Your birthday has finally arrived and among all of the gifts you’ve received is a stunning 18k gold ring. However, on closer inspection, you fear that it may be a fake. While you believe it’s the thought that counts, you can’t pass up finding out the truth. Fortunately for you, there are several ways to test the authenticity of that little golden trinket.
It’s important to note that some gold items considered “fake” may still contain traces of the real yellow metal and hold value to some individuals. They’re usually mixed with either copper, brass, or silver, rather than containing 100% gold.
These rings may answer to the following names:
- Gold-plated (covered in a thin layer of gold through the process of electroplating)
- Gold-filled (gold sheets bonded to a core metal)
- Gold vermeil (gold plating over silver).
The above options are popular for different reasons, including affordability, lifespan, and quality. However, if you’re handed a ring and told it’s 18k gold, it would be disappointing to watch it wear out faster than anticipated or turn your finger green. (1)
Read on to discover the different methods of inspection:
Buy from a trusted source
One of the most popular measuring sticks to use initially is the brand itself. If your ring comes from a reputable fine jewelry brand—such as Loomelle it’s most likely genuine. The same rule applies when buying other physical precious metals such as gold coins. If you’re buying from an online seller, do your research first and check how much is a gold quarter worth these days. If they’re selling it way below market price, that’s a red flag already. Choose to buy only from a trusted seller or collector.
Another strategy you can implement is to turn this into your own “Nancy Drew” mystery. Grab a magnifying glass and keep an eager eye out for the following clues:
Pure gold is known as “chemically inert,” meaning that it doesn’t discolor or tarnish as a result of external, environmental factors. Therefore, upon first glance, if you notice any spots of discoloration, lack of luster, or a red tinge, this may indicate that it’s not pure, or has been mixed with other metals. (2) (3)
Pure gold also doesn’t react with the oils in your skin, therefore, if your own finger starts changing color, this may be a warning sign. This method is referred to as the “skin test.” It’s important to note, however, that some authentic pieces of jewelry may still be blended with a small number of other metals/chemicals, therefore, it’s key to understand how much gold is actually in your piece before losing hope and throwing it into Mount Doom. (3) (4)
18k gold rings, for example, are 75% gold and 25% alloy. Despite not being 100% gold, they’re still considered one of the “purest” forms used for jewelry. (5)
Hallmarks (stamp test)
If you notice any official symbols on the inside of the band, you should be able to decipher the percentage of real gold contained.
Number markings either from 1 to 999 or 0K to 24K (depending on the grading system) will indicate the amount of pure gold used, whereas letters such as GP (gold-plated), GF (gold-filled), and GEP (gold electroplate) will reveal if they predominantly consist of another element. (3) (4)
Your ring, in particular, should read “18k,” “18kt,” or “AU750,” on the inside.
Physical testing methods
If visual inspection isn’t enough to uncover the truth, the following tests can also be conducted:
- Magnetism test—If your ring is attracted to a magnet, then it’s most likely not a real 18k piece.
- Float test—Gold is a heavy metal and therefore your 18k ring should drop straight to the bottom of a glass of water.
- Acid/scratch test (nitric or vinegar)—Real gold items won’t generally react badly to acids. Therefore, if the color of your metal alters or is damaged after adding acid to a small surface scratch, it may be fake.
- Makeup test—Similar to the skin test, by coating your hand in liquid foundation and then rubbing the ring across its dried surface you may be able to reveal its authenticity. If a line or streak is not visible, then it’s most likely been blended with other metals. (3)
- Machine testing —There are a few different machines available for testing gold, like the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier, but the Kee Gold Tester and XRF Thermo tester are recommended for pieces of jewelry. Using a machine to decipher the validity of your ring may, however, prove to be quite pricey. (4) (6)
Receiving or buying yourself a beautiful 18k gold ring can make your week. However, understanding the methods of authenticity validation is key if you’re looking for complete peace of mind that you’ve gotten your money’s worth. Try one of the methods listed above, or, if all else fails, remember that many jewelers will offer free appraisals to ease your mind.
References: “Can Real Gold Turn Your Skin Green? (Detailed Answer 2021),” Source: https://www.afashionblog.com/can-real-gold-turn-your-skin-green/ (1) “How Gold is made and how it got to our planet,” Source: https://www.zmescience.com/science/how-gold-is-made-science-064654/ (2) “How to Tell if Gold is Real,” Source: https://bullionexchanges.com/learn/test-gold-real (3) “How to Tell if Gold Is Real,” Source: https://www.wikihow.com/Tell-if-Gold-Is-Real (4) “How to Choose the Right Gold: 10K, 14K, 18K, and 24K Compared,” Source: https://www.diamonds.pro/education/10k-14k-18k-24k-gold-compared/ (5) “Jewellery & Gold Testing,” Source: https://www.worldoftest.com/jewellery-gold-testing