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How to Tell if a Necklace is Real Gold

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Gold has been a symbol of wealth and luxury for centuries. It’s no wonder that many people are attracted to gold jewelry, including necklaces. But how to tell if a necklace is real gold so you know what you buy is genuine?

Well, with the proliferation of imitation gold and gold-plated jewelry in the market, it can be challenging to determine whether a necklace is made of real gold or not.

Maybe you’re here because don’t believe the Chrome Hearts gold necklaces we sell are genuine, well here are some methods on how to tell if a necklace is real gold or not…

Visual Inspection


Hallmarks, also known as purity marks or fineness marks, represent the amount of gold in the piece.

For example, a 14k hallmark means the piece is 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals. In countries that use a three-digit system, you may see marks like 375 for 9k, 585 for 14k, 750 for 18k, and 916 for 22k gold.

If the hallmark is illegible or missing, it could be due to wear or alteration, but be cautious, as it can also indicate a fake piece.


Gold’s natural color is yellow, but it can be alloyed with other metals to create different colors. White gold is made by mixing gold with palladium, silver, or nickel.

Rose gold is created by alloying gold with copper. If a piece has an unusual or off-color hue, it may be a sign of gold plating or imitation gold.

Magnet Test

The “Magnet Test” is a simple and popular method on how to tell if a necklace is real gold from fake gold or gold-plated items. The underlying principle of this test is based on the fact that pure gold is not magnetic, while many metals commonly used to make counterfeit gold or to form the base for gold-plated items are.

However, it’s important to note that this test has its limitations, and the results should be interpreted with caution.

Here’s an expanded explanation of the magnet test:

Materials Needed:

  • A strong magnet: Neodymium magnets, also known as rare earth magnets, are recommended because they are stronger than regular magnets and can detect even small amounts of non-gold metals.
  • The necklace you want to test.


  • Hold the magnet close to the necklace.
  • Observe if the necklace is attracted to the magnet.

Interpretation of Results

  • If the necklace is strongly attracted to the magnet, it’s likely made of a magnetic metal, and it’s not pure gold.
  • If the necklace is slightly attracted or shows minimal movement towards the magnet, it might still contain some gold but is likely mixed with other metals. This could indicate a lower karat gold alloy.
  • If the necklace is not attracted to the magnet at all, it could be real gold. However, it could also be made of non-magnetic metals, such as silver, copper, or aluminum, which can also be used in counterfeit or gold-plated jewelry.


  • The magnet test is a quick and non-destructive method, but it’s not definitive. Some non-magnetic metals can also be used in fake jewelry.
  • Gold-plated items often have a thin layer of real gold on the surface, which can make the magnet test inconclusive, especially if the base metal is non-magnetic.
  • The test does not provide information about the gold’s purity or karat.
  • Jewelry with magnetic clasps or findings can give false positive results.

Additional Considerations

  • If you suspect a piece is gold-plated, try the magnet test on different parts of the necklace to get a more accurate result.
  • Avoid using this test on valuable or antique pieces, as the magnet may cause scratches or damage to delicate components.
  • Combining the magnet test with other methods, such as visual inspection, the nitric acid test, or professional appraisal, will provide a more comprehensive assessment of the necklace’s authenticity.

Nitric Acid Test

The “Nitric Acid Test” is another method commonly used on how to tell if a necklace is real gold. It is based on the principle that gold is a noble metal, which means it is resistant to oxidation and corrosion, including resistance to the action of nitric acid.

However, many metals that are commonly used in counterfeit or gold-plated jewelry will react with nitric acid.

Here’s an expanded explanation of the nitric acid test:

Materials Needed:

  • Nitric acid: Concentrated nitric acid is typically used, but be aware that it is a powerful and corrosive chemical that should be handled with care.
  • A dropper or pipette.
  • Protective equipment: Rubber gloves, eye protection, and a well-ventilated area are essential when working with nitric acid.
  • The necklace you want to test.


  • Choose a small, inconspicuous spot on the necklace for testing, such as the inside of a clasp or a section that is less visible when worn.
  • Put on your protective equipment, and carefully apply a small drop of nitric acid to the chosen spot using the dropper or pipette.
  • Observe the reaction (or lack thereof) of the necklace to the nitric acid.

Interpretation of Results

  • If the necklace shows no reaction to the nitric acid, it is likely real gold. Gold does not react with nitric acid.
  • If the necklace turns green, it may indicate the presence of copper, which is often used in gold alloys. This reaction could suggest a lower karat gold or possibly even a copper-based fake.
  • If the necklace turns milky white, it may indicate the presence of silver.
  • If the necklace turns pink, it may indicate the presence of aluminum.


  • The nitric acid test can damage non-gold jewelry, so it should only be performed if you are willing to accept the risk of damage.
  • The test is not recommended for valuable or antique pieces, as the acid can cause permanent damage.
  • This test may not be reliable for gold-plated items, as the thin layer of gold on the surface may not react, while the base metal underneath might.
  • The test does not provide information about the gold’s purity or karat.
  • Interpreting the results may be difficult if the necklace is made of a gold alloy with multiple metals.

Additional Considerations

  • If you’re not experienced in handling chemicals or if you’re unsure about performing the nitric acid test, it’s best to consult a professional jeweler or gemologist. They have the expertise and proper tools to accurately assess the authenticity and purity of gold jewelry.
  • Dispose of used nitric acid and any contaminated materials responsibly, following local hazardous waste disposal guidelines.

Ceramic Test

The “Ceramic Test” is an easy method for identifying real gold from fake or gold-plated jewelry at home. It is based on the principle that gold, when rubbed against a rough, unglazed ceramic surface, will leave a gold streak, while fake or gold-plated items will leave a black streak.

Here’s an expanded explanation of the ceramic test:

Materials Needed:

  • An unglazed ceramic tile or plate. The unglazed surface is abrasive enough to leave a mark from the rubbed material.
  • The necklace you want to test.


  • Choose an inconspicuous spot on the necklace for testing, preferably a part that is not prominently visible when worn.
  • Gently rub the necklace against the unglazed ceramic surface with light pressure.
  • Observe the color of the streak left on the ceramic.

Interpretation of Results

  • If the necklace leaves a gold or yellowish streak, it is likely real gold.
  • If the necklace leaves a black or dark streak, it is probably not real gold or is gold-plated with a non-gold base metal.


  • The ceramic test can scratch the surface of the necklace, which might damage the piece, especially if it’s valuable or has sentimental value.
  • The test may not be conclusive for gold-plated items, as the thin layer of gold on the surface might still leave a gold streak.
  • The test does not provide information about the gold’s purity or karat.
  • Results might be influenced by the composition of the alloy if the gold is mixed with other metals.

Additional Considerations:

  • Use this test as a preliminary method for identifying real gold, but don’t rely solely on it to determine the necklace’s authenticity.
  • Be aware that different ceramics might have varying levels of abrasiveness, which could affect the results. Some ceramics might be too abrasive and cause more damage than others.
  • If the necklace is an heirloom, a valuable piece, or has gemstones, it’s advisable to avoid this test and consult a professional jeweler or gemologist for a proper assessment.

Professional Appraisal

Finally, the last and possibly most reliable method on how to tell if a necklace is real gold is getting a professional appraisal. The “Professional Appraisal” choice is often the most accurate and reliable method for determining the authenticity and value of a gold necklace.

A certified jeweler, gemologist, or appraiser has access to specialized equipment and has the knowledge and experience to assess your piece thoroughly.

It’s the ideal choice when you want to confirm the gold’s authenticity, purity, and value without causing damage to the piece.

Here’s an expanded explanation of a professional appraisal:

Why Choose a Professional Appraisal

  • Expertise: Certified professionals have undergone extensive training to accurately identify, grade, and appraise precious metals, gemstones, and jewelry.
  • Specialized Equipment: Professionals have access to advanced tools like X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers, electronic testers, and spectrometers that provide non-destructive, precise assessments of gold purity and composition.
  • Comprehensive Analysis: An appraisal considers not just the metal content, but also craftsmanship, design, historical significance, and gemstone quality, giving a complete picture of your necklace’s value.
  • Documentation: A professional appraisal provides you with a written report, detailing the necklace’s specifications, including gold purity, gemstone grading, and overall value. This documentation can be crucial for insurance purposes or future resale.

What to Expect During an Appraisal

  • Discussion: The appraiser will discuss your needs, whether you want to know the gold’s authenticity, its market value, or the value for insurance purposes. This will determine the approach they take during the appraisal.
  • Visual Inspection: The appraiser examines the necklace for hallmarks, craftsmanship, wear patterns, and other visual clues that indicate its authenticity and age.
  • Testing: Using specialized equipment, the appraiser will perform non-destructive tests to confirm the gold’s purity. They may use XRF analyzers, which identify the elemental composition of the necklace by measuring the X-rays emitted when the piece is exposed to radiation, or electronic testers that measure the necklace’s conductivity and resistance.
  • Gemstone Evaluation: If your necklace has gemstones, the appraiser will assess their size, color, clarity, cut, and overall quality using tools like loupe magnifiers, microscopes, and refractometers.
  • Market Analysis: The appraiser will consider current market trends, demand for similar pieces, and comparable sales to determine the necklace’s value.
  • Documentation: You will receive a written report detailing the necklace’s specifications, gold purity, gemstone grading, and overall value.

Choosing a Reputable Appraiser

  • Credentials: Look for professionals with certifications from recognized organizations like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Society of Appraisers (ASA).
  • Experience: Choose an appraiser with a proven track record and expertise in evaluating gold jewelry.
  • Transparency: A reputable appraiser should explain their methods, fees, and any potential conflicts of interest upfront.
  • References: Check for online reviews, ask for references, or consult recommendations from friends or family.


To conclude, numerous approaches exist for how to tell if a necklace is real gold. These range from examining hallmarks visually, conducting home-based tests such as the magnet test, ceramic test, or nitric acid test, to seeking expert assessments.

Each technique offers advantages and drawbacks. Home-based tests are convenient and fast but might be inconclusive, especially for gold-plated items, and some may even damage the jewelry.

Conversely, expert evaluations are more costly and time-intensive but yield the most precise and detailed analysis of a necklace’s genuineness, quality, and worth.

Selecting the most suitable method depends on your specific situation and requirements. If dealing with a family heirloom or valuable piece, it is recommended to seek advice from a certified jeweler or gemologist.

Keep in mind that the most dependable validation of a necklace’s authenticity results from employing multiple approaches and considering all available data.

Moreover, always practice caution when purchasing gold jewelry and ensure that you are buying from trustworthy sources to prevent encountering fake or misrepresented items.