How Do Precious Metal Buyers Test Your Gold?

When bringing your gold jewelry to a gold buyer, several methods will be used to accurately determine the purity of the gold. 
  1. Inspection with a Loupe for Markings
  • Jewelry is often first inspected by the buyer thoroughly with a magnifying loupe for any stamps or markings. Karat marks, maker’s marks, and hallmarks can indicate the purity of the gold as well as any potential added value to the piece as a whole. While karat marks are very helpful in assessing gold purity, they are not always accurate or present on pieces of jewelry.
  1. Magnet Test
  • After inspecting an item thoroughly with a loupe, a magnet test can help separate real gold items from fake or gold plated ones. If jewelry is magnetic, it indicates that the piece is gold plated or filled, or made with magnetic metals such as iron or nickel. A magnet test cannot confirm 100% if a piece of jewelry is real or fake as gold plated/filled items can have non magnetic materials under the surface. But it is a good early method to use to begin testing and sorting your jewelry. 
  1. Acid Test
  • An Acid test, also known as a scratch test, will be used on any gold jewelry where the purity is not known. First, a sample of the metal is scratched onto a testing stone. This scratch test does not damage the piece of jewelry in any way. The scratch mark should match the color of the gold. If the mark turns from the gold color to a gray or copper color, the piece is most likely plated and showing the metals contained underneath. 
  • Next, a drop of testing acid is used on the scratch mark to see at which karat strength the mark holds up to. Acids for gold come in 10K, 14K, 18K and 22K strength. If a scratch mark holds with a drop of the 10K acid, but fades when the 14K acid is applied, it is determined that the piece is 10K gold. If the jewelry is marked, the tester will often start with the acid of the marking and go from there. For example, if you have a gold chain marked 18K, the chain will be tested first with the 18K acid. If it holds, 22K acid may be used to make sure it is not a higher purity than 18K. If the scratch mark slowly dissolves, 14K acid will be used to see if the gold is actually only 14K. If the scratch mark turns green or bubbles when the acid is applied, this indicates that the piece is not real gold.
  • Sometimes, a piece of jewelry will need to be filed into to test its purity. Some jewelry is so heavily plated, that the scratch test will indicate gold when in fact there are other metals underneath the plating. If this is the case, the buyer will ask if it is ok to file into your piece to test its purity. Once a spot is filed into, acid will be applied directly to the piece to test for purity. If the acid turns the filed portion green or begins to bubble, this tells the tester that the jewelry is not solid gold and therefore cannot be bought for any gold value. 
  1. X – Ray Machine
  • In some rare cases, a piece of jewelry may need to be left with the buyer and sent to be x-rayed to determine its gold content. This would only be used for unusual pieces that have questionable acid test results. By having a piece x-rayed, the different alloys in the piece and their percentages can be determined. 
Once your gold jewelry has been sorted through and tested, the buyer can give you an accurate price of what your pieces are worth given the gold market value that day. When looking for a place to sell your jewelry, you want to make sure that they use the tests described above so that you can be confident that you are getting paid on the true gold value of your pieces. 
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