Perhaps you have inherited gold jewelry or received it as a gift. You may be wondering if it is solid gold or gold plated.
(Pixabay / KRiemer)
- Solid gold. In spite of what the name implies, solid gold jewelry is rarely made exclusively of gold. Rather, it is a gold alloy that is consistent throughout the entire piece of jewelry. An alloy with low purity will contain greater amounts of alternative metals and less gold than high-purity alternatives.
- Gold plated. Gold plated jewelry has a base made of some other type of metal. The base metal is coated with a thin layer of gold.
Here are a few ways to determine if your jewelry is solid gold or gold plated:
Initial stamps. Gold plated jewelry is often stamped with initials that reveal its metal composition. Here are some common markings that you may find in an inconspicuous location on your jewelry.
- GP – gold plated
- GEP – gold electroplated
- RGP – rolled gold plate
- HGE (or HGP) – heavy gold electroplate
If your jewelry does not bear any of these markings, it may be solid gold, but don’t jump to a quick conclusion. Not all jewelry manufacturers stamp their gold plated jewelry.
Magnetism. Gold is not magnetic. If your jewelry responds to magnetic force, it probably contains some type of metal other than gold. This test isn’t foolproof, however. Because solid gold jewelry is made from alloys that contain small amounts of alternate metals, your jewelry may still respond to magnetic pull. Also, if the base metal of your gold-plated jewelry is not magnetic, it may not respond to the magnet test and give the illusion that it is solid gold. The moral here is that the magnet test is useful in conjunction with other tests, but it is not fully reliable.
Color. If a piece of jewelry is plated with 24K gold, it will take on an intensely yellow hue. Because solid gold is mixed with small amounts of other metals to make it more durable, it will not appear as yellow.
Acid test. An acid test can reveal the karat of solid gold jewelry, but it can also show whether jewelry is solid gold or gold-plated. With an acid test, a small sample of the jewelry is removed and exposed to acid to induce a color change. The resulting colors indicate which type of metal the jewelry is made of.
Scratch test. This test is risky because it requires you to cut into your jewelry piece. If you cut deep enough that you expose underlying metal, you can assume that it is plated. If it appears to be made of a uniform composition throughout, then it is probably solid gold. Both types of jewelry have advantages and disadvantages. Gold plated jewelry often looks just as attractive as the solid gold alternative and is much more affordable. Jewelry plating solutions and kits are available through Gold Plating Services.