So you have come across what looks like a very attractive piece of Gold Jewelry.
You have inherited or been gifted a gold ring. Perhaps you have bought it on the internet or in a second-hand market.
How to tell if your ring is real gold?
This post will run through a few simple truths and procedures to try and put your mind to rest.
Table of Contents
Check out if it has a Hallmark
Hallmarks have been a requirement in the UK for over 700 years. Historically these marks have been applied by an assay office. The hallmarking laws are not the same in every country but most nations follow a
Standard hallmarking practice.
The stamp on the inside of your ring will confirm if it is gold and how pure it is. The purity is highlighted either in carats or in the millesimal stamp.
What information is on the stamp?
Perhaps confusingly this is marked with a K for ‘Karat’ in the USA and Canada.
In the USA 10 k is the legally accepted minimum.
Thus, rings are marked 10K, 14K, and 18K.
Instead, in Europe gold is marked with a 3-digit millesimal fineness stamp. So for example 18k gold is marked 750.
In the UK the hallmark is made up of several elements including the type of metal, the year of manufacture, and the maker’s name.
Check out my post: ‘Understanding Hallmarks’ for more information
So Gold rings without Hallmarks are fake gold?
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy!
Jewelry manufactured before 1900 in the USA often has no hallmark.
It must be said that sometimes jewelry sold during the Victorian era in the UK has no hallmark.
In the mid -19th century there was even a spate of falsified hallmarks especially on imported jewelry.
When was hallmarking made a legal requirement in Europe?
A central European hallmarking system was only signed in Vienna in 1972. The system entered into force in 1975. The UK adhered to this system in 1973.
According to the UK Assay office: , any pre-1950 item may now be described and sold as precious metal if the seller can prove that it is of minimum fineness and was manufactured before 1950.
Hallmarking in the USA
Until 2021 the USA used a system called the responsibility mark. This basically just identifies the manufacturer.
Then in 2021 hallmarking was made compulsory.
Historically, when gold had a certain consistency, the marks were made with steel punches.
Today more delicate items are marked with lasers to avoid distortion.
Analyzing the Gold
So how do the assayers and jewelers actually analyze gold?
For centuries they have used the Touchstone Test which actually goes back to ancient times.
It consists of scraping a tiny sliver of the gold alloy onto a black siliceous stone and seeing how it reacts to acid. The result is streaks of gold. The streaks are treated with acid are then compared to other streaks of gold, such as gold needles, where the purity has already been ascertained. The expert will check any color changes and see how quickly the streak disappears.
It is possible to buy the gold needle set from Walmart online
Nitric acid is used for 14k or lower caratage.
For 18k or higher aqua regia is used.
In the last 15 years, the use of XRF X-ray machines has revolutionized this process.
How to test gold at home:
Does it feel like gold?
Gold is heavy! Compare this with a ring that you already know is gold.
Alternatively, try putting a ring on a scale. It should weigh between 3-7 ounces. A 10-k gold ring would be lighter than an 18-k ring.
Check out this 18k yellow gold solitaire four-prong comfort fit ring from Brilliant Earth. What do I like about this ring? The fact that it comes in 4 possibilities from white, yellow, and rose recycled gold to Platinum. You can choose the conflict-free diamonds too which range from 1-third to 2 carats.
It is made with 100% Ethical gold. If you are not sure what that is check out my post ‘Jewelry Sustainability: Everything You should know’
Touchstone test kit
It is possible to buy a Touchstone test kit using nitric acid as described above. At Walmart online or in a specialized jewelry supply store you can find different kits.
Put a few drops of vinegar on your jewel, using an eye-dropper, possibly in a concealed spot. If the gold is real there will be no change in color. If it is not real gold you will see a change in color. Avoid contact with semi-precious stones.
I don’t think you need to pour much vinegar on this classic matt men’s ring from Brilliant Earth with its smooth edges and low profile shape.
Does it float?
Lower your ring into a long beaker containing water. If it’s real gold it should drop to the bottom.
I am sure this manly 14K rose white angular gold ring would drop straight to the bottom!
Check out its density
The density of 24k gold is 19.3 grams per ml. You can work out its density by dividing the weight by the displacement of water in say a measuring jug.
1) Fill a measuring cylinder or jug with water and take a reading.
2) Drop the ring in the water and read the new level.
3) Subtract the 2-1=difference in water level.
4) Weigh the ring on a scale and divide its weight by the difference above. This is the density.
The density of a 10k ring is 11.4grams.
Anything between 11.4 grams and 19.3 grams will have a good chance of being gold.
Is it Magnetic?
Get yourself a strong magnet. If it attracts your ring it is not real gold!
Real gold is not magnetic.
The high price of gold means that not everyone can buy an 18k or even a 10k gold jewel. Thus a new category of jewelry called demi-fine jewelry has been commercialized by the brands.
Many brands sell their rings made out of Vermeil -which is a silver base with a gold finish.
In the USA you can also find gold-filled rings where the base metal is brass.
If the price is very low the ring is probably gold-plated. Here the base is a copper or nickel alloy with a tiny amount of gold.
Some unscrupulous merchants might even try and sell you ‘fool’s gold which is a brittle iron pyrite mineral that looks like gold.
For more information read my post ‘Affordable Fashionable Jewelry’
Check out this rose gold plated silver ring from Ruby & Oscar. If you don’t have a big budget this could make a perfect wedding ring. It is available with a special discount if you add the coupon code JEWEL221
This ring might not be real gold but it’s still stunning!
This Toile de Jouy antique gold-finish metal ring punctuated with white resin pearls is a tribute to Dior’s iconic motif. Delivery and a special sign-up promotion are included in the price.
Still not sure if it’s real gold?
Take It to your local jewelry shop and leave it to the experts.