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Gold Testing 101: How to Know if Gold is Real

When looking for gold items, the first question that comes to mind is “are you sure this is real gold?” Because it is expensive and considered a precious metal, it is important to verify the authenticity of gold and make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. 

You can always examine and do simple checking methods before adding a new piece of jewelry in your collection. Remember, you don’t need to be an expert, but it is quite useful to learn how to tell if it is genuine or fake gold. 

Understanding the Characteristics of Real Gold

Before checking the authenticity of gold, you first need to determine the characteristics of real gold. In terms of color, a real gold piece appears bright and yellow. It is also relatively soft, durable, highly malleable, and ductile. Gold is also considered a dense metal, making it a good conductor of heat and electricity. 

Real Gold vs Fake Gold: Key Differences

Without conducting simple methods at home or asking an expert’s opinion, you can spot the key differences between authentic gold and fake gold with the following indicators: size, weight, sound, presence of hallmarks or stamps, and finally, the price. 

If a piece of gold appears to be massive and thick, chances are it is a fake gold jewelry. In terms of weight, real gold shouldn’t feel so light and airy. You can feel the weight and listen to the sound of the item by letting it bounce in the palm of your hand. It is said that fake gold sounds more like tin, and fake items tend to clink together when they fall. 

Another quick way to tell if gold is real is by looking at the stamps or hallmarks. Real gold pieces typically have stamps or hallmarks that indicate gold purity or what is commonly referred to as karat gold. Take a good look at your gold item and see if it is stamped with 10 Karat Gold (also written as 417), 14 Karat Gold (also written as 585), 18 Karat Gold (also written as 750), and 24 Karat Gold (also written as 999). 

Lastly, pay attention to the price. You cannot really buy authentic gold jewelry at a very cheap price. If you are offered with such a low price, maybe it’s time for you to examine the piece further. 

Expert’s Guide: How to Tell if Gold is Real

Jewelry experts conduct professional evaluation by testing the physical and chemical properties of gold. 

Visual Inspection Techniques

If you want to examine first the physical characteristics of gold, you can do these visual inspection techniques: 

Observing Color and Shine

Try holding gold jewelry between your hands for a couple of minutes. If the gold is real, the perspiration from your hands won’t cause any skin discoloration. But if the gold is fake, your skin will most likely react and turn to color green, blue, or black over time. Gold is also said to be an extremely non-reactive metal. If there is no skin discoloration, the gold is likely on the pure side. But if signs of discoloration are visible, the piece might contain metal alloy where copper, for example, is mixed in.

Assessing Weight and Density

As mentioned above, real gold shouldn’t feel so light and airy. It shouldn’t also look too big or too thick. Remember that gold is a dense metal, so if the piece of gold appears to be too massive for its weight or too light for its size, there is a high possibility that the item is fake gold. 

Examining Hallmarks and Stamps

A hallmark is defined as an official stamp that is imprinted on gold jewelry pieces. Hallmarks and stamps indicate the level of purity and composition of the gold pieces. You can typically find the hallmark on the inner band of a ring. For bracelets and necklaces, the hallmarks can be seen near the clasps. 

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How to Test Gold at Home: Simple At-Home Tests

No testing machine? No problem! You can initially verify if the gold is authentic by following these simple methods: 

Water Test 

Worrying about what tool to use? This test is for you! You only need a bowl of water then you’re good to go. To test if the gold is real, drop it in a bowl of water and observe. A piece with a high level of purity will sink to the bottom with ease. If it floats, it’s probably fake jewelry. Now, here’s the tricky part: not everything that sinks is genuine gold. Other pieces might contain other metals that can also make them sink, so, be careful about this! 

Vinegar Test 

Another test that is easy to prepare is the vinegar test, which is also a kind of acid test. All you need is, of course, vinegar and an eye dropper or any similar object that holds the same function. Use eye dropper to place drops of vinegar on inconspicuous locations on your gold items. If there is a chemical reaction or change in color, then the piece is not genuine gold. 

Magnet Test 

If you have a strong magnet just lying around the storage, you can use it to conduct another test. The first thing to keep in mind before doing this test is that gold is not a magnetic metal. Therefore, if you bring a magnet near a real piece of gold, there shouldn’t be any attraction. 

Related: Does Chlorine Damage Gold?

Advanced Testing Methods

If you already tested the authenticity of your gold pieces using simple methods at home and you’re still not convinced about the results, you can always explore other advanced testing methods. Only in these cases, you really need a Gold Testing Machine and not just rely on the tools readily available at home. 

XRF Thermo 

By using an electronic or XRF thermo testing machine, you can determine the exact composition and level of purity of your gold items. The XRF machine sends X-rays through the gold which excites its atoms into a higher energy state. The machine then used the radiation that comes from the excited atoms to monitor and identify the material. Professional appraisers and even some gold owners love using this Gold Testing Machine because it uses a fast and accurate method. 

Sigma Metalytics Tester 

If you’re a jewelry lover and collector, and you would like to test your gold pieces rather frequently, then you might want to consider buying your own electronic gold testing machine. An example of this is the Sigma Metalytics Tester, a battery-powered and user-friendly device. Just follow the instructions and you’ll be able to get accurate results. 

Visit W. Villarica Jewelry and Authenticate Your Gold 

Reaching out to an expert jewelry appraiser is still the most reliable way to know if a gold is real or fake. With a team of highly trained professionals and top-of-the-line equipment, W. Villarica Jewelry conducts appraisals thoroughly, and all relevant pieces of information, including material and grading features, are examined closely to determine the fair market value of the jewelry piece. 

For inquiries or appointments, reach out to us via email at admin@willynvillaricajewelry.com, or engage with us on our official Facebook (Willyn Villarica Jewelry) and Instagram (@willynvillarica_jewelry) accounts. Furthermore, we are readily available for direct communication at +63279497547.


Can fake gold have a stamp or hallmark? 

Most real gold pieces are stamped, but it is also possible for fake jewelry to have hallmarks or stamps. If the piece is not a solid gold jewelry, you might also find stamps like GP, which means it is gold plated, or GF, which means it is gold filled. If you can’t rely on the hallmarks or stamps alone, you can always explore other simple testing methods like the magnet test, water test, or vinegar test. If you want more accurate results, you can also use a Gold Testing Machine. 

How accurate are gold testing kits? 

Gold Testing Machines like XRF thermo and Sigma Metalytics Tester are said to have fast and accurate results. Using these machines should already give you the results you need. But if you want a more reliable way of checking the authenticity of your gold, you can also visit professional appraisal companies and have the gold pieces examined and analyzed. 

What should I do if I suspect my gold is fake?

As discussed in this blog post, you can do simple methods at home or use a Gold Testing Machine. However, if you wish to have your gold pieces officially checked, you can always reach out to professional appraisal companies and avail professional evaluation. 

  • Willyn Villarica

    Willyn Villarica, a third-generation jeweler from the Philippines, brings a wealth of expertise to the world of gemology and jewelry appraisal. As a licensed Graduate Gemologist, accredited by the prestigious Gemological Institute of America, she is not only a master of her craft but also holds the distinction of being the first Filipino member of the National Associ...

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