While there are many other tests that you could run to determine if the gold you are looking at is made of real gold or not, the magnetic test appears to be one of the preferable tests that are used by most people and professionals.
This is because the test is reliable, easy to do, and it’s also one of the more affordable tests for gold.
In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about the magnetic test for gold and why it works in the scientific sense. So, let’s get right into it.
Can you tell if gold is real with a magnet?
Yes, you can tell if the gold in question is made of real solid gold or if it is a fake by looking at how it behaves around a magnet. If you suspect that the piece of gold jewelry may not be real, you need a magnet that you will hold to the gold.
Since real gold is not magnetic, it will not stick to the magnet or show any repulsion or attraction towards the magnet.
But if it is made of fake gold, then the piece will stick to the magnet, which is essentially how you can tell if the gold piece of jewelry is made of real gold or not. In other words, real gold earrings or necklaces shouldn’t leap onto the magnet.
The science behind this method
The reason why this is one of the effective tests for determining the authenticity of real gold is that by itself, real gold is not magnetic, which means that it isn’t attracted to any magnetic fields regardless of where it is and how you expose it.
However, in the presence of a very strong or massive magnetic field, then your piece of real gold might be very slightly magnetic, especially if yours is a gold alloy and not a 24k gold piece.
But just to reiterate, and for practical purposes, given the fact we hardly have spaces where we can expose the gold piece to the massive magnets, real gold is non-magnetic, and you shouldn’t see any attraction to the magnet if the piece is made of real gold. This is why this is a reliable test method for real gold.
So, what would it mean if your pair of ‘pure gold earrings’ are attracted to the magnet? Well, if this happens, the first thing you need to know is that if the pieces of pure gold are showing some magnetic properties, then they are likely alloyed with iron or maybe even have some nickel present.
In other words, if the jewelry is made of pure gold or real gold, it isn’t attracted to the magnet because the piece of jewelry has no iron present in them.
One caveat, though, despite the attraction or the absence of attraction to the magnet, the pieces of jewelry may still be made of other materials other than gold – remember that metals made of coated lead, aluminum, or copper, are all non-magnetic and show no attraction to the magnets, and scammers have, in the past, coated jewelry with such metals to throw you off your real gold scent.
Therefore, you need to be very careful about the kind of jewelry you buy and who you buy it from.
The other thing you should know about most of the real gold jewelry like the 18k yellow gold pieces is that they are not made of pure gold, but the pure gold is often alloyed with pure silver, which is also non-magnetic, just like gold. 18k gold would, therefore, behave in the same way as 24k pure gold in terms of its magnetism.
Recent studies of gold have revealed, however, that gold could actually be magnetized, but only if heat is applied. And this study has since revealed that there is an electron spin that is the origin of magnetism, and it’s what plays a big role in the functionality of metals and materials at the non-constant temperature.
And when gold is heated, there is the interaction of the heat flow and magnetization properties, hence the change from non-magnetic to magnetic, but only if the gold is exposed to heat.
So, your gold necklace shouldn’t react or show any magnetic signs if it’s made of real gold… unless it was heated up for some time.
How to tell if gold is real with a magnet
For this test, you need a strong magnet, the piece of gold in question, and some metallic objects like nails or paper clips. Then follow these steps:
- Gather the materials above and place them on a clean, flat workspace
- Test the magnet with any other magnetic objects
- Now place the piece of gold jewelry on the surface right in front of you, then take the magnet in hand and move it slowly towards the gold.
- Carefully take note of any kind of reaction between the gold piece and the magnet.
- Try the same test with the other metallic pieces you’d gathered.
Depending on the properties of these other metallic pieces, they will move towards or away from the magnet, or in the case of the gold piece, show no reaction at all.
Note that you can push the test further by moving the magnet very close to the gold’s surface so that it almost touches the piece of gold, then take note of how the gold piece reacts or if there is any reaction.
If the piece of gold is made of pure gold or perhaps 18k yellow gold alloy, it will not react to the magnet at all, but you may notice a slight attraction if there is iron or nickel in the gold. A very strong attraction to the magnet by the gold piece, however, points to a fake piece of gold.
Gold is non-magnetic, and it shouldn’t leap onto the magnet.
If the gold piece in question leaps on the magnet, it is not made of real gold.
The presence of iron, nickel, or cobalt in some of the fake gold pieces gives the ‘gold’ the magnetism, and you shouldn’t trust such pieces.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.