How to tell if gold is real

 How to Test if Gold is Real? Gold testing.


Jewelry professionals and experienced investors know how to test if gold is real. This is because gold has its unique physical and chemical properties. Hence, when it comes to gold bullion or jewelry - knowledge is the real power! In this article, we'll explore how to test gold at home. There are over seven tests you can choose from when testing gold at home. These include the magnifying glass test, hallmark test, skin test, float test, magnet test, and acid test. You can also learn how to tell if gold is real with makeup, and how to test gold at home with makeup.

The Legacy of Gold

Gold is the symbol of success and high status. It has an extensive history of praise. Egyptians were mining this precious metal as early as 2600 BC. People use gold for manufacturing jewelry, coins and other forms of monetary exchange.

Gold can be hard to find, and usually, less than 50 grams of gold can be extracted from a ton of gold. Hence, it is an exclusive and luxurious precious metal.

Today, counterfeit gold is everywhere.

Gold might have a stamp with a particular purity mark, but it isn't always a certification of its actual gold content. Some gold products of low quality have a higher fineness marking. Additionally, there are gold-plated fakes.

On the other hand, you can have an unmarked piece of gold. You would then need to authenticate it. These factors are why it’s crucial for you to know how to tell if gold is real.  It will help you protect your investments, accurately appraise your belongings, or make sure you get the exact gold you are paying for.

This guide was created to provide you with all the necessary information about carrying out different tests before or after purchasing your gold item. You might be asking how to test gold at home or with a professional.  Or, you may be asking how to tell if gold is real with makeup, or how to test gold at home with makeup. You might want to know different at home test options available. We have it all here.

You will learn how to avoid buying counterfeit gold products just by following certain simple steps. But before proceeding to specific gold testing stages, let’s recall its key features.

Gold Properties

First, let’s remember the chemical properties of gold. The chemical symbol for Gold is Au. Gold is a long lasting metal because it is:

  • Resistant to oxidation - it doesn’t tarnish or rust.
  • Non-magnetic – still wondering “Is gold magnetic or not?” – Now you know it isn't.
  • High thermal and electrical conductive – also corrosion resistant. Thus it makes gold indispensable in electronics.
  • Gets dissolved only by nitro-hydrochloric acid – a mix of 75% nitric acid and 25% hydrochloric acid which has a yellow-orange color.
  • Malleable – presses into very thin sheets, 10x thinner as a paper sheet. The sheets are then used for infrared reflectivity (by evaporating the sheets onto glass), as fillings for teeth, etc.
  • Ductile – can be drawn into thin wires that deposit onto circuits, like transistors, useful as a brazing alloy, industrial solder, orthodontic appliances, jet engine fabrication, etc.
  • Sectile – it’s a relatively soft metal. To combat its weakness, it must alloy with other metals like silver, nickel, copper or platinum.

Since gold is sectile, its alloys usually measure according to the Karat system. One Karat is the unit which is equal to the 1/24 part of genuine gold in the alloy.

Thus, when you see 24K, it means that it’s pure gold. Yet, an 18K gold item indicates that it’s only 18 parts pure gold and six parts other metal.

You can also figure out Gold on the millesimal fineness system. The purity of gold is indicated by parts per thousand of real gold by mass in the alloy.  Examine the below gold purity chart that displays the differences between these two scales and the actual percentage of gold content. You should remember that items having a karat value less than 10K don't count as commercial gold products according to the US standards.


% of Gold Content

Karat System

Millesimal Fineness System

Gold or not gold

(US standards)




Not gold




Not gold




Gold alloy



583 (585)

Gold alloy




Gold alloy




Gold alloy




Gold alloy




Gold alloy




Gold alloy




Gold alloy




Pure Gold


Gold Purity Chart - Karat and Millesimal Fineness Systems


Now that you know gold’s properties, the following tests will help you determine if your gold is real, and its true purity. Below are the most common ways how to test gold. These include simple methods of how to test gold at home to gold testing machines for getting the most accurate results.


The Magnifying Glass Test is the first home test for gold you can take if you want to determine the authenticity of your gold product. This test is straightforward since it requires only your gold bullion or jewelry and a magnifying glass.

The Magnifying Glass Test

Test gold at home - Magnifying Glass Test

This test implies that you should carefully inspect your gold item with the magnifying glass to find a few essential visual clues about it:

  • Any signs of discoloration – as mentioned in this article about how to take care of precious metals - gold is chemically inert. This means that gold doesn’t react to any environmental factors. So if you spot some discoloration marks on your item, it indicates fake gold or gold-plated. This is especially true if you detect other metal under the discolored areas.
  • Color and shininess – genuine gold has a beautiful soft yellow color and is not very shiny. If your gold piece is too shiny, too yellow or has another color tone(reddish), then it’s not pure gold.
  • The purity hallmark – the most important clue about your item’s value. The purity hallmark can be either in millesimal fineness or Karat system as mentioned above. For example, if you own the purest gold, you should see hallmark “999” or “24K” engravings somewhere on the item. However, keep in mind that this engraving could also be fake. Therefore, you should conduct further tests to authenticate your item. The purity hallmark is a good clue if showing a value less than 10K. It instantly certifies that your item is not genuine gold according to US standards.

If your gold piece didn’t pass the Magnifying Glass Test, you will be sure you don’t have a pure gold item. If you want to find out its fineness, you can proceed to further testing.

For the next testing method, you may need a magnifying glass, too. Since your item, especially if it’s a jewelry piece, could also contain several other gold hallmarks besides the purity marking, you should examine them to test its authenticity.

Hallmark Test (also known as the Stamp Test or Jewelry Markings Test)

Jewelry Markings

How to examine gold jewelry at first glance? Start with the Hallmark Test. The terms gold hallmarks or gold markings refer to a set of compulsory marks which are engravings on the gold item. Jewelry producers usually mark their pieces with stamps which are called Gold Jewelry Markings Symbols.

On necklaces and bracelets, these jewelry hallmarks can be found on, or near, the clasp. However, on rings they are somewhere on the inside surface. These markings must include the purity of the piece (in Karats or millesimal fineness). Also, the gold markings on jewelry should include the manufacturer’s stamp. This will help you authenticate the producer of your gold item.

Some countries have certain hallmark standards. India is an example. Five hallmarks help purchasers identify Indian gold. These include Gold Assay Marks. (BIS Standard Mark, Assayer or Hallmarking Centre’s mar), which are third-party assayers). Additionally, you can identiy by the Purity Grade expressed in millesimal fineness and year of marking. The year of marking is an alphabet letter approved by BIS and the jeweler’s mark.

British gold also carries several marks which are similar to Indian gold. You can find more details about the anatomy of British Gold Jewelry Hallmarks in this article.

Avoid stamps that say:

“HGP” – Heavy (Hard) Gold Plate

“GF” – Gold Filled

"GP" - Gold Plated

"H.G.E." - Hydrostatic gold electroplating

"G.E.P." - Gold electroplating

".925" - Sterling Silver

"1/20" - 1/20 gold which is just gold-filled

They all mean that the item is gold plated. Also, beware of 800, 925 and 950 marks because these are all silver hallmarks. This means the item is undoubtedly fake.

In the case of modern bullion products like coins, rounds, and bars, look for engravings of gold purity, weight, and mintmarks. Additionally, check their authenticity.

The Hallmark Test isn't 100% accurate because it doesn’t give any reliable evidence that you have real gold coins, bars or jewelry. However, it may help you a little bit by giving you initial clues when the gold is not genuine. Therefore, you won’t need to do any further assessments.

The next additional tests will help you clarify if you still have doubts about your gold piece.

The Skin Test

Test gold at home - Skin Test

One of the easiest methods of testing gold purity is the Skin Discoloration Test. Real gold won’t leave any stains or spots on your skin. However, if you are wearing fake gold jewelry or handle fake gold bullion - your skin will discolor.

Just hold your gold item in your hand for a couple of minutes. If it’s fake gold, the sweat on your skin will create a chemical reaction with the metal. Your skin will discolor to a black or green color. This is because it will react with the other alloy metals. If it’s genuine gold – it won’t react with your skin.

Important: If you test your gold item on a skin area with previously applied liquid foundation or powder, the real gold will leave a black streak on your skin. This may compromise your testing. For this reason, we recommend you ensure that your skin is clean and without makeup.

Thus, if your clean skin experiences black or green discoloration – then it’s fake gold. Otherwise, you can perform the next tests to ensure you have pure gold.



If you'd like to take the skin test one step further, you can also learn how to test gold at home with makeup. Let's explore how to tell if gold is real with makeup. You'll need liquid foundation makeup and powder.

First, coat the top of your hand, or your forehead with a thin layer of foundation and powder. Wait until the foundation thoroughly dries. Once the foundation dries, press the gold into your skin. Then, lightly rub the gold against the foundation. If your gold leaves a line or black streak, it is very likely to be authentic gold. If you do not see a line or black streak, the object is likely to be another metal or gold-plated.

The Float Test

Test gold at home - Float Test

One of the simplest ways to test gold at home is the Float Test. All you need is a cup (or bowl) of water and your gold item. Place your gold piece into the water.

If it’s genuine gold, then it will immediately sink to the bottom of the cup. Pure gold is heavy due to its high density – 19.32 g/ ml. If your gold item floats or hovers above the cup’s bottom – it’s fake or plated gold. Its density is lower: 14K – 12.9 to 14.6 g/ml, 18K – 15.2 to 15.9 g/ml, and 22K – 17.7 to 17.8 g/ml.

However, the Float Test is not a 100% accurate test because the fake item can have other heavy metals which sink as well. This is why it must be a preliminary method only.

If your piece sank and you’re still in doubt, do the following tests.

(Also, keep in mind that real gold doesn’t rust or discolor if you place in water. Any signs indicating this reaction is a confirmation of a fake gold or gold plated item.)

Porcelain Tile Test (or the Scratch Test)

Gold Scratch Test

Another easy to carry out, yet good preliminary gold purity check is the Porcelain Tile Test. This is also known as the Gold Scratch Test. To perform it, you need a piece of unglazed porcelain tile or ceramic plate. You can buy these at any hardware or home maintenance shop.

For testing gold jewelry or bullion, you have to rub (or scratch) it across the porcelain tile/ceramic plate. Then you analyze the color of the produced streak. If the gold is real, then it should show a golden, yellow color. If you see a black streak instead, then you have pyrite or fake gold.

However, keep in mind that by scratching gold, you can cause irreplaceable damage to it. This will alter its value. Thus, you may think of using other harmless testing methods to authenticate pure gold.

The Magnet Test

Is Gold magnetic?

The Gold Magnet Test is one of the most convenient home gold tests. It’s also very quick and easy to use. A magnet is a cheap and portable solution. You can carry this test out anytime you need to check gold authenticity when buying gold bullion or jewelry.

Since genuine gold is not magnetic, it won’t attract any magnets.

To perform this test, you need a high-strength magnet, which you can buy at any local hardware store. Place the magnet near the gold item. Fake gold or gold alloys will be instantly attracted to the magnet. This reveals the true nature of the underlying metal.  It is not made of gold or has a meager percentage of it.

Gold is a non-ferrous metal, which means it won't attract the magnet. So, even if the item is slightly magnetic (but doesn’t stick to the magnet) – it’s gold-plated. This is common for some counterfeit coins that appear like gold. Yet these coins are only gold on the surface.

So, if your magnet was attracting your gold piece, you can certainly skip the next tests. You know for sure whether your gold is pure or not. If your gold item doesn’t get attracted at all – it’s likely pure gold.

However, remember that the Magnet Test for Gold is not a foolproof test to find out if the item is made of genuine gold. This is because some counterfeit pieces have other metals which are also not magnetic (like silver). So make sure to perform additional testing to be sure you own a piece of real gold.

Also, note that jewelry items may have strength pieces that are not real gold. These include things like clasps and bracelet wire which can be magnetic. So it may look like the jewelry is attracted to the magnet. But it’s the metal inside that specific piece that is doing the attracting, not the gold. Be sure to test the chain and charms to be utterly sure of its purity.

The Acid Test

Gold Acid Test

The Gold Acid Test is the most popular and accurate home gold test. This is because it may harm or damage only fake materials. However, make sure to perform the acid test only if your item was identified as non-magnetic during the previous test. This helps to avoid any unnecessary expenses and actions. Additionally, take into consideration to carry out the acid test only on pieces of gold that you won’t mind scratching/damaging. Or, that you won’t sell for aesthetic value.

So if you are still wondering “Is my gold real?” and want to perform this gold purity test, you need to have the following tools and materials:

  • Gold Testing Acid Kit – which may include either hydrochloric and nitric acids along with a dropper, or particular samples for each type of gold Karat acids (10K acid, 18K acid, 22K acid, etc.).
  • Black Gold Testing Stone – you must thoroughly rub it with a 320 grit sandpaper, wash and rinse it before making each test.
  • Acid Test Gold Needles – they have different Karat gold tips to use for comparison with your test pieces.
  • Two glass beakers – one with water mixed with baking soda, for washing the stone and other with water to rinse the stone in it.
  • Rubber gloves, protective eyewear, a piece of glass and a plain white paper towel – as additional safety measures that you can find in a hardware store.

Once you have all of the above items, make sure to find a well-ventilated area to perform the testing gold with acid. Put on your gloves and eyeglasses. Then, prepare your testing space and proceed to test your gold piece. There are two known ways how to test gold by using the acid kit. However, before beginning them, you should differentiate the peculiarities of your specific acid test kit.

The gold testing acid kit, which includes nitric and hydrochloric acids, is good for determining if it’s real or fake gold. You should know that nitric acid (also called aqua fortis) will dissolve any metal that is not gold. Therefore, checking for a reaction with nitric acid will let you see if your gold is fake or is an alloy.

A mix of 3:1 of nitric and hydrochloric acids (also known as the aqua regia) is the only acid mixture that can dissolve gold, even the purest one. You can use this solution only if your gold successfully passed all the nitric acid tests.

If you have a gold karat acid test kit, then you should know that each bottle is a different mixture of nitric acid and other components. Therefore, a reaction with a specific Karat bottle shows that your gold piece has a lower fineness. Additionally, a slight response indicates that you’ve matched the Karat. Lastly, an absence of reaction is a sign of higher purity. Now you know the differences between the two gold acid test kits.

You can proceed to perform your test:

  1. Place the gold testing acid directly on your item

First of all, you should put the piece of glass on your table and cover it with the plain white paper towel to avoid any damage to your working surface. Place your gold item on a towel. Then, use a small sharp graver to make a small notch preferably in a hidden spot. Make sure to penetrate and expose the metal beneath the surface.

Then place a drop of nitric acid directly on the notch. Observe the chemical reaction. If you immediately notice a green effervescent, bubbly, and smoky fizz it’s fake gold. (contains copper). In some cases, it will burn off plating or discolor the object. At this point, no further testing is required. However, if the notch looks cream-milky, then you have gold-over-sterling-silver.

If the spot turned darker in color or looks like rusty gold, then you most likely have a low Karat gold. If you have a special gold karat acid test kit, you should repeat the acid test starting with the highest Karat acid. Then watch the results until the acid stays clear like water. No reaction, or a slight one, means that you’ve matched the right Karat of gold with the correct acid.

An important thing to keep in mind is that when testing different Karat acids, you need to wash the acid off the item in the water and baking soda mix beaker. Then, rinse it in the water beaker.

Genuine gold will stand the test by not reacting with the nitric acid. It will leave a clear drop of liquid over the unaffected notch, with no changes in color. If you want to double test for real gold, you can use the aqua regia mix. However, we do not recommend placing it directly on your item because it will damage your piece. Use a testing stone instead. You should make a small scratch with your gold piece and put a drop of aqua regia. If it’s dissolved – you have real gold.

2. Scratch test gold on the Black Gold Testing Stone.

Begin with placing the glass piece on your testing surface. Then take your gold item and scratch it on the Black Gold Testing Stone until it leaves a slight line. Make sure you scratch through any potential plating. Now take the Gold Testing Needles and mark your line with a symbol (“X” or “?”) by using any of the needles. Then, for each needle repeat the gold line parallel to yours and write the Karat symbol above the line.

Take the first acid to test gold (usually 10K) and apply its content across your gold samples. Or you can make small drops on each sample. After 30 seconds, wash the testing stone in the water/baking soda mixture. Rinse it in water and pat it with the plain white paper towel. If the acid dissolves your testing sample, then you have a lower Karat piece. Yet, if your sample has a slight reaction, you’ve matched the Karat. If it hasn’t changed under the acid’s action, then you have a higher Karat gold. In this case, you should repeat the test steps with the following Karat acids until the result matches your sample.

If you have a 23K or 24K piece, and the last acid bottle from the kit is the 22K, then you should either proceed to test using gold testing machines. Or, if you have pure nitric and hydrochloric acid, perform the aqua regia acid test for gold on your scratch sample. If it gets dissolved, it’s genuine gold.


The vinegar is a quick and easy test. You only need a dropper or glass container. You'll also need some white vinegar. To use the dropper follow these steps. First, secure your dropper and fill with white vinegar. Next, hold your gold in your hand or set on a flat surface. Third, place a few drops of vinegar onto your gold. Finally, if the vinegar drops change the gold color, it is not pure gold. If the color does not vary, it is pure gold.

If you're using a glass bowl or cup, fill it with white vinegar. Let the gold sit in the vinegar for about 15 minutes. Remove the gold piece and rinse it. If the gold is real, it will shine. If the gold is fake, it will change color. This reaction is to the acetic acid.


This test is ideal if you own bullion coins and want to check the size and weight of your gold. Gold bullion coins are a specific weight and size, made to specification. This will give you a starting point to ensure the authenticity of your gold coin. Since gold is very dense (one of the denst materials in the world)--it is very hard to replicate. Real gold will be less compact. Fake gold materials are different-counterfeiters will need more of the material to replicate the weight of gold. You should know what your gold coin is supposed to weigh, as well as it's diameter and thickness. Now weigh and measure your piece. This will help you to more easily spot real vs fake.


For this test, you'll need to purchase a black jeweler's stone. It is critical to ensure you buy the right stone for this test. You can purchase through a local jeweler. Additionally, you can buy one online at a jewelry supply store.

Note: Be extremely careful with this test. You risk damaging your gold if done improperly.

Position your black jeweler's stone on a flat surface, such as a table. Hold your gold in your hand. Carefully wipe it along the stone. Do this firmly enough to leave a mark, but without damaging your gold piece. If the mark is solid and gold in color, congrats! Your piece is pure gold. If there is a faint line or no line, your piece is not real gold. Or, it is gold-plated.


For the ceramic plate test, you'll need an unglazed ceramic plate. Set your plate on a flat surface such as a countertop or table. Hold your gold steadily in your hand. Carefully scrape item along the plate. Now watch to see if you spot a line, or streak, appear. A black line means it is not gold or it is gold-plated.


Here at Bullion Exchanges, we do not actually recommend this test. However, we thought it might be fun to include it in the roundup.

Many people have seen movies where a wild west cowboy, or city businessman, will bite into gold to see if it's real. The saying goes that if your teeth leave bite marks on the gold piece, it's real. However, this test isn't recommended for two reasons. The first is that even gold-plated pieces will show bite marks. The second is that biting into gold, or gold-plated pieces, can severely damage your teeth.

Gold Testing Machines - Electronic and XRF Thermo Gold Testers

Gold Testing Machine

The most accurate and harmless method in testing gold is using electronic or XRF thermo testing machines. Both professional appraisers and gold owners can use this certified method. It will tell you the exact composition of your gold piece. You should opt for this test if you want to authenticate your gold coin or bar. You cannot afford any potential inaccuracies or damages that will occur in case of traditional gold testing methods.

If you intend to test gold items on a frequent basis, then you may think of investing in an electronic gold testing machine. One machine is the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier. These electronic devices are battery-powered and easy to handle, yet it's important to ensure that there are in working condition. Otherwise, it may give false results.

Just follow the manufacturer's instructions provided along with the device and you can be sure that your testing will give you accurate results. You can find below two overviews of the most highly recommended gold testers – the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier and XRF Thermo Scientific Analyzer. They are also used for testing silver, platinum, and palladium.


The Precious Metal Verifier from Sigma Metalytics is a perfect choice for measuring gold in bulk, bullion bars, or coins, at home. The testing is performed by matching gold’s electrical characteristics on each Karat with the results of the gold piece.

The gold sample is assessed in less than a second, and it doesn’t affect the bar or coin in any way due. This is due to the absence of any physical damage or use of chemicals. The Precious Metal Verifier uses electromagnetic waves that allow you to measure the underlying metal beneath plating or other surface features. It penetrates deeply into the bar or coin. Therefore, it ignores the surface and assesses the main body of your gold piece.

Besides, you don’t have to remove your coins or bars from their protective holders because the Verifier can work through these plastic cases. The Sigma Metalytics electronic gold tester comes with different sized sensors for different sized gold samples. The main housing comes with the biggest sensor for large precious metal samples, such as 1 oz. bars and coins. For measuring smaller gold items, you should connect to the main unit, via the cable, one of three external wands:

  • NEW Bullion Wand - penetrates the surface of bullion to a depth of .08in (2 mm).
  • Small Wand - for small precious metal samples, such as 1 gram bars, CombiBars, and 1/10 oz coins, etc.
  • Large Wand - for coins and bars with weights between 1/4 and 1 oz.

After placing your gold piece on the right sensor, you must select the gold sample you expect it to be. (Pure gold, 22K gold, 90% gold or American Eagle Gold). Then, wait for the “Ready” message and press “RUN/CAL.” The Verifier will show the result of your item’s resistivity on its display.

If the black cursor is displayed between the brackets, your item matches the fineness of your gold sample. If an arrow shows up on the display, it indicates that your item is not consistent with gold. Small changes in alloy will also make a huge difference in the Verifier’s results.

The advantages of the electronic gold tester Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier:

  • Fast and easy – results within 1 second and easy to configure.
  • Universal solution– can detect fake gold bars and coins. Can also detect counterfeit silver, platinum and palladium bullion.
  • Highly accurate – reads underneath coating and plating, with a new 2mm depth measurement.
  • Convenient – reads under plastic packaging and doesn’t involve chemistry, messy gel, filling or scraping.
  • Portable and durable—long battery life and no maintenance required.

XRF Thermo Scientific

The most accurate gold testing machines use X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers. These can cost thousands of dollars. The devices send X-rays through the gold piece. It makes its atoms momentarily excited-- moving them into a higher energy state. When returning to their ground state, the atoms release radiation. Then, the XRF precious metal tester detects and reads. It figures out exactly what the piece is made of.

The best gold tester is the XRF Thermo Scientific™ analyzer. It will give you a fast, accurate, and nondestructive appraisal of your gold item or any precious metal piece. This gold tester comes with the unique AuDIT™ gold-plating detection technology (Au (Gold) Detection & Identification Technology). It alerts you if your item is plated or not. Also, it provides you with the exact karat weight and percentage of gold and other elements within your item.

Thus, you can easily identify advanced counterfeit gold or items with lower karat than expected.

The main advantages of using this gold tester are that you will get the precise concentration of gold and other metals. This is without having to manually change any settings or calibration. Besides, since there are no chemicals or physical damage involved, this method is the most accurate and inoffensive test to authenticate your gold items.


Yes, the most reliable and easiest way to determine if you have real or fake gold is by taking your piece to a certified precious metal consultant, like Bullion Exchanges.

Ideally, this is the best method to authenticate your gold item because you will get your piece examined and analyzed by qualified appraisers by using top-notch digital gold testers, like the ones described above.

At Bullion Exchanges, you will receive a free appraisal. You can either ship your goods or visit our store. We use both Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier and the XRF Thermo Scientific Gold Analyzer.

We appraise precious coins, rounds, and bars made of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. The store authentication is fully transparent, performed right in front of you, so you can be sure you get the most accurate result of your gold testing. Besides, our certified experts have vast experience and knowledge in identifying fake bullion items. Even ones that may have the same purity, but are still counterfeit items.

Final Thoughts

This article showcases the most popular methods how to tell if gold is real. From the easiest ways to test gold at home to using the most advanced digital gold tester machines. However, you will always benefit from a free and quick appraisal from a reliable provider, like Bullion Exchanges.

Without a doubt, this is the safest and most accurate testing gold method you can easily obtain on the market. Contact us and we will help you feel completely confident about the real value of your precious gold, silver, platinum or palladium investments.

For any questions contact us about the authenticity of your gold bullion, or how to test gold. You can call us at (800)852-6884 or message us online. Additionally, come on into our retail office at 32 West 47th Street, Booth 41, New York, NY 10036. We will be happy to assist you and appraise your gold products for free.