How to Detect Fake Gold like a Detective
Fake Gold has always been a concern because gold itself has been highly prized throughout human history. Making it a target for counterfeiters who try to replicate its value. To avoid the risk of buying fake gold, it is recommended to purchase gold and silver bullion from reputable dealers like Safe Haven Metal. We offer gold bullion bars and coins manufactured by World Mints and approved refiners that thoroughly check their coins for weight, metal composition, and authenticity, providing customers with genuine products.
While jewelry is a common target for fake gold, counterfeit bullion also exists. When buying from private sellers or unscrupulous dealers, there is a chance of encountering counterfeit gold, which can lead to financial losses. Therefore, it’s essential to know how to identify real gold. Because some people just do not want to put in the effort to prospect for the real glittery goodness.
Thankfully, due to gold’s unique properties, accurately replicating it is extremely difficult. Several simple tests can be performed at home to check the authenticity of gold:
Testing for Fake Gold: Size and Weight:
Genuine gold bullion coins and bars are manufactured to specific weight and size standards set by reputable mints and refineries. Counterfeiters often struggle to replicate these precise measurements, so comparing the size and weight of a gold item to its official specifications can be a straightforward way to detect fakes. Using a precise scale and calipers, one can measure the diameter, thickness, and weight of the gold item and cross-reference it with the official specifications provided by the mint or refinery.
Fake Gold Fails the Magnet Test:
Gold is not magnetic, meaning it does not attract to magnets. While this test is simple and fast which can be done at home, it has limitations. Some counterfeit coins or bars may contain non-magnetic metals, making them pass the magnet test. Conversely, some genuine gold coins, particularly historical coins or coins with lower purity, may have slight magnetic properties due to the presence of other metals in the alloy. Silver is not magnetic either. But neither are lead, copper, and aluminum; all favorites of scammers to coat with gold coloring to evade the magnet test. Thus quick, but not fool proof.
Sound Testing for Fake Gold (Ping Test):
This test relies on the unique acoustic properties of gold. When struck, genuine gold coins emit a clear, high-pitched ringing sound that persists for a longer duration. In contrast, counterfeit coins made from base metals produce a duller and shorter sound. The ping test is more reliable when comparing coins of similar size and thickness, as larger coins tend to produce lower-pitched sounds.
Ceramic Testing Fake Gold:
The ceramic test is a simple method to check for gold’s authenticity. When gold is dragged across an unglazed ceramic plate with slight pressure, it should leave a gold-colored streak. If the mark appears black or gray, it suggests that the item is not genuine gold. This test is based on gold’s relatively soft nature, which allows it to leave a visible mark on the ceramic surface. However, this can damage the coin/bar and negatively impacting its value.
Nitric Acid Test:
The nitric acid test is the least straightforward and riskiest method of testing gold authenticity. It involves using nitric acid, which is a strong corrosive acid, to assess the purity of the gold. The premise of this test is based on gold’s resistance to oxidation and corrosion, which is a characteristic of pure gold.
Here’s how the nitric acid test works on fake gold:
- Different strengths of nitric acid are available for testing different carats of gold. The acid is usually applied to the surface of the gold item or a small scratch made on the item’s surface.
- If the gold is pure (24 carats), it will not react to the nitric acid and will remain unaffected.
- If the gold is of lower purity (e.g., 22 carats), it may show some reaction to the acid, such as discoloration or effervescence.
However, the nitric acid test has significant drawbacks when testing gold:
This test can cause permanent damage to the gold item, especially if it is not pure gold. The acid may leave marks or cause surface damage that can devalue the gold. Particularly in the case of collectible coins or valuable jewelry one must be extra careful.
False Positives and Negatives:
The test is not entirely foolproof and can yield inaccurate results. Some gold alloys or gold-plated items may not react to the acid, giving a false impression of higher purity. Conversely, certain gold items may contain trace amounts of other metals that can react with the acid, leading to a false indication of lower purity.
Nitric acid is a hazardous substance and handling it improperly can pose safety risks. It can cause severe burns and should be used with extreme caution.
“Fool’s Gold can be one of three minerals. The most common mineral mistaken for gold is pyrite. Chalcopyrite may also appear gold-like, and weathered mica can mimic gold as well. Compared to actual gold, these minerals will flake, powder, or crumble when poked with a metal point, whereas gold will gouge or indent like soft lead. In addition, actual gold will leave a golden yellow streak when scraped on a piece of unglazed porcelain. Pyrite and chalcopyrite will leave a dark green to black streak and the common micas will leave a white streak.” United States Geological Survey
Biting Test for Fake Gold
Gold is a softer metal. Thus the biting with the teeth test will expose it as ever so slightly malleable. Compared to the unforgiving harder metals. However, just because we can do something, does not mean we should.
Great in theory, great for photo ops, horrible as a testing method of real reliability.
Conclusions on Tests for Fake Gold
Due to the risks involved and the potential for inaccuracies, the nitric acid test is not recommended for novice users or for testing valuable gold items. Instead, it is better to rely on non-destructive testing methods, such as X-ray fluorescence (XRF) machines, which can provide precise and reliable information about the gold’s purity without causing any damage to the item. These machines can usually be found at pawn shops and local coin stores.
For individuals who want to ensure the authenticity of their gold without resorting to potentially harmful testing methods, purchasing from reputable dealers like Safe Haven Metal, who thoroughly verify the quality and authenticity of their products and purchase from world mints and approved refineries, is the safest approach. Buying from trusted sellers reduces the risk of encountering counterfeit gold and silver products, providing customers with peace of mind when investing in precious metals.
Even if you trust the person selling, like a friend or local pawn shop, that does not exclude the possibility that they unknowingly purchased fake gold, and now genuinely believe they are selling you a legit product. Compared to professional sources like Safe Haven Metal that have extensive testing equipment and layers of professionals that test the product.
For IRA Clients: Your metals are required to be held in an IRS approved facility. Which inspects the metals upon delivery for purity standards and perfection requirements. As well as ensuring the metals delivered are the correct metals and year on the invoice or they get rejected.