Since your old scrap gold is worth quite a bit on today’s gold-hungry market it is very important to know how to tell real gold. Many people have gold lying around that they are not sure about because they do not know how to tell is something is real gold or some other metal. Fake gold can also be called gold plated, heavy gold electroplate, and gold-filled, among other things. There’s definitely a big difference between the two. The latter is basically worthless while real gold has never been worth more. So how can you tell if gold is real? The tips that follow will show you how to tell if it's real gold or fake gold.
#1 Look For The Hallmark
Nearly all real gold is stamped with a hallmark that notes the karat weight of the jewelry, like 10K or 14K. This stamp is usually found on the clasp of a necklace or bracelet, or on the inner band of a ring. Since the purity of American-made gold jewelry is measured in karats, there will be a stamp on these pieces with a number followed by the letter "K". The number simply indicates, in parts per 24, how much of the metal is actually gold. For example, a mark of "14K" means that it is 14 karat gold and that 14/24 (just over half) of the metal is gold. By the same token, 24K would be 100% pure gold.
The European system is a little more straightforward. European gold is marked with the gold content expressed as a decimal: ".585" would be 58.5% pure (incidentally, this is the same as 14 karat gold) and ".999" or "1.000" would be pure gold and thus the same as 24 karat. Nonetheless, if an item of jewelry does not have this stamp - it is not necessarily proof positive that the item is made from fake gold. This is particularly true of older items of jewelry.
#2 Nitric Acid Test
Another method how to tell real gold is with a nitric acid test. If you are dealing with strictly scrap gold, you can use the nitric acid test to test if gold is real. Please note that it is not advisable to use this test on jewelry that you plan to keep or that has aesthetic value for resale. To perform this test to check if gold is real, make a light, tiny scratch on the item using a small nail file. Choose a spot that is not noticeable if possible. Use a dropper to apply a small drop of nitric acid to the scratch. If there is no reaction, then the piece is probably made from real gold. You are most likely dealing with another metal or even a gold-plated item if you see green. Gold-over-sterling will leave a milky substance when nitric acid is applied.
When nitric acid comes into contact with real gold, no chemical reaction occurs. However, nitric acid does react with other common metal alloys such as sterling silver, copper, and zinc. If you witness a light greenish colored reaction, then your gold engagement ring is not made of real gold. Be sure to read the instructions and take all necessary precautions (gloves, goggles, proper ventilation, etc.) before dealing with the acid. Notably, nitric acid is hard to come by because it can be explosive under the right circumstances. However, you can invariably find it at most chemical supply houses or on eBay.
#3 Liquid Foundation Test
This way to test gold at home is not as reliable as some, but it is a good way to know if gold is real or fake. Apply liquid foundation and powder to your forehead. Rub your gold jewelry across the area. If a black streak is left behind, it is more likely than not that the piece is gold. Another version of this is to rub the gold across the forehead of anyone who has low iron. If the gold is real, the hemoglobin in the blood will rise up and make this black mark on the skin. This only works, however, if the person’s iron is low in their blood, such as someone with mild anemia.
#4 Heaviness Test and Magnetization Test
Drop your gold item into a jug of water. Gold is a heavy metal. Real gold should sink. Any piece of supposed gold jewelry that floats is likely fools’ gold or fake gold.
The magnet test is also a good test to determine if gold is real or fake. If your gold item is attracted to a magnet, it is definitely not real gold. Still, this doesn’t mean that there is no gold in your item, just that it is not made with a substantial amount of gold.
#5 Professional Appraisal
A surefire way to tell if gold is real or not is to take it to a reputable jewelry dealer. A dealer has the type of testing kit that can be used to tell if something is real gold or fake. Most jewelry stores charge a small fee to test gold jewelry.
When selling scrap gold, the gold buyer will be able to tell you within a shadow of doubt whether or not your gold is real. Go with a competent and honest gold buyer and you’ll get an honest and fair assessment of the true value of your scrap gold.