How to Know if Your Jewelry is Real Gold or Plated

Real solid gold nugget

Adorning oneself with gold jewelry is a timeless expression of elegance and style. However, with the prevalence of gold-plated jewelry in the market, it becomes essential to distinguish between genuine gold and mere imitations. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of identifying whether your jewelry is real gold or plated. Armed with knowledge, you can make informed decisions about your precious accessories and ensure that the radiance of authentic gold accompanies you on your style journey.

Understanding Gold Karats

Gold purity is measured in karats, denoted by the symbol "K" or "kt." Pure gold is 24 karats, meaning it is 99.9% gold. However, for practical purposes, jewelry is often made with gold alloys to enhance durability and alter its color. Commonly used karats include 18K (75% gold), 14K (58.3% gold), and 10K (41.7% gold). This section provides an overview of gold karats and their significance in determining authenticity.

  1. Real Gold Characteristics:

    • Hallmarks and Stamps: Authentic gold jewelry is often stamped with hallmarks indicating its karat purity. Look for stamps such as "18K," "14K," or "10K" to identify the gold content.

    • Consistent Color: Real gold maintains a consistent color throughout the piece. If you observe any discoloration or fading, it may be an indication of gold plating.

    • Density: Gold is a dense metal, and genuine gold jewelry will feel heavier than its size might suggest. Plated jewelry, on the other hand, tends to be lighter.

  2. Gold Plating Characteristics:

    • Thin Layer: Gold-plated jewelry consists of a thin layer of gold over a base metal. If you notice signs of wear or a different color beneath the surface, it may be an indication of gold plating.

    • Magnetic Attraction: Gold is not magnetic, but some base metals used in plating may be. If your jewelry shows any magnetic attraction, it could be an indicator of a base metal beneath the gold layer.

    • Wear and Tear: Gold plating can wear off over time, especially in areas that experience friction. Check for signs of fading, peeling, or a dull appearance, which may suggest gold plating.

How to Perform Simple Tests at Home

While professional appraisal is the most accurate method, there are simple tests you can perform at home to gain initial insights into the authenticity of your gold jewelry. It's essential to note that these tests offer preliminary indications and may not be foolproof.

Weighting Solid Gold Nuggets and Flakes

  1. Magnet Test:

    • Real gold is not magnetic, so using a strong magnet can help identify non-gold metals. If your jewelry shows any magnetic attraction, it may be a sign of gold plating over a magnetic base metal.

  2. Scratch Test:

    • Gold is a soft metal, and genuine gold jewelry should not scratch glass. However, this test can be risky as it may damage your jewelry. It is recommended for experienced individuals or as a last resort.

  3. Acid Test:

    • An acid test involves applying nitric acid to a small scratch on the jewelry. Genuine gold will not react to the acid, while plated or fake gold may exhibit a reaction. This test should be done cautiously and is best left to professionals.

Professional Appraisal

For a definitive assessment of your jewelry's authenticity, seeking professional appraisal is crucial. Certified gemologists and appraisers have the expertise and tools to accurately determine the gold content and identify any plating. Professional appraisal also provides documentation that can be valuable for insurance purposes or when selling your gold jewelry.

Jeweler examining real gold vs gold palted jewelry

Spotting Common Gold-Plating Techniques: Gold plating comes in various techniques, each with its characteristics. Recognizing these techniques can help you discern whether your jewelry is gold-plated.

  1. Gold Vermeil:

    • Vermeil refers to a thick layer of gold (usually 18K or higher) over sterling silver. It offers the appearance of solid gold but is more affordable. Look for hallmarks indicating gold content.

  2. Gold Filled:

    • Gold-filled jewelry has a thicker layer of gold than standard plating. It is created by bonding a layer of gold to a base metal, usually through heat and pressure. Gold-filled pieces are more durable than regular gold-plated items.

  3. Gold Overlay:

    • Similar to gold-filled, gold overlay involves a thicker layer of gold over a base metal. The layer is mechanically bonded, providing durability and a lasting gold appearance.

Real Solid Gold Jewelry Rings


Distinguishing between real gold and plated jewelry is a valuable skill that ensures you make informed decisions about your precious accessories. By understanding the characteristics of real gold and the signs of gold plating, you empower yourself to assess the authenticity of your jewelry.

Remember that while home tests offer preliminary insights, professional appraisal remains the most accurate method for determining the gold content of your jewelry. Whether you're a seasoned jewelry enthusiast or a novice collector, the knowledge gained from this guide equips you with the tools to appreciate the authenticity and value of your gold jewelry.

As you navigate the world of gold, let this guide serve as your companion, helping you unveil the truth behind the shimmer. Authentic gold not only enhances your style but also carries with it the timeless allure of a precious metal that has adorned civilizations throughout history. So, wear your gold with confidence, knowing that its radiance is a testament to authenticity and enduring elegance.


On our website, you'll find an extensive selection of real solid gold in 14k, 10k and 24k that cater to all tastes and preferences. From delicate necklaces and bracelets to statement rings and earrings, we have something to suit every occasion.

Gold Jewelry from Jewelry Store by Erik Rayo

Chains and bracelets:



Or shop all types of jewelry and collections

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published