How to Tell Real Gold from Fake

July 10, 2015

Just because it’s yellow and glistening does not mean it’s the real thing. Gold bullion is relatively easy to fake, so if you’re not careful you could be bilked out of your hard-earned money. You could easily fall for gold-plated metals or gold products adulterated with other substances and then marketed as 24 karats.

Just this month, two suspects were caught for selling thousands of dollars in phony American Gold Eagles on Craigslist.

An ounce of prevention is better than, well, getting ounces of fakery. Enumerated here are several tests that can help you avoid getting conned. Some of them are simple, others intricate and necessitating specialised equipment or chemicals. All will help set your mind at ease.

  1. Get your magnifying glasses out.

Start by taking out your trusty hand lens. Search for inscriptions denoting the product’s purity, usually given in karats. At least 10 karats would indicate genuineness. Stay vigilant though, as counterfeiters are known to inscribe their offerings with pretty convincing wordings.

Consider that etchings on gold products may wear off over time, so a vague inscription may not be a sign of fakery. This is an important thing to consider when examining gilded items of a certain age.

Zooming in on the metal, you might be able to make out dark or greenish discolorations in areas that often meet friction. If the friction-prone surface exposes metal of a different presentation, you might be on to a rip-off.

  1. Use callipers.

If you have a decent pair of callipers, you can use it to compare the dimensions of the product against its purported specifications. Callipers will help you size up the thickness, diameter, and other measurements of the item in question.

Fake gold coins tend to have a larger diameter, since many metals less valuable than gold have lower density. Granted, some metals passing off as gold may still weigh like the real thing, but the overall size should be a telltale giveaway.

  1. Stick it to a magnet.

Gold may be a metal but it’s not magnetic. If at any time your gold bar or coin draws toward a strong magnet, it’s a sham. Then again, you have to remember that there are plenty other metals that do not stick to a magnet and can thereby be used to dupe gold buyers.

  1. Bite it.

Do it as sportsmen like Rafael Nadal and Michael Phelps do, and bite the thing. Gold is the most malleable, ductile metal; teeth will be sure to leave dents on the surface. Pure gold is especially soft and vulnerable to the most profound markings. Then again, you are missing the point if you want unsightly gnash marks all over your holdings.

  1. Resort to chemicals.

More foolproof tests of gold involve the use of extremely corrosive chemicals like nitric acid. It’s best to leave such tests to the experts.

Despite the well-meaning household tests outlined above, you may never have a perfect assurance about the genuineness of your gold. Counterfeiters are ever more duplicitous, taking advantage of the latest technologies for a cleaner getaway.

Lucky for you, appraisers are always one step ahead of crooks. An appraiser or a dependable jeweller should be your last arbiter when determining the authenticity of a gold bar or coin.

Avoid fake products in the first place by transacting with bullion suppliers and dealers of repute. They are bound to have third-party guarantees about the authenticity of their offerings.

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Joel M

Joel Mayer is an Australian freelance writer and blogger. He writes professionally and for fun across a wide range of niches. He enjoys sharing his knowledge with others and collaborates with few companies and writes reviews.

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