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How To Test If Gold Is Real

A true symbol of high status, success, and prosperity, gold is a luxurious, highly desired precious metal. However, even if you own a stamped gold piece, its hallmark isn’t a guarantee of its real gold content. This article explores the best testing methods on how to perform a proper gold test. Remember that you can always get a free top-notch appraisal from our expert NYC Bullion team.

Gold Properties

Before proceeding to any testing, you should know that gold is considered a long-lasting metal since it:

  • Doesn’t tarnish or rust
  • Is non-magnetic
  • Conducts heat and electricity
  • Is dissolved only by nitro-hydrochloric acid (1:3)
  • Is malleable, ductile, and sectile – easy to hammer, press and cut into different shapes

Since gold is sectile, it also needs to be alloyed with other metals. Its alloys are measured using either the Karat system or the Millesimal Fineness System. One Karat unit is equal to a 1/24 part of pure gold in an alloy while the millesimal purity is indicated by parts per thousand of genuine gold by mass in an alloy. Take a look at the below gold purity chart for more details.

Karat System % of Gold Content Millesimal Fineness System Gold or not gold

(US standards)

8K 33.3 333 Not gold
9K 37.5 375 Not gold
10K 41.7 417 Gold alloy
14K 58.3 583 (585) Gold alloy
15K 62.5 625 Gold alloy
18K 75.0 750 Gold alloy
20K 83.3 833 Gold alloy
21K 87.5 875 Gold alloy
22K 91.6 916 Gold alloy
23K 95.8 958 Gold alloy
24K 99.9 999 Pure Gold

To find out whether your gold jewelry or bullion piece is fake or genuine, use the following gold testing methods. Home methods will help you easily test for real gold while professional tests will reveal the exact fineness of your piece.

The Magnifying Glass Test

the magnifying glass test

The first and simplest home test for gold requires just a magnifying glass and your gold bullion or jewelry. Carefully inspect your piece with the magnifying glass for these visual clues:

  • any signs of discoloration – gold doesn’t react to any environmental factors. So, if your piece has discoloration marks, it’s either not gold or gold plated.
  • color and shininess – pure gold is not very shiny and has a nice soft yellow color. Any shiny, yellow or toned(reddish) item is definitely not pure gold.

Hallmark/Stamp/Jewelry Markings Test

hall mark.stamp test

The second step is the hallmark test, for which you may also need a magnifying glass. Look for any gold hallmarks or jewelry hallmarks (inside the surface or near the clasp). These markings must show at least the gold’s purity (in millesimal fineness or Karats) and, if selling jewelry, it can also be accompanied by the manufacturer’s stamp.

Beware of “HGP,” “GF,” “HEG,” “GP,” “HGE,” “RGP,” “GEP,” or ”GP” hallmarks because they all mean that the item is gold plated. Also, avoid fake “800,” “925” or “950” marks on gold pieces since these are all silver hallmarks. The hallmark test isn’t 100% accurate and shall be used only to identify if the gold is not genuine or pure. If your item is marked as gold, but you’re still in doubt, proceed with further testing.

The Skin Test

skin test

The skin discoloration test is one of the easiest ways to test gold at home. Just hold your gold piece in your hand for a few minutes. Real gold doesn’t leave any spots or stains on skin, so if you notice a black or green chemical reaction with your perspiration, then it’s certainly an alloy.

However, keep in mind that if you apply powder or liquid foundation on your tested skin area, a real gold item might leave a black streak on it, so your testing won’t be precise. Therefore, before performing the gold test, please ensure that you aren’t wearing any makeup and your skin is clean.

The Float Test

The Float Test

Another easy method of testing gold jewelry or bullion at home is the float test, for which you need to place your gold piece in a cup of water. Due to gold’s high density (19.32 g/ml), pure gold will immediately sink to the cup’s bottom. Fake or plated gold will hover or float above, while gold alloys will tilt up halfway. Also, if your piece will rust or discolor, then it’s fake.

However, please consider that a fake item could consist of other heavy metals which also sink. So, use this test to spot fake gold that floats or hovers. If your item sank and you still have doubts, take another test.

Porcelain Tile Test (or the Scratch Test)

Porcelain Tile Test (or the Scratch Test)

The porcelain tile test, also known as the gold scratch test, requires a ceramic plate or a piece of unglazed porcelain tile. Scratch or rub your gold across the tile/plate and take a look at the color of the streak. A golden, yellow streak indicates real gold while a black streak shows that your item is fake or it’s pyrite. If you don’t want to damage your gold piece, consider using other harmless testing methods.

The Magnet Test

The Magnet Test

One of the easiest and most convenient home gold tests is the magnet gold test for which you need a high strength magnet. This solution is cheap and portable since a magnet is accessible anywhere and anytime. Because genuine gold is not magnetic, it won’t be attracted by the magnet. Gold allows or fake items will instantly attract the magnet while slightly attracted pieces are more likely gold plated. Also, keep in mind that jewelry pieces usually have strength elements (like wires, clasps) which aren’t made from gold and can be magnetic.

Thus, if the magnet attracted your item, you can skip the following tests. Otherwise, it’s likely pure gold, and it may need further testing for a higher accuracy. Also, remember that other precious metals (like silver) are also non-magnetic, so make sure to perform additional testing to certify that your item is real gold.

The Acid Test

The Acid Test

If you don’t mind damaging or scratching the samples, you can apply the gold acid test. You need to purchase a gold testing acid kit (for each Karat), a black gold testing stone, gold Karat needles and 2 glass beakers. One beaker with baking soda/water mix and other just with water. Before testing gold with acid, be sure to choose a well-ventilated area and to take all the safety measures for protecting yourself and your working area from any contact with the acid.

Each bottle from the acid kit is a distinct mixture of nitric acid and other components. Take your gold sample and scratch a slight line on the black stone, making sure you’ve reached over any potential plating. Mark your line and make similar parallel lines with the other gold Karat needles. Then take the lowest karat acid and apply its content across or on each line and wait for 30 seconds. Wash the stone in the baking soda/water mixture then rinse it in water and pat it with a paper towel.

A reaction (dissolved line) shows that your sample has a lower purity, a slight reaction means that you’ve matched the Karat while no reaction indicates that you have a higher Karat gold. If your sample didn’t react, repeat the test steps with the next acids until you match the Karat. If the last test acid in the kit is for 22K and you need to know whether your piece is 23K or 24K, you should use gold testing machines.

Gold Testing Machines – Electronic and XRF Thermo Gold Test

Electronic and XRF Thermo Gold Testers

The most harmless and accurate testing methods are the XRF thermo and electronic gold testing machines, such as the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier and XRF Thermo Scientific Analyzer.

Sigma metalytics machine

This device performs gold test for bullion and jewelry without using chemicals or damaging them. It uses electromagnetic waves to determine the Karat of your item based on gold’s electrical characteristics. The waves penetrate deeply into the tested piece, ignoring its surface and assessing its body, then displaying the result in a few seconds.

The Sigma Metalytics electronic gold tester comes with various sized sensors for each gold sample. Moreover, if you want to sell gold coins or any other gold bullion that is encased, you don’t have to remove them from their protective holders. Just place your sample on the corresponding sensor, select the expected purity, wait for the “Ready” message and press “RUN/CAL.” If the result is between the brackets, your tested piece matches the selected fineness while an up arrow indicates that your piece is not gold.

XRF Thermo Scientific™ Gold Test

It’s the most expensive precious metal tester, yet the most accurate and nondestructive one. This gold analyzer uses X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers to test the gold piece. The device sends X-rays through the sample and makes atoms get momentarily excited, moving them into a higher energy state. When the atoms return to their ground state, they release radiation which is detected and read by the machine. The machine returns the exact Karat or metal composition of the tested piece. It also comes with a unique AuDIT™ gold-plating detection technology which alerts you if the tested item is gold plated.

Free 100% Reliable Test – Free Professional Appraisal

The best and easiest testing method when selling gold is to get analysis and evaluation by professional appraisers, like NYCBullion. Our team uses high-class digital gold testers, including the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier and XRF Thermo Scientific Analyzer. Along with our top-notch expertise, we guarantee a free, fully transparent appraisal of your goods and the most generous quote on the market. You can get your free evaluation from NYCBullion either by sending your gold item or by visiting our store. For any questions, just call us at (212)-354-5557, message us, or, come to our retail office at 30 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036.

Scrap Gold – How to Make Money Buying & Selling Gold

Gold is a real global currency. If the fiat currency of your country fails, only gold can bail you out of this situation. Among all precious metals known to man, gold is the most highly regarded and has built and destroyed empires. People have been fighting since time immemorial for the ability to own this beautiful, glittering metal. Even today, many governments use gold for international trading. It is the most preferred precious metal for investment and acts as a hedge against inflation. Whether a freshly minted coin or old scrap jewelry, scrap gold always has value. Many people make a decent profit by dealing in scrap gold. It is a lucrative business that entices many. You can have a successful business of buying and selling scrap gold, all you need is to know how to go about it.

Knowing the Gold Price:

Learning about the spot price is essential for the gold scrap business. The spot price is set daily by Gold Markets around the world and will be the same throughout the world for the day. It can be found on any reputed precious metal dealer’s website or in newspapers. The spot price is always set for one troy ounce of 24 karat gold.

First and foremost, research how to make money buying and selling gold. You can check on the internet; there are several websites which can give you great information. You can also contact people who are already in the business for advice and information. Also, a part-time job with a pawnbroker can teach you firsthand.

Calculating Value of Scrap Gold:

Although it requires mathematics, it is easy to figure out as the calculations are simple. The first thing is to determine the karat of the scrap gold. Karat is the percentage of pure gold present in a particular item. Here is a chart which tells the percentage of gold per karat:

  • 08 karat gold is 33.3% gold
  • 09 karat gold is 37.5% gold
  • 10 karat gold is 42% gold
  • 12 karat gold is 50% gold
  • 14 karat gold is 58% gold
  • 15 karat gold is 62.5% gold
  • 18 karat gold is 75% gold
  • 20 karat gold is 83.3% gold
  • 21 karat gold is 87.5% gold
  • 22 karat gold is 91.6% gold
  • 24 karat gold is 99.9% or higher gold

In Europe you can also find gold items that consist of 6k or 8k gold, however, in the USA, it is only considered gold if the product has 10k or more. The most common karats that you will find in gold items in the USA are 10k, 14k, 18k, 22k, and 24k.

Jewelers weigh the gold in grams per troy ounce or pennyweight per troy ounce (1 pennyweight = 1.555 grams). You have to divide the spot price by 31.1 to get the gram price or by 20 to get pennyweights. Then multiply the number by the gold purity percentage to get the value of the scrap gold.

Here is a typical case:

  1. Let’s assume that the spot price today is $1000; you have to divide $1000 by 31.1 which will give you the answer: $32.15/gram. So the value of one gram of 24 karat gold at this spot price is $32.15.
  2. Now if you have to find out the value of 14 karat gold, you have to first determine the purity by dividing 14k by 24k, 0.58,  which is 58%.
  3. So the value of 1 gram of 14k gold would be $32.15 times 58% which is $18.64.

Once you have calculated the value of your scrap gold, you can decide on the price. You can check your local competitor’s prices and quote your own accordingly.

Types of Scrap Gold:

Scrap gold can come in different forms. Some of the common ones that qualify for scrap gold are tangled gold chains, watches, and outdated jewelry. Also, entangled or broken bracelets, pins, brooches, rings, wedding/engagement rings, jewelry, or any broken or bent precious metal items.

Importance of License:

If you want to sell the scrap gold that you own to a jeweler or a refiner, all you have to do is show your ID. Although,  if you are planning to get into the buying and selling gold business in the USA, you will need a license. Without a license, you may be violating the law. If you do not want to get a license at present, you can take up a part-time or full-time job as a buyer or broker with a business that already has a license, as suggested earlier.

Tools of the Trade:

There are a few essential tools that you need to have to check the purity of gold and to determine the weight. The tools will not cost you much, all the instruments together cost around $30 or so.

  1. Cash: Because you are buying scrap gold, you need to have enough cash to pay your clients. If you are just starting, consider having at least $500 in your pocket to buy a few pieces of jewelry.
  2. Gold Testing Kit: This is available at a reasonable price. The kit must contain different acids that test for 10k, 14k, 18k, and 22k gold.
  3. Scale: Although a kitchen scale is good enough if you are planning to sell your jewelry if you want to get into the business, you will want to invest in a professional jewelry scale.
  4. Magnet: The first test you will do is a magnet test. Gold never sticks to a magnet. Usually, gold-plated items can have other metals inside which will be evidenced by this test. However, brass will also not stick to the magnet and can look similar to gold, and sometimes even have stamps like 10k or 14k,  so you have to be careful.
  5. File: You will need a file to scrape the outer coating of the item to check if it is genuine gold or plated before buying scrap gold.
  6. Magnifier Loupe: A loupe can help check many things, like the Hallmark and the karat engravings in tiny markings on the back of any old jewelry. A loupe can also help you check for scratches on the metal to inspect if it is still gold under the scratched part. Look for green spots, which show that it is a gold-plated item that has reacted to moisture. 


Advertising is the best way to let people know that you are willing to purchase their scrap gold. You can do a simple advertisement by telling your co-workers, calling up relatives and friends, informing neighbors, and putting it on your social media page. Many people are uncertain about where to sell scrap gold. You can also get visiting cards printed that you can distribute at gatherings you attend or make pamphlets that you can distribute. If you are working with a pawnbroker, they will probably give you some marketing ideas themselves. You can also go ahead and use newspaper, radio, and television to advertise.  Making a website will allow you to do online marketing in the later stages when you have picked up enough clients.

Organizing Gold Valuation Party

When you have done enough advertising and people know about your business, you can start holding gold valuation parties. People can bring their scrap gold to have it evaluated. If they are willing to exchange it for cash instantly, you can purchase their scrap gold. If not, give them your card and ask them to keep you in mind for selling scrap gold.  Many people are not comfortable selling their gold to a pawn shop. Organizing a great party with light refreshments and creating a relaxed and friendly ambiance, may help people feel more at ease selling their gold items to you. If someone else is organizing the party for you, you can consider offering 10% of your profits to the host.

Save a Contact List

Make a list of all your contacts and of all the people with whom you have done business, and make yourself an excellent database of your contacts, which can come in handy in the future.

How Much Profit Can You Hope to Make

Usually, small pawn shops pay about 30-35% of the value of gold, whereas a reputed dealer will pay you anywhere from 40% to 60% of the price. The dealers, after they purchase from you, will have to have the items smelted, refined, assayed, and then poured into ingots before they can proceed with selling the gold. If you go directly to refiners it can be more profitable, but there might not be many well-known refineries near you. Hence, reputed dealers are the better option as you can also mail your scrap gold to them.
Once you get the hang of it, buying and selling scrap gold might help you carve yourself a successful career path in the precious metal industry. If you have some scrap gold that you want to sell, ship your scrap gold to us! You can also drop your queries via email at [email protected] or call us at (212)-354-5557 to learn more.