, then it floats, then it is more likely that it’s fake gold.

You can use a kitchen scale to weigh your piece. Or you can find appraisers and jewelers who will do it for free and get the weight in grams. You can only get an accurate weight result if you weigh in grams rather than ounces.

However, weight testing is best suited for bullion coins because they are made to a set of specifications that help give you a reference point for gold authenticity testing. Luckily, gold’s physical properties can be hard to replicate because it is one of the densest metals on earth.

The other most effective and easy way to test if your gold chain is real or fake is using the magnet test. Using a magnet, hold up the piece to it, and if it gets attracted, that’s phony gold because gold doesn’t have magnetic properties; if the piece is attracted to the magnet, that only means that there is a high level of nickel or iron in the piece.

However, there is still a need to do multiple authenticity tests even if your jewelry doesn’t get attracted to the magnet. There is still a chance that it could be made from other substances besides gold, not magnetic.

Nitric Acid Test

If you are dealing with scrap gold, then you can use nitric acid to test if it’s real or fake. However, this is only advisable on strictly scrap and not jewelry that you intend to keep using or has aesthetic value for future resale.

The test requires you to make a tiny scratch on the piece using a small nail file. Make sure you opt for a spot that isn’t noticeable, then use a dropper and drop a small amount of nitric acid to the scratch. If the piece is gold plated or made from another metal, then you will see a green reaction. If it’s gold over sterling, then it will leave a milky substance.

However, if there is no reaction, then the piece is likely genuine gold. No chemical reaction occurs when nitric acid comes into contact with real gold. However, it reacts with common metal alloys like copper, sterling silver, and zinc.

Make sure you read the instructions before using nitric acid and take the necessary precautions such as wearing gloves, goggles and using proper ventilation.

Seek Professional Appraisal

When all else fails, or you need further assurance that you are spotting genuine gold and not fake, then the most surefire step is to take the piece to a reputable jewelry dealer.

Professional jewelry dealers have the right testing kit to tell if your piece is real or fake gold. You may be required to pay a small fee for this, but it is a small price to pay for assurance.

Most gold buyers can often tell if scrap gold is genuine or not within a shadow of a doubt. However, you should make sure you find a competent and honest gold buyer who will give you an honest assessment without looking to just take money from you.

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