How To Tell If Gold Is Real

Investing in Gold Basics

Published: April 28, 2022

Several gold nuggets on a scale.

Gold is a timeless investment. Its value has been recognized for centuries and it continues to be a popular choice for those looking to invest in a quality asset.  

As such, there are many reasons you might want to test the quality of your gold. Maybe you’re thinking about investing and want to ensure you’re getting a good quality asset. Or maybe you’ve just purchased a gold coin, and you want to make sure it’s genuine.  Whatever your reasons, there are several ways to test gold and determine if it’s real.

Look for Unique Markings 

Gold hallmarks or gold markings refer to a set of required marks that are etched on the gold item. These markings can take the form of: 

  • Letter marks. If you find that your gold piece has “GP” for gold plated, “GF” for gold-filled, or “GEP” for gold electroplate, this is a clear indicator that it’s made with other metal. Though parts of it are gold, it isn’t solid gold.  
  • A serial ID. This is a set of numbers or letters that identify a specific piece of jewelry. The manufacturer or jeweler will know the composition of their item. 
  • A nitric acid mark. Nitric acid is a chemical used to test gold. If the piece you’re testing turns green when exposed to nitric acid, it’s not real gold.  


Moreover, many gold items are stamped with a letter or number mark that indicates the purity of the gold called valid purity numbers. These are based on a karat system, which measures the amount of gold present in a piece of jewelry as compared to other metals. The karat scale goes from 0 to 24, with 24 karats being pure gold. The higher the karat number, the more gold is in the piece compared to other metals.

If your piece of jewelry doesn’t have any of these markings, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not gold. However, it may prompt you to move on to the next step in testing.  

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Test the Gold’s Density 

One of the most reliable ways to test gold is through its weight and density. Gold has a density of 19.28 grams per milliliter. The closer your gold item’s density is to this number, the more real gold it contains. Because gold is a very dense metal, it should feel heavy in your hand. If you have a gold piece that feels light or hollow, it’s likely not real gold.  

To test density at home, fill a glass jar or cup with water and carefully drop your gold piece into the water. If you have a genuine gold piece, it should sink to the bottom of the cup. If it floats, it’s unlikely to be real gold.  

Perform a Scratch Test 

Another way to test gold is by performing a scratch test. Because gold is a soft metal, it’s easy to scratch. However, other metals are also pliable and can be scratched just as easily as gold. You need to note the color of the scratch mark to properly identify gold.  

To do this test, you will need a black jeweler’s stone or unglazed ceramic tile. Start by firmly but carefully scratching the surface of the stone with your gold item. If your metal leaves a yellow streak, it’s more likely to be gold. If you notice a black streak instead, it’s most likely not genuine. 

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Test for a Magnetic Pull 

Gold is not a magnetic metal and, as such, it will not be attracted to magnets. If your “gold” jewelry sticks to a magnet, there’s a good chance it’s not real. Simply hold the magnet up to your gold item. If the two connect, then your item isn’t real gold.  

This test is not a 100% accurate method of determining if an object is composed of genuine gold. This is because some counterfeit items contain other non-magnetic metals such as silver. 

Run a Machine Test 

If you’re still unsure about your gold item, the best way to test it is by using a machine, such as:  

  • Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier: This machine tests how pure gold is in an object. It uses electromagnetic waves to measure how deep the gold goes in the object. It doesn’t look at things like plating or surface features. 
  • XRF Spectrometer: The machine passes X-rays through the gold, causing its atoms to enter a higher energy state. When the excited atoms return to their original position, they emit radiation. The device monitors and analyzes this radiation to identify the substance. 
  • Atomic Absorption Spectrometry: This technique detects the presence of elements in liquid or solid samples. It measures the characteristic wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that are absorbed by individual elements. Each element will absorb these wavelengths differently, and the absorbances can be measured against standards. 


Though you may be able to run a machine test at home, these tests are often best left to a professional. 

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Tips for Ensure You’re Investing in Real Gold 

Now that you know how to test for gold, it’s important to also know how to find a reputable gold sales company and tips for ensuring you’re investing in real gold. 

When considering gold investments, there are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Gold bars are the most popular way to invest in gold. They come in a variety of sizes, from 1 gram to 1 kilo.  
  • Gold coins are another popular way to invest in gold. They’re available in both circulated and uncirculated conditions, and they’re often collector’s items as well.  
  • Gold bullion is another way to invest, and it comes in a variety of forms such as bars, rounds, and coins.  
  • Gold IRA accounts are becoming increasingly popular, as they allow you to invest in gold without having to worry about storage or transportation.  
  • You can also invest in gold jewelry, although it’s important to keep in mind that not all jewelry is created equally. Some pieces are made with more pure gold than others, and some may be plated with other metals.  


No matter how you choose to invest in gold, make sure you’re buying from a reputable source. Here are a few tips to help you out: 

  • Check for licensing and accreditation: Any reputable gold company will be licensed and accredited. This means that they have met certain standards set by the government and are a legitimate business.  
  • Check for reviews: A quick Google search will reveal a variety of reviews from past customers. This is a great way to get an idea of what others thought of the company’s services.  
  • Check for membership in industry associations: Gold companies that are members of industry associations such as the World Gold Council are usually reputable and can be trusted.  


By following these tips and learning how to buy gold, you can be sure that you’re making a smart investment. Gold is a valuable commodity, and it’s important to make sure you’re getting the real thing. With a little research, you can be confident in your purchase and enjoy the many benefits that gold has to offer.

Investing in Gold Basics
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