Getting an heirloom or a gift in the form of jewelry may make you feel rich, especially when it looks like gold. But it can be a challenge to know whether your jewelry is real if you do not know what to look for.
Magnetism is among the most common tests for determining gold jewelry, so that brings up the question – can it stick to magnets? If it does, what does that mean?
Gold on its own is a non-magnetic metal, so your jewelry will only stick to a magnet if it has other metallic compositions aside from gold.
However, solid gold jewelry will still have some alloys from other metals in its composition, so it can still respond to magnetic pulls. The only way to ensure it is real gold is to perform additional tests on the jewelry.
To know what makes gold unique from other metals in terms of magnetism, it helps to understand the science behind it. There are other methods you can use to determine the ‘gold levels’ of your jewelry as well, but I will discuss them later in this article.
Does gold-plated jewelry stick to a magnet?
You may wonder if different karats of gold will stick to magnets – the answer is that it depends.
Magnetic tests are not always foolproof either, as you may notice that the jewelry is non-magnetic but is still not pure gold.
There are several metals that are non-magnetic as well and maybe part of the composition, such as aluminum, lead, or copper.
Does gold stick to a magnet?
As I mentioned before, pure gold will not stick to a magnet, but gold alloys can do so. For instance, if your metal is made from a combination of 80% gold and 20% iron or nickel, it will stick to a magnet.
Additionally, it will tend to show magnetism signs on its own if it is placed in very cold climates, even if you do not use a magnet to test it.
Because pure gold is quite malleable and soft, chances are higher that the gold jewelry you have is not comprised of pure gold, but is gold mixed with other metals or is other metals that are gold plated.
These are meant to strengthen it, as well as make it less vulnerable to scratches and bends. Jewelers will also tend to add other metals like nickel, copper, and platinum to give it different colors.
The science behind it
In its pure form, gold is malleable, dense, and soft, and each gold atom has 118 neutrons, 79 electrons, and 79 protons. Due to the high number of electrons, it is excellent in electric conduction and used in high-energy electrical wiring. However, it is also one of the least reactive metals, and does not tarnish.
To understand why gold is non-magnetic, you must know the properties of magnetic materials – and it all comes down to the electrons.
Every metal in existence will have a certain number of electrons based on the atomic number and weight, with the electrons closest to the atom’s nucleus having the lowest energy and the outermost electrons having the highest energy.
When a metallic atom has unpaired electrons in its outer shell, these will contribute to its magnetism – therefore, the more they are, the more magnetic the metal is.
Different metals will therefore have varying numbers of unpaired electrons; while iron has four unpaired ones that make it highly magnetic, gold only has one. Additionally, you can form three categories of materials based on their magnetism:
- Ferromagnetism– it is a basic mechanism where some materials form permanent magnets or are attracted to magnets, with iron being a good example of this.
- Diamagnetism– this is when some materials or metals will repel when you apply an external magnetic field
- Paramagnetic– these materials tend to be weakly attracted when you apply external magnetic fields, as they create induced magnetic fields in the direction of the external magnet.
Gold tends to have both paramagnetic and diamagnetic properties, so the effects cancel each other out and cause the gold to remain inert when you apply a magnet.
Other methods you can use to test gold plated jewelry
If you want to test whether the jewelry you have is actual gold or gold plated, magnetic testing is not the only way to do that. Some other methods you can use are:
The initial stamps
All gold plated jewelry will include initials that show its metallic composition, with some of the most common markings being:
- RGP – Rolled Gold Plate
- GP – Gold plated
- HGP/HGE – heavy gold electroplating
- GEP – gold electroplated
If the jewelry pieces do not have these marks, they may be pure gold, or they may not; some manufacturers will not stamp their jewelry anyway so it is important to avoid jumping into conclusions.
The more yellow a piece of jewelry is, the higher amounts of gold it contains – therefore, a jewelry piece with 24K gold plating will have a more intense yellow hue. Since manufacturers tend to mix solid gold with other metals when making jewelry, it will not look as yellow as you may assume.
Doing an acid test can reveal two things: whether the jewelry is gold plated or solid gold, and the Karat of the metal. To do it, you will remove a small sample of the jewelry and expose it to acid, which should lead to color changes. Any resulting colors will tell you the jewelry metallic composition.
Compared to the other testing methods, this style is riskier because you will need to cut the jewelry piece – and cutting it deep enough to expose the metal underneath. If you see a uniform composition, you can assume it is comprised of solid gold; if you see another metal, then you can assume it is gold plated.
Gold is a non-magnetic metal in its pure form, but it is common to find it mixed with other metals to give it added durability and strength.
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.