If you're shopping for vintage pieces, you might be wondering how to test for real gold at home. Testing your jewelry at home can save you a little money and doesn't take too much effort either.
There are a few things you can do to figure out if your piece is real gold or not. While none of these tests are 100% accurate, they should give you a good idea of the authenticity, so you can give them a try without worrying too much.
4 Ways to Test for Real Gold at Home
Before you get going: while these methods shouldn't damage your item, please go carefully. There are a few other tests you may see recommended online, but these are the safest and least likely to damage the jewelry, or anything else for that matter.
1. The Magnifying Glass Test
The first option is the easiest: take a magnifying glass, go to a well-lit room, and look at your piece closely for any markings.
On rings, these markings will be on the inside of the band. So, if you're testing a wedding ring or engagement ring, these markings should be very easy to spot.
Bracelets and necklaces vary; you may be able to find small markings on the back of a pendant, but bracelets are a bit trickier. Check the clasps, the inside of bangles, or, failing that, each individual link in a chain.
These markings will be tiny and can be hard to spot on bracelets, but you might find them hidden in there somewhere.
Once you find it, you might be wondering what on Earth it all means, and you can use our guide on How to Read Gold Identification Marks on Jewelry to crack the code.
2. The Magnet Test
The magnet test is a good one. Grab a strong magnet if you have one lying around, and see if your gold ring sticks to it; if it does, it means it has a low percentage of gold.
Most gold jewelry, even solid gold, is mixed with other metals to make it more durable. The higher the gold content, the less magnetic it will be. Real gold shouldn't be bothered by the presence of something magnetic at all.
If your ring doesn't shift at all in the presence of a strong magnet, it's probably going to be solid gold rather than filled gold or plated gold, which is a very good sign.
3. The Water Test
This is another easy one that shouldn't cause any damage to your jewelry. Just drop your piece into a glass of water; if it sinks, it could be solid gold because real gold has a greater density than other types of gold.
However, this isn't 100% foolproof. Some fake items have heavy metals mixed in, which also sink. This is a good test to do alongside another one - for example, if you do this test and the item sinks and doesn't stick to a magnet, it's likely to be real gold.
4. The Skin Test
The skin test is another easy one - all you have to do is wear the piece. Fake gold jewelry may leave greenish stains on your skin because of a chemical reaction.
If you've ever worn a free ring from a magazine or something as a kid, you'll know what we're talking about. Fake jewelry leaves green marks that are super hard to scrub away and can even cause irritation if you have sensitive skin.
Real gold doesn't do that, so hold it in your hand for a little while. If there are no marks, that's a really good sign that it's the real deal, or that the outer layer is real gold at least.
Tests to Avoid
You may see some other tests online, but we'd recommend avoiding them.
For example, the acid test is a popular one; this involves dropping a small amount of acid onto your item to see if it reacts. If it does react, that means it's fake.
We'd say you should steer clear of this because, yes, while it is a quick way of determining if an item is real gold, it could ruin the piece. And if that piece has sentimental value to you, you may not be able to wear it again.
We'd only suggest doing the acid test if you really don't care if the piece is damaged or not. If you do care, use another method instead or take it to a jeweler to be assessed. You can buy these acid testing kits online if you really want to go for it, but just go carefully.
To do this, you need a piece of porcelain (unglazed) or a ceramic plate.
You then have to rub your ring or other piece across the surface of the porcelain or ceramic plate. The color produced will tell you if your piece is real or not: real gold will create a golden, yellowish color, but a black mark indicates fake gold.
We'd obviously recommend avoiding this because you could scratch your jewelry badly by doing this - whether it's real gold or not, rubbing it against a hard surface enough to create a mark is a pretty big risk.
The Bite Test
You may have heard that you can just bite a piece of gold to see if it's real or not. It's the kind of thing you see in movies, but honestly, we don't recommend it. For one thing, you might leave a bite mark on your jewelry, which isn't pretty.
More importantly, you could damage your teeth. All those dollars fixing it could go toward something much more fun than sitting around in a dentist's chair!
Other Ways to Spot Real Gold
Generally, real gold will:
- Feel heavier - real gold is heavy compared to fake gold or other metals. If you can, you can compare one item to another. For example, you can test your real gold wedding ring with a new ring and see if one feels distinctively heavier than the other.
- Won't oxidize - you shouldn't see rust on a real gold piece because it doesn't react with water in the same way as other metals. If it's rusty, it's not solid gold!
- Be a little more expensive - if you're buying from a trusted retailer, real gold will be more expensive than gold-filled or plated gold so it'll be more expensive in the first place.
Hopefully, this will help you to figure out how to test for real gold at home. It takes a little effort, but you can get a pretty good idea just by taking five minutes out of your day to grab a glass of water (and maybe a magnet).
As always, we'd recommend buying vintage gold from a trusted source so you can trust that the evaluation of each piece is accurate. That way, you can leave the work to the experts and relax instead.