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How To Test Gold For Purity

Many people are interested in how to test gold for purity. But how pure can you expect gold jewellery to be in reality? And how can you find out a jewellery item's actual gold content? Let's see what works in gold purity testing and what doesn't.

Pure Gold

Pure gold.

Pure Gold

It is commonly accepted that gold that is not mixed with other metals is referred to as pure.

The purity of gold is usually measured in karats. 24 karats is the highest purity possible and corresponds to about 99.9% gold content.

Pure gold is very soft and malleable, and has an intense yellow color.

Gold Jewellery

Because of its softness, pure gold is rarely used to make jewellery.

Items made of 24K gold bend very easily, and this is why pure gold is not a good choice for pieces that will be worn as adornment.

Not to mention that any settings made of pure gold would wear out pretty quickly, making it easy for any stones in them to fall off.

The gold that is used to make jewellery is actually a gold alloy - a mixture of pure gold and other metals, which are added in to make the alloy harder.

So, almost all gold jewellery is not actually pure gold.

Acid Testing

Usually, gold jewellery comes with markings stamped on it that indicate what its karat is. If there are no marks or if you just want to check whether the gold is as pure as it is claimed to be, you can test it.

There are different methods, but the most reliable one is acid testing.

You can have your gold tested for purity at most jewellery stores.

The jeweller will scratch the gold on a testing slab to take a sample of it and will then pour some acid (usually nitric acid) on the sample to see how it reacts.

Depending on the chemical reaction observed, the karat of the gold can be determined.

You can also purchase a testing kit with nitric acid and test the gold yourself. Here is how such a test is usually performed:

Don't forget to read the instructions enclosed with the testing kit because the exact procedure might differ from the general method described above.

Other Methods

There are other methods to test the purity of gold that have become popular. However, despite their popularity, they are actually close to useless.

Biting a gold piece is said to be a good indicator of whether it is real, as gold is a very soft metal. However, there are many other metals that are also soft and can be covered with gold plating to make them look like gold, so biting them won't show you conclusively whether you're dealing with gold.

It is also said if a gold piece is not attracted to a magnet, this is a proof that the item is actually made of gold. However, there are many other metals that are non-magnetic, which can also be plated with gold and will not react to a magnet.

The best way to determine the purity of a gold item is to test it with acid and also make sure that the piece is not made of another metal covered with a thin layer of gold.

How To Tell If Silver Is Real

If you're considering buying 925 Sterling silver and you are new to the jewellery industry, you will no doubt want to know the difference between pure silver and 925 sterling silver. Sterling silver is a popular metal used to make jewellery and other decorative items.

Pure Silver

Pure silver.

Well, pure silver is not really made up of only silver. It has 99.9% of silver, and a small content composed of other metals such as copper. Sterling Silver, on the other hand, consists of 92.5% silver, and the remaining part consists of copper, mostly copper. This is the reason why sterling silver is popularly referred to as 925 Sterling Silver or just 925 Silver.

The reason silver needs to be combined with other metals is that it is very difficult to make great designs with just pure silver, which is very soft and malleable. A bit of hardness has to be introduced, by adding other metals such as copper. That's why jewellers are capable of making the most intricate and complex designs with 925 Sterling Silver.

925 Sterling Silver jewellery certainly does not come cheap. It requires quite an investment from your side, whether you are buying sterling silver jewellery. But it is a worthwhile investment as its value increases with time. What is very important though is not to be duped into buying fake 925 sterling silver jewellery from "unidentified sources".

This is a serious issue because many jewellers are known to sell fake sterling silver jewellery items. Sterling silver is much cheaper than costlier metals such as gold, and yet, fake imitations of sterling silver jewellery are wildly sold in the market.

For instance, it is common to come across silver plated jewellery that is sold as real sterling silver jewellery. These jewellery pieces have only a minimal silver content and are bound to deteriorate, sooner than later.

A jewellery is considered to be fine silver if it contains 92.5% (or more) of pure silver but pure silver is too soft to be used without another metal. So copper and nickel are commonly incorporated to make up the remaining 7.5%.

On the other hand, Silverplate is different from real silver because only the surface of the jewellery is covered with real silver and the rest of the item is made up of the copper or nickel alloy.

Sterling silver catches the light like no other, which is why we love the look of sterling silver in jewellery. Real silver also has a high value in the market, so items made from the material tend to come with a higher price tag than those that merely look like silver. Knowing whether or not something is actually made of silver is important in terms of more than just cost: People who have an allergy or sensitivity to other metals have to make sure that their jewellery is real silver if they want to wear it without a negative reaction.

Like other precious metals, silver has distinctive properties that can help you to identify it. These tests can give you a good idea as to whether the item you are holding is real silver or a convincing fake. Just remember that there are some tests that you can't do unless you own the piece, and you don't want to risk ruining the item if you intend to get more value out of it. With that said, these are some of the ways you can tell if an item is made from real silver.

Authentication hallmarks

The first thing you should look for when you found an item you suspect to be real silver, is markings like a stamp or hallmark. A silver object that is to be sold commercially is, in most countries, stamped with one or more silver hallmarks indicating the purity of the silver, the mark of the manufacturer or silversmith, and other markings to indicate date of manufacture and additional information about the piece. International sellers of silver will stamp silver as 925, 900 or 800. These numbers indicate the level of purity of the silver. Sterling silver has a purity of 92.5 percent or higher. Other marks may be "Sterling Silver," 'Ster" or "Sterling." Markings are normally found on larger parts of the jewellery piece where they can be engraved.

The magnet test

Most precious metals-like gold and copper-are nonmagnetic, and silver is no exception. Grab some magnets and see if they are drawn to your object. Silver is not noticeably magnetic, and exhibits only weak magnetic effects unlike iron, nickel, cobalt, and the like. If your magnet sticks strongly to the piece, it has a ferromagnetic core and is not silver. Fake silver or silver-plated items are generally made of other metals. This is an easy test that can give you a good idea on whether your item is real silver or not.

The odor test

Sterling silver is odorless, so go ahead and smell the piece in question. Does it have a noticeable odor? If you can smell sulfur or a distinct metallic fragrance, then it is not sterling silver. The item could be silver-plated, but a scent indicates that it is not made entirely of sterling silver. This is a great test to conduct for those of us who have a strong sense of smell.

The polish test

Silver needs to be polished on a regular basis. After checking for stamps and markings and using the magnet trick, use a soft white cloth. Silver also oxidizes and tarnishes. Rub the tarnished piece as if polishing. If no black residue appears on your cloth, it's not silver. Polishing the silver item is a very good indicator of its authenticity. Rust or a lack of oxidation indicates that the item is made of a different material from silver.

The flake test

Some items may be silver-plated, which means that they are covered with a layer of real silver. Does the item have flakes that reveal a different metal underneath? Can you scratch it with your finger nail and see another material below it? The item is plated with silver, but is not sterling silver. You can also take a few of the flakes and put them into acid. The acid's color should remain the same if it is pure silver. Of course, this is not a test that you can do while at the store, so only do this test on pieces that you own.

The ice test

You will need to have access to ice in order to do this particular test: take a cube of ice and put it on top of the silver item. Silver has the highest thermal conductivity of any common metal or alloy. Even at room temperature, authentic silver products will melt the ice at an exceedingly rapid rate. If it melts fast(er), it probably is silver. It's a simple, neat little trick that can tell you if you are dealing with sterling silver or a clever fake.

The weight test

Another easy way to tell if your jewellery piece is real 92.5 Sterling Silver is by comparing it to an item of a similar weight that you know is made of real silver. If the weight feels the same, your silver jewellery piece is more likely to be genuine.

The acid test

Gather around some protective goggles and gloves and wear them. Then add a drop of nitric acid to a small silver part of your jewellery. If it turns green, it is not made of genuine silver. Nitric acid is a chemical with a high copper content, which discolors non-silver items.

Chemical analysis test

Jewellers frequently use the chemical analysis test. They usually do this by applying a swab of Schwerter's Solution or a mix of nitric acid and potassium dichromate directly to the item or one a fine sample of it (taken from filing or drilling). Once it's applied to the testing paper, the solution will turn deep red if it's real silver.

The bleach test

This is by far the easiest way to determine if silver is real. Try putting a drop of bleach on a silver item, and if it turns black, then it's silver.

Benefits Of Owning Real Sterling Silver