When a jeweler is unsure of the metal in question, he does a gold test that is basically a chemical test to determine if the gold in the jewelry is real gold. Anyone can do the same test by following these directions: hold the gold object while wearing thick rubber gloves. Take a nail file and make a scratch on the gold where it will not show when worn.
Take a dropper and put one drop of nitric acid to the scratch that you made on the gold coins. Determine the realness of the gold with these criteria: If the scratch turns green, then it isn’t gold. If there is no reaction, then you have real gold. If the scratch turns white, you have a gold layer over silver. Always be sure to rinse the tested gold under water while holding it with your gloves. Also rinse your gloves. You don’t want the nitric acid to touch your skin.
If you would also like to know what the weight of gold is in the object that you are testing, there are gold kits available that include nitric acid, aqua regia, and a slate touchstone as well as samples of gold in various karats that are commonly sold like 10, 14, 18, and 24 karat. The test is easy once you have the tools and supplies to test for the karat weight.
The piece of gold that you want to test is rubbed on the slate stone to make a streak on the slate. One of the sample pieces of gold is also rubbed on the slate alongside the one being tested. The nitric acid is then added to the two streaks. If both streaks match, you have found the karat weight of your gold. To test higher gold weights, aqua regia is required instead of the nitric acid to test the two streaks.
These kits can probably be ordered online from Internet Jeweler Supply Companies, and some kits are even sold on eBay. It is much easier to just take your gold to a jeweler and let him do the test for you.
These are scientific ways of determining if an object is made of real gold and what karat or how much real gold has been used along with the usual base metal to make the gold object. Most people can simply look at a piece of jewelry and find the gold mark either on the clasp of a necklace or bracelet or inside the band of a ring. Jewelry made in the United States that has 42% gold along with the base metal has to be stamped as 10 K. The more gold added to the base metal, the higher the karat, 14 K, 18 K. These regulations are not followed by jewelers from other countries.
Gold in the United States is stamped and gold coins have face values in the United States and elsewhere. But, the myths around biting into gold to test it are really just myths. You might have a heavy gold bangle made in Europe that is not stamped with the hallmark karat required in the United States. That does not mean that your bangle isn’t gold. If it was purchased overseas, it is probably 18 K gold which is their favorite weight in gold jewelry. Some people get told by unscrupulous pawn brokers or gold buyers that their object isn’t gold because it doesn’t have a stamp. That is not the truth. The only way to know for sure if your gold object is gold if it is not stamped is to do the chemical test with nitric acid. When deciding on whether your object is real gold, keep a mental image of a bar of pure gold. Think how heavy that object might be.
The facts are that a bar of gold from the Federal Reserve weighs 30 pounds. If you see someone lifting ten bars on television, they have to be weight lifters. A bar of gold from the Federal Reserve is mostly gold, mercury, iron, and aluminum.
Another myth is that gold is light in weight. Actually, a very expensive gold coin shouldn’t be that light. It could be a fake. There are fake gold coins that could fool even a shrewd pawn broker just like chocolate covered in gold wrappers pressed on a gold coin stamping machine. Biting into a gold coin shouldn’t leave a mark.
Another myth is that gold won’t tarnish regardless of how old it is. The truth is that gold will turn a burnished color with age. For some people who own gold older than 50 or 100 years old, the look of old gold that hasn’t been dipped in jewelery cleaner is admired. Old gold develops a burnished look like fine bronze but not quite.
If you are thinking about the cost of gold, remember that 24 K usually is marked as gold but if it is used in plates or objects of art it is gold overlay and the price of the object is dependent on its usefulness and artistic character and not so much by the gold. 18 K gold is more expensive than 14 K gold and 14 K gold is more expensive than 10 K gold. The weight of gold or the percentage of real gold used in making the object is the test of its worth.
People who have purchased gold in the past and have gold on them can do a simple eye test to determine if the object is real gold. Gold that has been layered over silver usually has a slightly darker color than jewelry that is gold and not layered gold. If you are not sure, don’t buy it.
In Europe, gold is not judged by karat but by how “fine” the gold content is that is used. The finer or the purer the gold content, the more valuable the object. 24 K gold is known as “fine gold” since it is 99% gold. China actually makes jewelry in pure 24 K gold. Other parts of the world will not make 24 K gold jewelry because it will distort, scratch, and not wear as long as gold jewelry made using a gold alloy.
Finding out what kind of gold alloy is mixed with your gold is very difficult. There is an X-Ray machine that can actually tell you if the object is gold and whether the gold alloy is silver, paladium, rhodium or other alloy. Another point to keep in mind is that there are different colors of gold than just the familiar yellow. There is green gold, rose gold that has shades from pink to red and, of course, white gold.
To tell if something is real gold, quickly, check for discolorations like black marks. If the object is obviously new, you will need to do a chemical test to be sure. So there you have it. That’s how to tell if something is real gold.