Life Hacks – How to Identify Fake Gold



Product counterfeiting has been called by the FBI “the crime of the 21st century”. In 2015, the International Chamber of Commerce conducted a study which estimated that the worldwide value of counterfeited products could be over $1.77 trillion. With jewelry also being frequently counterfeited, one must take measures against being fooled when purchasing it. Being overly shiny and having a brassy look could be obvious indicators that the jewelry is phony, but counterfeiters can now create an exact copy of a genuine piece. An unsuspecting buyer will not be able to tell the difference between a fake and a real one at a first look.

Perhaps you already bought a gold piece of jewelry, but did not bother to check if it is genuine. Unless we are talking about bars of gold, it is pretty impractical to consult an appraiser every time you buy these ornaments. Although, it can save you from being fooled.

Fortunately, precious metals such as gold, have unique properties that can be seen after employing these examinations.

Physical Inspection

You may inspect the gold jewelry you bought, and search for official markings. These are usually located in an unseen place of your body ornament. There should appear a small stamp that states the purity (or Karat) of your gold jewelry. Anything that is less than 10 karats is considered fake in United States. Accompanied by this, is a manufacturer’s insignia that is not easily imitated. The United Kingdom (where 9 karat is the minimum standard accepted), has four official assay offices, and their hallmarks should be found on the jewelry you buy. These labels are too small to be seen, so a magnifying glass is needed to locate them.

Authentic but older jewelry might have its stamp gone, due to wear and tear. Forgers can also imitate this control oftentimes. You should also know that stamps with HGP and HEP indicate that what you bought is not real gold. The two acronyms mean Heavy Gold Plated and Heavy Electroplated Gold, respectively. So it is partly your fault if you happen to mistake those marks for those of genuine gold.

You can also examine the authenticity of your jewelry by looking for discoloration in the unseen parts. If the gold looks faded and you see another color, that may be proof that your piece is another metal coated in gold.

Another way to test your gold is to bite the jewelry. However, this is the least foolproof test in this article. Make sure not to bite too hard though, or you risk damaging your teeth. If the metal indents a bit, it could be real gold, since gold is a soft metal. But beware, lead is soft too, so you might have a gold-coated lead jewlery.

Nitric Acid Test

Before doing this test, you need to know that, if it is indeed genuine gold, your jewelry won’t be harmed. However, if it’s not real gold, it will suffer some damage. You can buy a test kit and do this at home, after following certain instructions. The nitric acid concentration you will use should match with the purity of your gold necklace or bracelet. First, make a tiny mark (or scratch) on your jewelry and drop a small amount of nitric acid. Make sure the scratch is deep enough for nitric acid to penetrate. Then, wait for some weird chemical reactions. If that part of your jewelry turns green, it means that it is fake. If the reaction you get is the color of milk, know that your jewelry is made of sterling silver, gold-plated. Authentic gold should not display any reaction or form of discoloration after this test. This is because gold is not chemically reactive with nitric acid, hence, it will not change its color.

Ceramic or Porcelain Test

Even though this is a test in which you risk to have your jewelry scratched, it’s worth mentioning. What you need to perform this test is an unglazed ceramic or porcelain plate (or tile). Pressing and dragging a fake piece of jewelry over the plate will produce a black line, while gold will leave a gold colored trail.

Magnet Test

This is, perhaps, the most convenient test in the list, although not even this one is totally foolproof. All you need to do is place a magnet near your jewelry. Since gold is not responsive to magnet, the item should not stick to it. Just make sure the magnet you use is strong enough, so don’t place your trust in those you have on your fridge.

Bear in mind that the gold we wear is mixed with some alloys to make it more durable, because pure gold is a soft metal. Counterfeiters can very easily use non-magnetic metals in their jewelry.

Genuine gold does not show signs of discoloration.

Water Test

There are two ways you can check the authenticity of your jewelry using water. For the easier one, simply pour some amount of water in a cup and wait to see if your item rusts. Genuine gold will not rust, because it is among the least reactive metals on Earth. Your jewelry is a fake if it shows signs of rusting. This test can take a while, though, since rust doesn’t appear instantaneously.

The other method involves a bit of physics and gives you the density of your item. Pure gold has a 19.30 g/cm3. To calculate the density of your item, first of all, you’ll need a vessel with millimeter markings. Pour some water into the vessel and note the water level. Then, sink your jewelry in it and note the water level again. Next, calculate the difference between the water level from the start and the level it is now. The result gives you the volume of your jewelry. Now, to find out the density you need this formula: Density=mass/volume. If your result is close to 19.30 g/cm3, then your item is made of real gold. Make sure you know the karats of your item, because the density differs.

Weigh Your Jewelry

Gold is a heavy metal, so fake jewelry that looks exactly like a true one will be relatively lighter. Basic comparisons normally tell the purity of what you wear, or its authenticity. If you still cannot determine by simply looking at that, you can use a set of calipers and a jeweler’s scale. The latter can be adjusted to set the threshold for weighing gold items.

If You are still Uncertain…

Gold is a precious metal, so be sure to check if what you buy is real or not. These tests really come in handy, but they are not all-effective, and some smart counterfeiters may evade the indicators. Nonetheless, the acid test is the most effective DIY method, but it causes damage to your gold jewelry.

Buy gold from trusted outlets and brands. If you are transacting online, buy from a legitimate website and avoid deals that are too good to be true. Also, check the return policy of the store you plan to buy a gold jewelry from. Established stores have their own set of policies, for a specific period of days. Plus, they have in-house specialists who can aid you in buying gold with the desired purity. Simply go to them and have your jewelry examined. Of course, that may come with a fee, but they are professionals and their services are always 100% guaranteed.


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