How to tell if gold is real or fake Ruby Rave

How to tell if gold is real or fake

What makes gold real or fake? Most standards around the world identify anything with less than 41.7% or 10 karats of gold as fake. The most reliable way to identify whether your item is real gold, or not, is to have it appraised by a certified jeweler. However, before you take your item in for a professional appraisal, there are some simple methods for discovering whether your gold item is real or fake. 

1. Look for the gold hallmark

Do you see an official number marking on the gold item? In most cases, the gold item will have a stamp (also called a hallmark), identifying what percentage of gold it consists of. 

If you’re not seeing the stamp, look closely at the item’s clasp or the inner band of a ring, where the hallmark is most commonly stamped. It can usually be found on the surface of gold coins and bullion as well. You may need to use a magnifying glass to identify an older hallmark that has been rubbed clear. 

For older items, however, a hallmark might not be found on the gold item. Sometimes it is completely worn off. In the U.S., hallmarking wasn’t even common until the 1950s and in other countries it wasn’t a requirement until much later than that. In addition, some counterfeit items will include a marking that is made to look authentic. So a professional appraisal is still recommended before selling or gifting the item. 

What the gold stamp means

If you do find a number marking on your gold item, here’s how to read it. There are two different numeric scales used in hallmarking. The numbers 1 to 999 or 0K to 24K may be used to show the amount of gold in the item. The numbered system is European and the K scale the U.S. ranking. For the European system, the number can be transferred easily to a percentage, so 200 is 20% gold and 500 is 50% gold. For the U.S. system, 24K is 99.9% pure gold, 18K is 75% gold, 14K is 58.5% gold and 10K is 41.7% gold. Anything less than 10K is considered fake.

This piece shows the 14K stamp on the back of the bracelet.

Real Gold Hallmark

This piece shows 585, which is the same as 14K but expressed as a % of gold used in the piece. (14k is 58.5% real gold mixed with other metals)

585 is 14K Gold

Pure gold (or not?)

Sometimes a hallmark can also show that the gold item is not made up of pure gold. Common letters indicating gold plating include GP, GF, and GEP. These mean the item has a thin layer of gold on top of another metal, usually silver or copper.

GP means gold plated, GF is gold filled, and GEP refers to items that are gold electroplate. 

2. Test your gold with a magnet

Do you have a magnet lying around? Check your fridge or children’s toys. Once you find a magnet, hold it in front of the gold item. Did the jewelry react to the magnet by sticking to it? If it did – surprise, your item is a fake! Believe it or not, real gold is not magnetic! 

3. Wear and tear

Another way to tell when a gold item may not be what it seems is noticeable wearing out of the item. If the gold is worn away, discolored, or spotty it is not made of pure gold. Check spots that are placed against the skin, around the edges of coins or jewelry. If you can see another type or color of metal peering out from underneath the gold, the item may be gold plated with silver, copper, or brass underneath.  

4. Real gold does not react to oil

If your finger or other area of the skin turns green or black after wearing the item, it is not pure gold. Gold does not react to the oils in our skin, but silver and copper both can leave behind green or black marks. However, some gold items that are made up of a mix of gold and other items, up to 14 karats, can also leave behind a mark on the skin. 

5. Real gold sinks in water

Because pure gold is denser than other metals, a gold item will sink quickly and directly to the bottom of a tub or bottle of water. Fake gold can float or fall more slowly. Real gold also won’t rust or tarnish when exposed to water, while gold plated items can show discoloration. 

Have you tried any of these ways to test your gold?

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