Is my gold really real? Is it even gold or rather not?

This two questions are most important to people who want to sell gold or also to those who have maybe inherited gold and they want to find out if their valuables are made of gold or not? It’s the essence to know if valuables such as jewelry or bullions are made of gold or not. The information about the material’s value allows you to determine the value. We explain to you the most important analysis methods to find out if your gold is real.

Analysis methods that show you “is it gold or not”

Check the stamps and markings

For beginners and those who are not familiar with the handling of gold the first and most important check that you can do by yourself is to find a stamp or a hallmark on your gold. Survey your piece in detail and find out if you can see any stamps on it. If you have gold jewelry you might find stamps like 10K, 14K, 18K, 21K or 22K on it. If you found such a stamp, the chance that this piece of jewelry is made of gold is very high.

The stamp gives you more information about the gold alloy, better said to the purity of gold. If you find a “18K” stamp you can be very sure that your piece of jewelry is made of 18K (karat) gold. We are very careful because during our long lasting work as gold buyers we have also seen faked gold which was hallmarked but that happens very seldom. For the sake of good order we want to point that out.

If you own gold bars and not jewelry, then please check the markings on your gold bar.On basis of the markings you can find out more information about your gold bar. The markings of gold bars show in the majority of cases the weight and the purity of the gold bar. The purity is in almost all cases 99,9% or as marking 999,99. If you can find for example a marking like “2oz” on your gold bar, you can be very sure that your gold bar has a weight of 2 ounces. Often the weight will be also indicated in grams or kilograms.

Is my gold real? Check the mass density of your gold

Before you can make this testing method you should make available your piece of gold and a slim and tall jar with water in it. With this test you can determine the mass density of your gold piece. Before you start, you should know the specific weight of gold. Below you can find this information. No every alloy has the same specific weight. We list the specific weight of gold and differ between the different gold alloys.

Specific weight of gold:

24 Karat = 19,3 gram/cm³
21 Karat = 17,5 gram/cm³
18 Karat = 15,1-15,8 gram/cm³ depending on the mixture of the alloy
14 Karat = 13,1-13,6 gram/cm³ depending on the mixture of the alloy
9 Karat = ca. 11,2 gram/cm³ depending on the mixture of the alloy

Specific weight = weight (in gram)/volume (in cm³)

The water test after Archimedes

What comes next is the so called water test after Archimedes of Syrakus (287 B.C. -212 B.C.). This test should give us an answer to our question “Is it gold or not”. With this test example we would like to find out if our 10 gram gold bar is real or not.

  1. First please weigh your gold piece. In our test, our gold bar has a weight of 20 grams.
  2. Please put your jar with water in it on the scale and set the scale to zero. So that the weight with the water jar is zero.
  3. Please affix the gold piece on a thin thread and hang it in the water. Please read the apparent weight = volume. In our case this volume is 1,05 grams.
  4. Calculation: 20 grams divided 1,05 grams = 19,05. This value is about the specific weight of fine gold which is 19,3 grams (see list below). The inexactness comes from the additional volume of the thread and the air bubbles in the water. But it’s a great method to find out if your gold is real or not. And you need no special equipment, knowledge or acids to make this great test.

You can also apply this test on other even objects like rings, bars and coins. This test method gives you also the opportunity to find out if your gold object is a falsification or not. Unfortunately this test is not recommended for special pieces of jewelry which have a very complex surface structure. This leads to measuring faults.

Is it gold or not, the test with Acid

A very effective test to find out if you have real gold or not, is a test with acid, better said with nitric acid. This testing method is thought for people who are already familiar with the testing of gold with nitric acid, like jewelers or gold buyers who practice this test very often. This has two reasons, first, the handling with acid needs much caution. It’s strictly forbidden that kids get in touch with this dangerous chemistry and also for people who don’t be careful, a wrong handling can lead to serious injuries. The second reason is that if you are not familiar to this testing method you might be unable to make this test properly. The possible results won’t be understandable for you.

For this testing method a gold testing kit is needed which contains six different acid bottles with different nitric acid mixtures. With every little acid bottle you can test different gold alloys such as 10K, 14K, 18K and 22K gold as well as silver and platinum. Also a stone is included in this testing kit which is needed to make the test. When you start the test, first you take your piece of gold and scratch it on the stone so that you have a good clearly visible scratch or scratches on the testing stone. We assume your piece of gold has 18K because this is the stamp you found on it. Then you take the acid for 10K and you brush carefully over the scratch on the stone. If the scratches disappear, then your ring is not made of gold, if not, we continue. Then we take the bottle with the acid for 14K and you do the same again. You brush carefully over the scratches. The scratches do not disappear? Great! This lets us know that the ring is at least made of 14K gold, we go ahead. Now we take the acid for 18K gold and we repeat this action. The scratches do not disappear, great now we know that our ring is made of 18K gold. But to be 100% sure, we also use the acid for 22K to see what happens. Again you brush the acid for 22K over the scratches and the scratches lightly disappear this time. This shows us that your ring is made of 18K or a higher alloy but don’t has a purity of 22K because the disappearance of the scratches while using the 22K has shown us that the acid was stronger than the gold. You see, also this method of testing gold is very effective but only recommended for people you are used to this special testing method. A con of this testing method is that your piece of gold will be slightly damaged. Because you scratch it over the testing stone. Honestly, we do not recommend this testing method for fine jewelry or very nice pieces but to test scrap gold this method is very effective und well suited. Is my gold real? This test gives you the answer.

Is my gold real or not? Test it with an x-ray spectrometer!

A very mild and gentle method of testing gold is the testing with an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer. X-ray fluorescence is the emission of fluorescent X-rays from a material that has been excited by bombarding with high-energy X-rays or gamma rays. This “technique” is widely used for elemental and chemical analysis.

Especially for gold that should not be damaged this is a well suited testing method. The pro is that the results are very, very precise and accurate and the testing object won’t be slightly “touched”, so the gold won’t be damaged. The con is that this high tech instrument is very expensive and the handling requires great care because the gamma rays are very dangerous for human beings and can lead to cancer. But when you take care while using this high tech machine the risk is very, very low.

This is how the test with a x-ray fluorescence spectrometer works:

You put your piece of gold in the instrument. Detailed instructions you have to check in the instructions manual. Then you close the XRF carefully. The process will be started and now the reflections will be measured by a detector. The results will be analyzed and evaluated with the computer. The results can be seen on the screen where graphically and in tabular form the distribution of the elements will be shown in percent. The results are very precise and above that you can learn about the composition of the alloys. A great high tech machine but not intended for the private use.

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