Mining for gold? Don't be rushed into fakes. Seven tips to spot what's real and what's not

Experts explain how to spot fake gold
Experts explain how to spot fake gold Copyright The Gold Bullion Company
Copyright The Gold Bullion Company
By Alessio Dell'Anna
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More and more people are turning to gold as a safer place to invest, but scams are on the increase. Here are seven tips to spot fake gold.


Gold has recently reached record highs.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, and amid the current commodity uncertainty, many people have turned to the precious metal as a safe investment. However, this has also created a hotbed for fraudsters who are looking to cash in on its value, but not in a good way and at your expense.

There have been some 54,000 Google searches in the UK over in the past 12 months related to spotting fake gold, showing this is a clear concern for customers.

Gold is typically considered fake when there is less than 37.5% or 9 carats.
Rick Kanda, Managing Director at The Gold Bullion Company

The first thing to do if you're unsure about the legitimacy of your product is to get it checked by a professional, Gold Buillon Company director Rick Kanda tells Euronews.

Reading reviews and checking certificates is also good, but it might not be enough.

If in doubt, here are some easy spots and tests that can be done at home.

Check its weight

Gold is very dense. Even small amounts can be quite heavy. Hence, coins, bars or jewellery that seem very light may 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 it.

Keep an eye out for discolouration

Gold is a so-called "noble metal", meaning it doesn't tarnish, oxidise or rust - but silver or copper will. Over time, fake gold can lose its lustre, get discoloured, or develop a green or blackish tinge due to oxidation or corrosion. If you spot discolouration, then it's almost certain that your item is not pure gold, and is gold-plated instead.

Assess the colour

Fake gold can have various colours depending on the material used. Brass, copper, aluminium and other alloys are often coated with a layer of gold-coloured paint to mimic the appearance of real gold. However, real gold has a warm, yellowish hue that is hard to replicate. Also, in some fake gold items, the gold plating is applied unevenly which can result in different shades and patches across the surface of the gold.

Can you spot the fake one?
Can you spot the fake one?The Gold Bullion Company
How to spot fake gold
How to spot fake goldThe Gold Bullion Company

If your gold item's appearance does look dodgy, then the next step is to do a few tests, says Kanda. 

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. However, it is best to use the test alongside others as some base materials used as gold alloys can also be non-magnetic.

Sink test

If placed in a cup or bowl of water, gold will sink due to its great density. But fake gold is often made of much lighter material, so it will sink more slowly or, even, not sink at all.

Vinegar test

Gold is a non-reactive material and it will not change colour or appearance when it comes into contact with a highly corrosive substance such as vinegar. By dropping a small amount of vinegar onto your item, you will be able to tell if it's fake or if it tarnishes.

Rub test

Despite its density, gold is a very soft metal. Because of this, 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, if it is fake,  change the colour of your skin to black, blue or green on the area where your skin has come into contact with the metal. 

Four tests to check if your gold is fake
Four tests to check if your gold is fakeThe Gold Bullion Company
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