How to Find Out If Gold Is Real

Real gold can sometimes be tough to spot.
Real gold can sometimes be tough to spot. (Image: Hemera Technologies/ Images)

When you are bargain hunting for gold jewelry, it can be difficult to tell if something that a retailer claims is made of real gold truly is. This is especially an issue when you are buying gold jewelry from somewhere like a flea market, garage sale, used jewelry dealer or street vendor in a large city. A good rule to go by is to always be skeptical, particularly if the price is seems too good to be true. Being aware of a few things to look for can help you determine if the gold is real.

Shop in jewelry stores. Places like flea markets, garage sales and vendors can sometimes get you a good buy, but unless you’re a professional jewelry appraiser, it’s best to stick with actual retail establishments who will ensure that the gold they are selling is real.

Find out if the jewelry store has a quality assurance program. With this program, a jeweler tests each piece of jewelry to find out if it qualifies as real gold and then the jeweler will present proof of authenticity with the piece.

Put a magnet up to your pieces. If there is a strong attraction, you're dealing with items consisting mostly of metals that are not gold. Pure gold does not contain magnet qualities.

View real gold pieces. The more real gold you look at and pick up, the better you’ll be at spotting fake gold.

Hook an electric gold tester up to the pieces you want to test. After a few seconds, the tester will indicate if the piece is gold, and if it is, it will indicate the karat level.

Look for discoloration on pieces, such as greens and browns that can help indicate that they are not gold.

Check out the overall quality of the piece you’re considering. Frayed edges, for example, are a sign that the piece is probably not real gold.

Ask about a store’s refund policy, if the store does not offer refund policy chop elsewhere. For stores with a refund policy, after you purchase the gold you can have it appraised by another jeweler or tested by a quality assurance lab. Should the piece not prove to be real, it can then be returned.

Purchase an acid testing kit, if you plan to test a lot of items and want to determine specific karat amounts of gold. These kits work by applying different acids to gold, which will react different ways dependent upon the specific karat amounts of a piece. A chart will be provided with the kit to help you discern the test reading values.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be sure to wear goggles and gloves to protect yourself from the acid when testing a piece of gold.

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