Is the gold chain you’re about to buy really made of gold? How can you tell if a gold chain is fake? Let’s see how fake gold chains are made and how you can spot them.
What Are Fake Gold Chains Made Of?
Fake gold chains are not made of solid gold and are often simply gold plated. This means that the chain is made of another metal (or an alloy of non-gold metals) and is covered with just a thin layer of gold to make the jewelry look like a real gold piece.
Gold-filled chains can also be passed off as pieces made of solid gold.
Similar to gold-plated items, these chains are also made of non-gold metals, but instead of plated with gold, they are wrapped in a thin sheet of it, which is attached to the core metal under high temperature.
When it comes to fake gold chains, also keep in mind that in the U.S., jewelry that is less than 10 karats pure cannot be sold as gold.
How to Tell If a “Gold” Chain Is Actually Fake
Gold stamps or hallmarks identify the karat of the jewelry they are stamped on.
You can think of karat as a measure of purity, i.e. how much of the piece is made up of gold and how much of other metals.
Look at the chain and see if you can find any markings stamped on it.
If you find numbers followed by the letters K, KT, or KP, this is an indication of the karat of the piece, and it is likely that it is made of solid gold.
For example, a stamp that reads “14K” (also “14KT” or “14KP”) means that the chain is 14 karats.
European gold markings are often expressed in terms of decimals.
For example, a stamp that reads 583 or 585 corresponds to a gold purity of 14 karats, which denotes a gold percentage of 58.3% (14 karats divided by the maximum possible 24 karats).
To convert these numbers to karats, simply multiply them by 0.024. For example, a marking of 750 implies a gold karatage of 18K (750 x 0.024).
In contrast to solid gold pieces, gold-plated and gold-filled chains usually have a few additional letters after the karat/purity mark.
Gold-plated and gold-filled chains are often marked with stamps such as GP, GEP, RGP, HGE, HGP, or GF.
For example, a chain with a marking “14K GP” is actually gold plated, and the karat number denotes the purity of the plating, not of the whole piece.
Note: Even if a gold chain is stamped with a karat number without any additional letters, this does not guarantee that the piece is solid gold. There are all kinds of jewelry vendors, and not all sell items that are properly marked.
Testing jewelry with nitric acid is one of the most reliable ways to find out how much gold it contains.
You can take your gold chain to a jeweler for a test, who will take a small sample of the alloy the chain is made of by scratching the piece on a testing stone.
Then the jeweler will apply nitric acid to the scratch mark and observe the chemical reaction to determine how much gold there is in the material.
Acid testing can also be performed at home. All you need to do is buy a gold testing kit and follow the instructions that come with it. The testing procedure is similar to the one described above. Click here to take a look at a selection of such gold testing kits.
Color and Discoloration
Color can also serve as a clue as to whether a chain is likely to be made of gold. Ironically, a chain whose color is as yellow as that of pure gold is unlikely to be made of it.
This is because gold-plated and gold-filled jewelry is often covered with 24-karat gold, which is too soft to be used to make an entire piece.
So, if a gold chain has a color that is too close to that of 24-karat gold, this is your first indication that the piece might be plated.
And if the piece has a 24K mark but the price is too low for such a high purity, it is very likely that you’re dealing with a gold-plated or gold-filled piece. (By the way, this last point holds for any jewelry that is too cheap for its stated karat.)
An even stronger indication that a gold chain may be fake is any sign of discoloration on it.
Look closely and see if there are any spots where the gold plating has worn off and the underlying metal is visible. When a gold-plated or gold-filled item is scratched, you should be able to see the metallic color of its non-gold core.
Magnet Testing – Not the Best Method
Testing a gold chain with a magnet is a popular way to check if the piece is fake.
The logic behind magnet testing is that since gold is not magnetic, a gold chain should not be attracted to the magnet. If it is, then it means that it contains other metals.
There are a few of problems with magnetic testing, however, which make it an unreliable method.
First, a chain can be made of solid gold, but the gold alloy can also contain magnetic metals, which will make the piece magnetic even though it is not fake.
Second, gold is not the only non-magnetic metal. There are other metals used in jewelry that are not attracted by a magnet. So it is possible for a chain to pass the magnet test and still turn out to be fake.