Due to gold’s high value, it is very expensive to acquire. Despite coming in different karats, whereby some are cheaper than others, some jewelers still can’t afford the cost of making authentic gold chains.
To make a profit, however, such jewelers may coat a cheaper metal with a thin layer of gold and pass it off as an authentic gold chain. You need to be knowledgeable about gold to tell the difference. To help, we’ve taken the liberty of listing down the quick and easy tests you can use to tell if your chain is real gold.
How to Tell If A Gold Chain Is Real or Fake.
Fake gold chains are never solid gold. They are cheap metals covered in a thin layer of gold. To the layman’s eye, and sometimes even a professional, the chain may appear to be authentic. Luckily, there are very many ways devised to tell real gold from fake gold. For an easier understanding, we have grouped the methods into two main groups, visual inspection, and test methods.
Method 1: Visual Inspection.
This type of method involves taking a closer look at different aspects of the gold chain to establish its authenticity. For this method to work, you need to be knowledgeable about the features of real gold. The following are what you should look at when doing a visual inspection:
- Check the Price.
The price of a gold item is the easiest way to tell if it is fake or real. Normally gold chains are costly to make due to gold’s high value. Therefore, you’ll find jewelers selling gold chains at high-end prices. So, if you come across an authentic-looking gold chain, being sold at a ridiculously cheap price like under $50, it’s most probably fake. It’s however, unlikely that jewelers passing off fake gold as real gold, will price it so cheaply.
- Gold Color.
Since the price is not enough, you can also check the color. While gold’s color is yellow, fake gold chains have an intensively bright yellow color resembling 24k gold. This is because thin layers of 24k gold are mostly used in plated or filled chains. 24k gold is too soft to make a solid gold chain. So, if you get a solid chain whose color resembles that of 24k gold, it should be an indication that the gold chain is fake.
Additionally, the plating of these chains is not even or smooth. A close look will reveal some white or different colored parts of the chain that weren’t plated. Also, because the plating is thin, it wears off easily. So, you’ll notice the gold chipping off in some areas. All these are clear signs that the gold chain is not authentic.
- Gold Hallmark/Stamp.
Every authentic gold jewelry comes with a stamp. For gold chains, the stamp is normally on the clasp. In the US, this stamp is supposed to indicate the karat of the gold used, as well as, other information like whether it’s plated, filled, or plump gold. The stamp will either indicate the karat that is 14k or 18k for example, or the amount of gold content out of 1000, that is 585 (14k) or 750 (18k). Next to the number, you may get a letter like GP (gold plated) or GF (gold filled), or KP (plump gold), among others.
European stamps, however, use decimals instead to denote the karat of the gold. For example, .583 is used to mean 14k gold. Aside from GP and GF, you may see letterings like GEP, HGP, RGP among others to state whether they are filled, plated, or solid.
A gold chain that lacks this stamp is fake since by law all gold jewelry should have a stamp on it. Some could have a stamp but with the wrong information.
- Gold Weight and Size.
Another easy way to tell if your gold chain is real or fake is by comparing the size and the weight. Gold is a dense heavy metal, so ideally, the thicker the gold chain is, the heavier it should feel. If you hold a thick solid gold chain that feels significantly lighter than it looks, the chances are that it’s gold-plated and not real solid cold.
Method 2: Testing Methods.
Some fake gold chains are well made that it may be difficult to tell even with a thorough visual inspection. So, you may have to test the gold to be completely sure. Today, there are a lot of tests available for that and they are all easy enough for you to do them alone. The following are the common tests used:
- Nitric Acid Test.
This is the most common test when it comes to gold jewelry. Most jewelers can perform the test for you in the shop, but you can also do it in the comfort of your home. All you need is to purchase the gold testing kit. (you can click here to buy on Amazon)The kit should contain different bottles of nitric acid for different types of gold and a touchstone. There is also a set of different gold colors ranging from white to yellow. These are for color comparison.
First, using a sharp tool, scratch a small part of the chain. Ensure it’s an inconspicuous location, like underneath the clasp. Keep scratching until your past the top layer of the gold. Once that’s done, while wearing gloves, pour a drop of nitric acid on the scratched area and observe the reaction. If that section turns green, then the gold is fake. If there is a milk-colored reaction it means the metal beneath is sterling silver. Also, if the acid turns to gold, then the metal beneath could be brass.
- Ceramic test.
Another reliable test when it comes to gold pieces is using an unglazed ceramic surface. It’s a very simple test that requires you to carefully drag the gold chain across the ceramic surface. This usually leaves a streak behind on the surface. If the color of the streak is gold, then it’s an authentic gold chain. If the color is black or a dark shade of color then that means the chain is fake.
Usually, the test will leave slight scratch marks on the chain if you do the test carefully. You can simply polish the chain to get rid of the marks.
- Magnetic Test.
To perform this test, you’ll need to use a rare earth magnet made of special alloys. The most recommended type is the neodymium magnet. To test the gold chain, hold the magnet close to it and observe to see whether it gets attracted. Gold is a non-magnetic metal, so it should not be attracted to magnets. If it does, it could be an indication that the gold chain is fake, or at least it isn’t made fully of gold.
Avoid pointing the magnet at the clasp of the chain. This is because high-end gold chains tend to use magnetic clasps. Also, keep in mind that the gold used in jewelry making is gold alloys created by mixing gold with other metal alloys. A slight attraction to the magnet could be a result of a magnetic metal used in making the alloy.
- Fire Test.
Using fire is another common test mostly used in pawn shops. It involves applying a flame to a section of the chain for a minute and observing the reaction. If the chain starts to darken then it means it is fake. This is because, when exposed to heat, gold brightens as it gets hotter. Also, if the chain is gold plated, then you’ll notice the thin layer melting away when exposed to heat.
- Density test.
This test method is good because it doesn’t risk any damage to your gold chain. It simply requires you to drop your gold chain in a jar filled with water. The jar should be big enough for the gold chain. Because gold is a dense metal, it should sink to the bottom. Fake gold, however, tends to be light, so you may notice the chain floating in that case.
It’s also possible to find out the true density of your gold chain. For that, you will need to do some calculations. You will need a sensitive weigh scale, a measuring vial big enough to hold your gold chain and water. You’ll also need a calculator for easier calculation and somewhere to note down the measurements.
To begin, weigh the gold chain in grams and note it done. Next fill the vial with enough water, living room for the gold chain to be submerged. Note the level of the water before completely submerging the chain in it. Note the new level of water with the chain. The subtraction of the two levels should give you the volume of the chain. When you divide the difference with the weight of the chain, you’ll get its density.
Some jewelers pay attention to detail when creating fake gold chains. For this reason, most of the testing methods aren’t too reliable when used alone. Therefore, ensure that you employ multiple tests to ensure your gold chain is authentic.