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How to Tell if Gold Is Real: The Ultimate Guide

how to tell if gold is real

If you’re ever out purchasing a valuable gold item, you need to know how to tell if gold is real. There are constant gold scams coming out in the news, and with gold prices on the rise, so are gold scammers.

To help keep you safe when buying gold or selling gold, we’ve put together a guide on distinguishing whether what’s in your hands is real or fake gold. Let’s jump into what you need to know.

Look for a Hallmark

When it comes to gold buying, one of the easiest ways to tell whether or not what you’re purchasing is real is to look for a hallmark. Hallmarks are stamps that indicate the gold’s karat.

Remember that different countries measure karats differently. In the U.S, you’ll find a number ranging from 12 to 24. In Europe, you’ll find a number ranging from .000 to 1.000.

If you can’t spot a hallmark on the gold you’re buying, it could mean that the piece of metal doesn’t actually contain gold. Or, if the item is old, it could simply mean that the hallmark has worn off.

Look for a Letter Mark

Another type of mark to look for on gold is a letter mark. Gold that has stamps reading GP, GEP, or GF means that the jewelry is either gold plated, gold-electroplated, or gold-filled.

In other words, while the jewelry may certainly contain gold, that’s not the only metal involved. It would have an insufficient amount of gold to be classified as a gold item.

Test the Gold With Nitric Acid

Nitric acid is a material that you can use to determine whether or not gold is real. However, this chemical is quite dangerous, so you should be extremely careful when using it.

To run this test, make a small scratch on the gold item. The mark needs to be deep enough to penetrate the top layer of the item.

Then, drop a small amount of nitric acid into the scratch. If the acid turns green or a milky hue, the item is not real gold. Items made of pure gold or a majority of gold will not react to the acid.

Remember, since the acid is quite dangerous, you should run this test in an appropriate lab setting. Or, take the gold to a professional jeweler who can conduct the test for you.

Test the Density

Gold has a density of about 19.3 g/mL. Gold items that are purer have a density closer to this number, while items that are less pure will have a density that deviates a lot more.

To figure out the density of your gold, you’ll need to get a scale that weighs in grams as well as a graduated cylinder that measures fluids in milliliters and is large enough to hold your gold item.

From there, weigh the gold and make a note of its weight. Then, fill your cylinder halfway full with water and make a note of how many milliliters of water it contains.

Next, place the gold in the water and record the new water level. Subtract the original water level from the second water level to determine the volume of the gold item.

From there, divide the volume of the gold by its weight. This will give you the density of the gold and will help you determine how close it is to the true density of gold, 19.3 g/mL.

Remember, some other metals have densities that are similar to that of gold. You should run this test in conjunction with others to get the most accurate result.

Test Gold Against Ceramic

If you’re willing to scratch your gold, you can run a quick test by scratching the gold against ceramic. Luckily, this shouldn’t cause a huge amount of damage to your gold.

For this method, find an unglazed ceramic tile and gently rub the item against the tile. If you notice that the item leaves a gold streak on the tile, it’s most likely real gold. If the streak is black, it’s more than likely fake.

Place the Gold in Water

Another easy test you can use to see whether gold is real or fake is to place the gold in a container of water. Make sure that the container has enough water to cover the item completely.

Then, drop the gold into the water. Gold is a heavy metal and should sink to the bottom of the glass. Fake gold, however, often is lighter and will float on top of the water.

You should also notice that if the gold begins to tarnish after being in the water, it’s not real. Real gold doesn’t tarnish or rust, which is one of the reasons why it’s so valuable.

Use a Strong Magnet

One quick way to figure out whether gold is real or not is to use a strong magnet. Gold is not a magnetic metal, which means that if you hold the magnet close to a piece of gold, it shouldn’t be drawn to the magnet.

However, if the gold is blended with another magnetic metal, such as iron, it could react to the magnet. If you’re buying gold jewelry, it’s highly probable that the metal will react.

Know How to Tell if Gold Is Real

With this guide, you’ll have no problem telling apart real vs fake gold. And, once you know how to tell if gold is real, it’s a skill you’ll keep with you for life.

Are you ready to buy genuine gold from a certified dealer? Get in touch with our team and purchase high-quality gold products.

2 Responses to “How to Tell if Gold Is Real: The Ultimate Guide”

  1. Roger Anderson

    I bought American Gold Eagles from your company about 10 years ago. I have never removed the coins from their original plastic wrappers. My concern has always been how to sell them to someone other than CMIGS without damaging them during inspection. If I sell them back to CMIGS, how do you inspect them for authenticity?

    • Johnny Estes

      The American Gold Eagle contains 1 troy ounce of gold, however the US mint adds some silver and copper to make the coins more durable. Because of this, carefully handling the coins will not damage them.

      When testing metal that is sold back to us we use the Sigma Metalytics PMV Pro.

      Call us with any questions that you have and one of our brokers will be happy to assist you.


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