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How Can I Tell if My Gold is Real or Gold-Plated?

A gold coin next to a slabbed gold bar.

Did I just buy a $2000 Gold Plated Coin?

Few sensations may be more alarming than the suspicion that you have paid hard-earned dollars to receive a counterfeit gold product. When a gold-plated coin, round, or bar is sold as .999 fine gold, it is downright maddening.

Gold-plated objects have a thin layer of gold over another metal. When it is chemically bonded, gold plating lasts for a long time and provides a low-cost way to wear gold jewelry. So how to know if it’s real gold or fraud?

Let’s go over the ways and methods to confirm that your gold is authentic, through and through.

Check the Hallmark and Lettermark

The Hallmark is an international standard for displaying the purity of a precious metal product. This is the first thing to look for when evaluating a gold product you’ve just bought or are about to buy.

Of course, if the product is counterfeit, there may be a counterfeit Hallmark, but this will help weed out the lower-quality counterfeit gold products.

Check the Product Weight and Dimension

One of the fastest, objective ways to determine the authenticity of your gold product is to check the weight and dimensions with the manufacturer’s listed weight and dimensions. This is a reliable test because it is highly difficult to match the exact dimensions of a gold coin or round.

Since gold is one of the densest metals on the planet, replicating the weight and dimensions with a counterfeit coin is difficult.

To perform this test, you will need a caliper and a food scale that measures to the hundredth or thousandth.

If your product fails this test, it is highly probable that it is merely gold-plated. It should be noted that tungsten has similar dimensions to gold, and gold-plated tungsten can pass this test.

The Gold Magnet Test

Gold does not react to the presence of a magnet. If your product is attracted to a strong magnet, it is not made of pure gold.

This test requires a strong magnet, a metal-free surface like a wooden or glass tabletop, and a paperclip or other small metal object. Your magnet should be about the same size or larger than your gold product.

Move the magnet until it is close to the gold but does not make contact with it. If the gold pulls toward the magnet, this confirms that the product has a large amount of metal other than gold in it.

The Gold Ping Test

The gold ping test is a quick, mostly effective method for testing gold coins at home.

This test can be performed by ear. You might have better luck with one of the various apps since we all perceive sound differently, and smartphone mics are more universally calibrated.

The easiest way to perform the gold ping test is to place the coin or round flat on your finger.

Gently tap your coin with a small stick or another coin.

Listen for a higher-frequency resonant sound. If the coin makes no sound, it might not be gold and should be taken to a coin shop to be subjected to another test.

It should be noted that based on what metals your gold is alloyed with, the ping test may sound radically different from coin to coin.

For instance, the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf is a .999 fine gold bullion coin made with no alloy, and it produces a very small ping with a short-lived resonance. Meanwhile, the American Gold Eagle and Gold Krugerrand are 91.67% fine gold, and their pings have exceptional resonance.

One sign that a Canadian Gold Maple is counterfeit would be hearing a flat thud with zero “ring” when the coin is tapped.

Read the Fine Print

If you are considering a purchase from a company or retailer you are unfamiliar with or one that is new and does not have many reviews, look for the fine print. It may be the same size as the other text on screen but hidden near the bottom of the page.

There are websites that sell what look like gold coins and list that they are gold-plated in an inconspicuous location on their product page. Caveat Emptor.

When These Tests are Inconclusive

When the tests above are inconclusive or raise more questions than they answer, it’s time to bring in the big guns like the Sigma Verifier. Your local coin shop may have one available if you’ve reached this step and are still unsure about the validity of your gold.

The most effective way to avoid counterfeit and gold-plated products is by buying from an established, reputable buyer.

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