Turns out that everything that glitters is not gold after all


Which will sink: real gold or fake gold?

If you haven’t heard, there’s a gold rush going on in America. Call it what you want – solid investment or a safe haven to protect you from geopolitical tensions and economic concerns – people are buying gold and companies are selling it.

However, as we've found out, scammers are playing games with gold and all the “gold” being sold isn’t real.

To be considered gold in the United States, the metal has to be 10k, or 41.7% pure. But how is the Average Joe supposed to know what’s real versus what’s not?

Rick Kanda, managing director at The Gold Bullion Company, told ConsumerAffairs that, past taking the gold to a professional, it’s actually pretty easy to determine the legitimacy of your gold.

Four things to look for when checking your gold

Kanda’s four essential steps to take if you want to check the authenticity of your gold are:

  • Check its weight: Gold is very dense, meaning that even small amounts of gold can be very heavy, meaning coins, bars or jewelry which are very light could very well be fake. Some gold will have its weight on it, meaning you can use a scale to see if this figure matches the weight inscribed on your item.

  • Look for a stamp: Many countries have gold that has stamps on it, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and China. These countries have different requirements for hallmarking gold, and the stamps indicate the metal's purity.

    For example, in the United States gold must be marked with a karat stamp that indicates its purity. In France, gold is marked with symbols that indicate the metal's purity, place of manufacturing, and imports and exports. In China, gold is usually marked with 999, 9999, or 999.5, and may also have Chinese characters engraved on it.

  • Keep an eye out for discoloration: “Gold does not tarnish, oxidize or rust as it is a precious metal, but silver or copper will. Over time, fake gold can lose its luster, become discolored, develop a green or blackish tinge due to oxidation or corrosion or become more dull or brassy in its appearance,” Kanda notes. “If you spot discoloration on your item, it is an almost certain sign that it is not pure gold and is instead gold-plated.”

  • Evaluate the color: Depending on the material used, fake gold can come in a variety of colors. In order to simulate the look of real gold, gold-colored paint is often applied to materials like brass, copper, aluminum and other alloys.

    But, if it’s real gold there’ll be a warm, yellowish hue that would be a bear to replicate with fake gold typically lacking the distinctive coloring of real gold. Plus, for some counterfeit gold items, the gold plating is applied haphazardly, which means the item winds up having different shades and patches across its surface.

“If after analyzing the appearance of your gold you believe it may be fake, the next steps are to test your gold," Kanda told us. "There are many ways to do this at home, but you should also seek a professional's opinion if any tests show signs that your gold is fake.”

With this in mind, why not see if you can spot the signs of real or fake gold? Test your knowledge by looking at these coins. Which is fake -- #1 or #2?

PhotoThe answer is... #2!


Run your test at home

There are also some ways to check your gold in the comfort of your home. Kanda’s first go-to move is the magnet test.

Gold is not a magnetic metal, meaning using a magnet is a quick and easy way to test its legitimacy. Hold a magnet close to your item, if it’s real gold it won’t stick to the magnet,” he said. “However, it is best to use the test alongside others as some base materials used as gold alloys can also be non-magnetic.”

Then there’s the sink test. Because gold is a rather dense material, it will sink to the bottom of a cup or bowl of water. On the other hand, fake gold is often made of much lighter materials and so will be slower to sink or will not sink at all when placed in water.

Next is the vinegar test. Gold is also a non-reactive material, meaning it will not change color or appearance when it comes into contact with a highly corrosive substance like vinegar. “By dropping a small amount of vinegar onto your item, you will be able to tell if it is fake or if it tarnishes,” Kanda notes.

Finally, there's the rub test: Something else you probably didn’t know and that is when gold is scratched or rubbed against ceramic it will leave a trail of yellow or gold. In comparison, you will know your gold is fake if it leaves behind a dark trail when it is rubbed against ceramic.

“You can also test gold against your skin by holding your item in your hands for a couple of minutes. The warmth and sweat from your hands will react with the metal and change the color of your skin to turn black, blue or green where it comes into contact if it is fake,” Kanda said.

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