You have a piece of gold jewelry, but you are not sure if it is really 14 karats? Let’s see how you can find out the actual purity of your gold.
What Does 14K Gold Contain?
14-karat gold is actually a gold alloy that is made up of 58.3% pure gold and 41.7% other metals. The nongold metals in the alloy are added to make it harder than unalloyed gold, which is too soft to be used in jewelry.
A variety of metals can be mixed with gold to create a 14K alloy.
The most common additional ingredients are copper, zinc, nickel, silver, and palladium.
Some jewelry makers avoid nickel because it can cause allergic reactions in some people, especially if the metal is used in low-karat jewelry.
How Is 14K Gold Jewelry Marked?
One straightforward way to check the purity of gold jewelry is to look at its karat marks, which are usually stamped in less visible places.
14-karat jewelry will most likely be marked with a symbol such as “14K” or “14Kt”.
Sometimes, you will see the purity of 14K jewelry represented with a parts-per-thousand mark.
The number used for 14 karats is 583 (corresponding to 58.3% gold content), so if you see it stamped on a gold jewelry piece, you can assume that it is 14 karats pure.
Testing the Purity of 14K Gold
If a jewelry piece doesn’t have any karat marks, or if you have reason to doubt the stamps on it, then you can test if the item is really 14 karats. There are two options: testing at home or going to a jeweler who can do the testing for you.
Using a Gold Testing Kit
You can test whether a piece is 14K gold yourself if you buy a gold testing kit.
This type of testing works by applying nitric acid to a gold sample and observing how its color changes as a result. Depending on its purity, a gold alloy will react differently with the acid.
Here’s what you need to do to test if gold is really 14 karats:
1. Rub the gold on the dark testing stone that is included in the kit until the piece leaves a mark. (Don’t scratch the jewelry in conspicuous places.)
2. Pour some of the acid from the bottle labeled “14 karats” on the mark. (Each bottle contains acid prepared with the exact concentration needed to react with an alloy of particular purity, which is indicated on the bottle’s label.)
3. Observe the reaction of the acid with the gold. If the mark does not change its color, then its purity is higher than 14K. If its color changes only slightly, then its purity is 14K or a little lower. If the mark dissolves, then its karat is significantly lower than 14K.
If it turns out that the gold you are testing is not 14K or around this level, then you can use the next higher- or lower-karat acid bottle to determine more precisely the alloy’s purity.
Important: The instructions above illustrate the general procedure for testing gold purity. Each gold testing kit should come with its own detailed instructions, so make sure you read them carefully before you start using it.
Having Your 14K Gold Tested by a Jeweler
If you don’t have a gold testing kit, or if you don’t want to do the testing at home, you can go to a jewelry store and ask to have your gold checked for purity, and pay a fee for the test.
A lot of jewelers perform such tests, and the method they usually use is pretty similar to that of a gold testing kit. The jeweler will most likely take a small sample from your gold and treat it with acid to find out the exact gold content in the alloy.