How can I check if gold is real? Ways to verify authenticity
As the saying goes, ‘all that glitters is not gold.’ It’s worth keeping that in mind – all those old things around the house which look like gold may not be. Recently, many fraudsters have been selling tombac products as gold. It isn’t easy to check the authenticity of gold at home; however, there are a few reliable methods for checking whether gold is really, well, gold.
Gold and tombac – the differences
Tombac is a material commonly used by fraudsters to create items which look like gold but are not actually made of gold. Tombac is a brass ally with a high copper content (around 80%), which gives the tombac a characteristic golden color which resembles gold. The similarities end there, however, as tombac is almost worthless as compared to gold.
A skilled goldsmith or jeweler will immediately notice the difference between gold and tombac, while a tourist on the street can easily be cheated and pay a lot for tombac products. Numerous scams have given tombac the nickname ‘fool’s gold,’ and unfortunately it’s easy to be fooled.
How can I recognize gold and check if it’s real? This article presents some DIY methods for checking the authenticity of gold.
Checking the fineness of a gold product
The first step to determine whether a ring, earring or chain is actually made of gold is to find the fineness inscription, which should be stamped somewhere on the jewelry. You can easily interpret the stamp by searching online. It indicates the fineness of the gold and is usually located in a concealed, hard-to-reach area. The most common finenesses are 999, 960, 750, 585, and 333.
The fineness of the gold determines the value of the whole product. A fineness of 585 means that the ring, for example, contains 58.5% pure gold and 41.5% other metals added to increase hardness. Keep in mind that pure gold is soft and malleable; therefore, other metals are added to it. This is rarely an attempt to counterfeit gold. More commonly, for example, a gold chain is made of 333 gold and the clasp is made from a higher grade, such as 585.
The magnet test is one of the most popular ways to check gold at home. The magnet test consists of bringing a magnet near the gold. In this way you can find out if you’re dealing with real gold or a fake , as gold does not have any magnetic properties and should react at all.
It’s good to know that gold and silver are diamagnetic, meaning that they do not react to the magnet. However, if the jewelry reacts in the presence of a magnet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s fake. Nonetheless, bullion coins made of genuine 24-carat gold certainly will not react to a magnet. On the other hand, jewelry such as engagement rings, necklaces, and earrings are made of gold mixed with other metals, though the metals used in these alloys are also diamagnetic.
Be careful when performing a magnet test, especially when checking silver jewelry – just because silver earrings, for example, react to the magnet, it doesn’t mean they’re worthless. The earrings may in fact be made of platinum, which is more valuable than silver. This is because platinum is a paramagnet, that is, it reacts to the magnet.
The magnet test is not very reliable, and it’s worth performing other tests to check the authenticity of your gold before throwing it in the garbage.
This test is used for gold coins. Using a special smartphone application, you can evaluate the quality and purity of the coin using sound waves. This is a popular way to test whether gold coins are real or counterfeit.
Discoloration on jewelry
Gold jewelry stored in a traditional manner should not lose its characteristic yellow color. However, if there are discolorations on the jewelry, if the top layer is rubbing off, that means the jewelry is not made of gold, and that it is plated. Abrasion of the surface layer is also a sign that the metal underneath is beginning to react with water, air, or dirt, which changes its original properties.
The Archimedes test
One of the most reliable methods to check the authenticity of gold is to calculate its density. This method is a bit complicated, but more dependable. The density of gold is 19.3 g/cm3, whereas lead is 11.34 g/cm3 and silver is 10.5 g/cm3.
In order to check the density of your metal, fill a glass vessel with water and calculate its volume. For this purpose, an ordinary glass works best. Its volume is the product of its height, the radius of the base, and the number π (about 3.14). The next step is to place the jewelry in the water and calculate the amount of water displaced (i.e. the difference between the volume of water with the jewelry and the volume without) in cubic centimeters. The last step is to divide the mass of the jewelry by the volume of water displaced. The resulting quotient will be the density. A result of around 19.3 g/cm3 means that the jewelry is made of gold, whereas a result of about 10.5 g/cm3 means that it is made of silver.
Knowledge of precious metals and stone prices is undoubtedly key to preventing yourself from being deceived and buying tombac products instead of gold. Bear in mind that making gold jewelry is actually a complicated process, and the final price of the product significantly exceeds the market price of bullion. There are no bargains in the jewelry industry; besides, you can check the prices of all manner of precious metals and stones on the internet. The situation is similar with regard to bullion coins and bars. Precious metal dealers who offer lower prices, for example, for choosing deferred delivery are just trying to swindle customers. A good solution is to buy both gold jewelry and gold coins and bards from a reliable local specialist with a good reputation.
In the article, we presented a few ways to check whether the gold you have at home is real, but the only way to be 100% certain is to go to your nearest jeweler or precious metals dealer. A specialist using specialized tools can determine whether jewelry is made of gold, and if so, of what fineness. In addition, the jeweler or metal dealer can determine the value of the product. This is especially true for gold coins, as popular bullion coins like the Krugerrand are a bit more expensive than the price per ounce of gold, while rare coins which are no longer minted increase in value over time.
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