How to tell if something is real gold

Updated March 23, 2017

The chemical element gold is represented on the Periodic Table of Elements as Au. Gold is found in nuggets and deposits in the ground. The metal has a long history of use as jewellery and coins, and countries that use a gold standard for monetary value set prices of domestic currency in relationship to the price of gold. The term gold standard can also mean the benchmark by which things are measured. Because of its high value, people should be certain that they get what they pay for when it comes to buying gold.

Look at the colour of the piece of jewellery you suspect to be gold as a clue to its composition. Many pieces of gold jewellery are yellow, but be aware that some gold is rose coloured or white gold, which resembles sterling silver or platinum. In addition, some jewellery that appears to be yellow gold is actually gold filled, which means that a layer of gold is bonded on top of another metal such as rhodium, brass or silver. Gold-plated jewellery uses even less gold than gold-filled jewellery.

Check for malleability. Jewellery with a high gold content is soft. Back in the day, people would bite the gold or stick a pin into it to see if it would indent.

Verify the purity of the gold by looking for a carat stamp. Gold that is 18K or 18 carats is 75 per cent pure gold. Gold that is 14 carats is stamped 14K and is 58.5 per cent pure. 10K or 10 carat gold is only 41.7 per cent pure, which is the lowest level of purity allowed in the United States for an item to be called gold.

Bring your gold jewellery to a professional who can use acids and a test stone to determine the exact composition of the gold.


Be aware that the value of a gold piece will fluctuate with gold values on a daily basis. You can track changes in gold commodities in the newspaper or online. Remember that colour alone does not indicate whether or not gold is real. Use a reputable dealer when buying or selling gold.


Before buying or selling gold, make sure you know the purity of your gold and how much it is actually worth by taking it to a jeweller for testing and an appraisal.

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About the Author

Sharon Penn is a writer based in South Florida. A professional writer since 1981, she has created numerous materials for a Princeton advertising agency. Her articles have appeared in "Golf Journal" and on industry blogs. Penn has traveled extensively, is an avid golfer and is eager to share her interests with her readers. She holds a Master of Science in Education.