There are several methods that you can use to tell if your gold jewelry is made of real gold. Keep in mind, these methods are not all 100% conclusive. If you want a guarantee, take it to a certified jeweler, but be prepared to pay a fee for the service. If you want to find out on your own, read on.
Look closely at the piece for an official stamp. The stamp shows the grade info which is either given in finesse (1-1000 or .1-.999) or carat (1-24). Anything under 10k isn’t considered real gold in the U.S. Also, older pieces may not have visible stamps because of wear or repairs that may have been previously done on the piece. On top of that, some forged pieces will still have authentic looking stamps so this is just a starting point. Read on to find more conclusive answers.
If you need help finding out what the stamp means, see this article: Guide to Gold Jewelry Stamps and Inscriptions
Another easy check is to look for discoloration, especially around edges and other areas that would experience a lot of friction. If the gold is wearing off and revealing another material underneath, your jewelry is only gold plated and not real gold.
Use a magnet
Gold is not magnetic, but many of the metals that are often used in fake gold or gold plating are. To do this test make sure you check on the thickest part fo the piece that you are trying to test (stay away from clasps on necklaces for example). If your jewelry is attracted to the magnet, it’s not 100% pure gold. However, if it isn’t attracted to the magnet, it is still not necessarily real.
Use Nitric Acid
Nitric acid can tell you if your gold jewelry is real. This is the method most jewelers use. Take a drop of nitric acid and see if it causes a reaction. There are many testkits available, some of which can even test for sertain karat weights. To tell if the piece is gold plated, you may have to take a file and make a scratch in the jewelry (somewhere that will not be noticeable) to test under the plating. If the nitric acid creates a green reaction, you are dealing with a gold plated piece or a base metal. If you see a milky color reaction, it is probably gold plated over sterling silver. If there is no reaction, your jewelry is real gold. Always take all necessary precautions when handling any type of acid (gloves, goggles, well ventilated area, etc).
Use an Unglazed Ceramic Plate
Drag your jewelry across a piece of unglazed ceramic (from a home improvement store). Note that this will scratch your item. If your jewelry is made up of real gold, it will leave a gold streak. If it is fool’s gold, the streak will be black.
Use a Balance
For this, you will need a balance scale and a piece of real gold jewelry the same size as the one you are trying to test. Gold is very heavy, so if two pieces of the same size and shape weigh exactly the same amount, chances are your piece is made of real gold.
All of these methods can be useful ways to see if your gold jewelry is made of real gold or fake. However, they will not give guaranteed answers or tell you the quality or karat weight of the piece. To be certain, bring your gold jewelry to a trusted, certified jeweler.
If you are certain your gold is real, and you want to know how much it is worth follow this easy 3 step process: Pricing Gold Jewelry At Home
Using these methods (and a certified jeweler/appraiser) should let you determine with certainty if your gold is real gold. If you have any questions on any of these methods, feel free to leave a comments and I’ll try to answer it as soon as I can. Thanks!