Is Your Gold Necklace Real or Not?

Lester Fangonilo - December 25, 2021

As with other forms of jewelry, gold necklaces are both great pieces for both personal adornment as well as an investment. That said, it isn’t surprising that many personal legacies are usually left behind in the form of gold jewelry. 

But here’s the catch: when we checked with a number of jewelers and appraisers, not everything that sparkles is actually made of gold. In fact, many people are disappointed to discover that what they had assumed was a fine gold piece was little more than a very polished bit of costume jewelry.

In this post, we talk about the different methods by which you can determine whether or not your bling is the real thing. While the tips in this article are primarily meant for women’s gold necklaces, they may also be used to determine the authenticity of other pieces such as rings, pendants, bracelets, and brooches.

Bridge Ring by Oliver Cabell


Stamping: That's Got to Leave a Mark

In many cases, gold jewelry is stamped with a hallmark that essentially identifies its karat rating and its origin. While not many necklaces have space enough for such marks, these minute stamps may be found on pendants; in other cases, they may be engraved on the inside of a ring or bangle or on the backside of a brooch.

In any case, hallmarks may pertain to the valid Karat purity number (eg.: 18K, 24K, etc.) or the valid millesimal fineness number (usually between 333 to 999.) These may also take the form of the artisan's logo.

As useful as this is, though, stamping isn't the most reliable way with which to spot a fake. Skilled counterfeiters could stamp the numbers on items made with lesser materials, then polish them to a desirable sheen. In which case, other - potentially more drastic - methods should be considered.


Figaro Chain Bracelet in 18k gold


If Your Skin Turns Blue, That Gold Isn't True

This is one of those cases where your skin doesn't lie. Gold is a non-reactive and hypoallergenic metal; this is to say that it should not cause any irritation to your skin. A real gold necklace won't leave a mark on your neck no matter how sweaty you get even during the hottest months. Similarly, real gold won’t leave you itching from irritated skin.

Fake gold jewelry will leave a somewhat bruised-looking (but not painful, though some do complain of itching) mark on skin it comes into prolonged contact with. This black, blue, or even green discoloration is the result of a chemical reaction between a lesser metal like copper or nickel with the salt and other substances present in sweat.

Take note, however, that this test is for bare skin - but there's actually a way to determine whether jewelry is fake or not using makeup. Put on some liquid foundation and powder over it. Once the cosmetics have dried, carefully press the jewelry in question against your skin, running it lightly over the surface. If the jewelry leaves a dark mark in this case, it's probably real gold.

It Better Not Be Magnetic

Magnetism is another way by which you can spot a fake - and it's actually one of the simplest tests to do.

Here, you pass a strong magnet over the chain and/or pendant and observe for any reactions. Gold isn't a magnetic material so, ideally, the magnet shouldn't be able to pick up the jewelry. If it does, however, then the provenance of the piece should be questioned.

Jewelers, however, are quick to caution customers about this: some base metals used to formulate gold alloys are also non-magnetic, so it could prove a challenge. Not to worry: there are other ways.

Link chain set in gold by Oliver Cabell


There's a Reason Why the Pursuit of Perfection is Called an Acid Test

Whenever people's abilities are tested to the hilt, we often say that they're being put through an acid test: if you come out of the challenge in one piece, having demonstrated your talents and skills to perfection, then you're good.

The term actually comes from one of the most drastic ways by which professional jewelers and goldsmiths determine the authenticity of the metal in their hands. At its most basic, all it takes is splashing over a few drops of vinegar or citrus juice over a piece of gold. 

Gold is a non-corrosive material, so if it was the real thing, the acid won't damage it. On the other hand, if the metal turns dark or discolored, then it definitely isn't gold.

Another form of the acid test involves nitric acid and it essentially checks whether the material can resist corrosion and oxidation. Here, you have to rub your gold against a black stone, just hard enough to leave a visible mark. Afterwards, nitric acid is applied to the mark; the acid will dissolve any materials that aren't pure gold.

The most drastic form of this test involves the use of nitrohydrochloric acid, known among goldsmiths as aqua regia. Made up of 75% nitric acid and 25% hydrochloric acid, it dissolves gold almost on contact.

Open Geo ring by Oliver Cabell


Then, There's Machine Testing

Some goldsmiths and jewelers rely on equipment that is specially designed and calibrated for accuracy when it comes to ferreting out fakes. The electronic tester known as the Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier sends electromagnetic waves into the item being tested, gauging the resistance of the metal. Its display shows a specific range of resistance that may or may not be consistent with the resistance levels of the metals the machine is calibrated for.

On the other hand, there's the XRF Spectrometer which uses x-rays to agitate the atoms within gold into a higher state of energy. It monitors any radiation given off by these atoms and analyzes the findings to identify what the material is. Faster and more accurate than other methods, it has the additional benefit of not causing chemical or physical damage that may diminish the value of your jewelry.

Can I Trust Home Testing Kits for My Jewelry?

The short answer is probably not. While using vinegar and other home reagents to test your gold necklace for authenticity seems easy enough, there’s the very real danger of causing permanent damage to your jewelry. We recommend leaving the testing up to the professionals in any case.