How to Tell the Difference Between Gold & Cheap Jewelry

Separate the real from the fake.

Photo: Pinnacle Pictures/Photodisc/Getty Images

While some pieces of costume jewelry may have a great look, there are always times when a girl wants real class -- or just to know that she hasn't been had! If you've got a piece of jewelry that looks like real gold, but you're not quite sure, there are a number of factors you can look for, not to mention simple tests, to help you know for sure if what you've got is real bling or just a pretty phony.


Assess the color of the metal. Many imitation gold jewelry will have a color that's too yellow and brassy, whereas the color of gold is more subtle and soft with slight tones of beige to its shade. Observe the luster of the metal. Real gold will have a velvety, almost pearlescent sheen rather than the shiny mirror finish you'll only see on fake gold jewelry.


Hold a magnet against the metal to see if it sticks or pulls. Real gold is non-magnetic, so if the magnet sticks, the metal is either fake gold or gold-plated.


Weigh the metal on a jewelry scale or kitchen scale. Check the weight against a gold calculator or weight chart (see Resources). For this, you'll need to know the karat pureness, also called claimed pureness, of the gold, since different levels will have different weights. If the weight doesn't line up, either the karat claim is wrong or it's not real gold.


Look the piece of jewelry over for signs of metallic sheen or color that's clearly not gold in color. Fake golds, as well as gold plating, will often have the gold color in a layer over core metals with a silver or gray color. Often, if the plating wears away, you'll be able to see it. Look for this on the portions of the jewelry that are most often handled, such as pendants, the lower band of rings or clasps on bracelets and necklaces.


Assess the quality of the jewelry's craftsmanship; real gold is rarely wasted on shoddy construction. Give chains and joints a gentle tug to see if anything comes loose. Examine the chain links to make sure they have consistent shapes and sizes and don't easily bend and kink.


Watch for green skin when you're wearing your jewelry. This happens because of corrosion, also called oxidization, of metals like copper, but does not happen with gold. Make the test surefire by wearing the jewelry tightly pressed to moist skin for several hours; if this doesn't cause green skin, then it's the real deal!

Things You'll Need



2.Jewelry or kitchen scale


Related Videos




"The Gold Jewelry Buying Guide"; Renée Newman; 1993

Add to this Article



Just for you

What type are you?

Choose your Eye Shape
or Register
Daily Look


How would you like to register?

Register with Facebook
  • It's fast, easy and hassle-free
  • One-click log-in and commenting
Register with
  • Use your email to create your account