Gold is perhaps one of the most valuable and most sought-after metals in the world simply because it is a symbol of wealth, power, and luxury.
Because of its intrinsic value, it is very expensive and can be very difficult to acquire. For this reason, different technologies that have come up today are used to make inexpensive jewelry look like gold, even when it is fake.
While this may be a good idea for making costume jewelry, some vendors tend to disguise fake gold as real and sell it for unrealistic prices. In that regard, it is important to know whether a particular jewelry piece is an imitation or the real thing.
That said, the most reliable and accurate way of identifying whether your item is real gold, is to have it appraised by a certified jeweler.
However, before doing this, there are other quick, inexpensive, and easy ways that you can use to discover whether your gold item is real or fake. One of them involves using vinegar at home. Read on to find out more about this method.
Can you tell if gold is real with vinegar?
Yes. You can use vinegar to test whether gold is real and the vinegar test is considered one of the best methods for testing gold at home.
Just to give a little more insight on this, white vinegar is made from a homogenous solution of water and acetic acid.
For this reason, it serves as a versatile solution with antifungal, acidic, and antibacterial properties. Because of these properties and the fact that it is mildly corrosive, we are certain that it is the best test for real gold as it does not harm gold in any way.
Is the Vinegar test for gold accurate?
Yes. The Vinegar test for gold is just as accurate as other gold tests such as the float test or acid test that are mostly done at home. In fact, placing real gold items into white vinegar does not harm them and will clean the metal instead, making it brighter and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
We understand that most people often question the accuracy of this test because white vinegar is a common household item that is often used for making food and cleaning surfaces around the house.
As mentioned earlier, white vinegar is mildly acidic, with a pH of 2.4 and is versatile enough to accommodate various applications, including testing for real gold.
Despite its accuracy, reliability, and efficiency, there are some precautions that you need to take when handling white vinegar. When carrying out the vinegar test, wear a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and eye protection, and when white vinegar lands on your skin, wash it off with immediate effect.
Along with that, you should always remember that white vinegar easily changes the color of all metals that are not purely gold. So, if you are testing the gold in your 14K or 18K jewelry items, you should expect some kind of discoloration because most of these pieces are alloyed and not real gold.
The science behind the method
Generally, gold is a very stable metal and does not react with oxygen corroding at any point in time. Because of its stability levels, it does not change color when you expose it to vinegar.
However, gold items become dull over time. The acetic acid found in white vinegar therefore dissolves any chemical build up on the gold surface and leaves your jewelry item looking as shiny as possible.
When it comes to reacting with other metals, you should remember that vinegar is acidic in nature. Based on this reason alone, if you place any metallic item in vinegar, even for a short time, it slowly starts to dissolve the coating or gold plating on your jewelry items.
Some of the most vulnerable metals in this case are copper, aluminum, and iron. The gold plate over all these items slowly starts to dissolve and a black or green color is left behind. If you leave the jewelry items in the vinegar much longer, the metal continues to discolor and it could potentially dissolve.
What does fake gold look like in vinegar?
Remember we mentioned that real gold is a stable metal that does not react with oxygen. This means that it will not change color when it comes in contact with vinegar, neither will it disintegrate nor develop crystals during the test.
If your jewelry item has iron pyrite, which is also known as Fool’s gold, it retains the color of gold but it slowly starts to form crystals when submerged. Also, you will notice a rotting smell in the process.
If you are dealing with brass, the color may not change but you will notice its true color inside vinegar. Other metals, on the other hand, begin to disintegrate once they are submerged in the vinegar. If your item is gold plated, it changes color to green or black.
How to tell if gold is real vinegar?
To do this, you should follow the following steps;
Step One: Using a clean cloth, remove dirt or debris from your jewelry item
For the best results, your gold piece should be as clean as possible. Cleaning your jewelry piece also prevents dirt and debris from discoloring the vinegar instead and eliminates confusion during the process.
That said, you should either use a glass cleaning cloth, dry paper towel, or a clean cloth to clean up your gold piece. When doing this, you should always remember that real gold is very soft, so if you aren’t careful your jewelry item will end up with marks and indents.
Step Two: Fill a measuring cup or an eye dropper with vinegar
In this case, you are advised to strictly use white vinegar because it is the most acidic vinegar and it is clear, which makes it easy to identify a color change.
If you want to control the amount of vinegar that you are putting on your gold item, you can use the eyedropper. However, if you own a large jewelry piece, you should consider using a measuring cup to pour vinegar onto it.
Step Three: The Testing Process
Set your gold item on a plate or in a bowl then put a couple drops of vinegar over it. Alternatively, you can pour a significant amount of vinegar over the jewelry piece.
When doing this, you don’t have to soak the entire jewelry item into the vinegar. Once the vinegar is in contact with the gold piece, let it sit for about 15-20 minutes.
Step Four: Observe the Changes on the gold item
If you r gold item is real, there won’t be any changes on the jewelry piece. However, if the jewelry item starts to fizzle or smoke up immediately the vinegar touches it, then it is definitely fake gold. Besides that, if the gold item turns black or green after some time, then it is not real.
Step Five: Cleaning Up
If your jewelry piece is real gold, run it under cool water for about a minute until you have successfully washed out all the vinegar then use a dry cloth to clean it up.
If you found out that the jewelry item was fake, you should dispose it off to avoid irritation on your skin. Once done, pour our all the vinegar down your sink drain.
In this write-up, we have fully explained to you how you can use vinegar to test whether your jewelry items have real gold in them and we have also discussed the science behind it.
We hope that you find this article helpful and that you can now consider using vinegar to test your jewelry items before taking it to a certified jeweler for appraisal.
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.