Gold is graded in what is called the “karat system.” In the karat system, pure gold is expressed as “24 karats” (24k).
The gold content of any item depends on the amount of pure gold it contains.
The most popular grades in the United States are:
18k = 18/24ths or 75% gold. Also indicated as .750
14k = 14/24ths or 58.5% gold. Also indicated as .585
10k = 10/24ths or 41.67% gold. Also indicated as .417
In the United States, as well as any civilized country in the world, legal regulations require the marking of gold jewelry to protect the public against fraud.
If, for example, the item is stamped 14k it can not be less than 58.5% gold or the maker could be charged for fraud or counterfeiting.
Although this has been a law for many years, the United States Congress most recently passed an amendment in 1976 that stipulates the gold content of an article must be at least 10 karats for it to be called “karat gold.”
The karat stamp can be found on the inside of gold rings, on the clasp of gold chains and bracelets, on the back of pendants and on earring posts.
If there is no stamp present the item may still be gold, sometimes through wear the stamp is hard to see or is completely gone.
These stamps are sometimes hard to see with the naked eye. You could use a magnifying glass, but the best tool to use is a 10X Jewelers Loupe which can be purchased at the
Testing The Gold
As stated earlier, all jewelry manufactured in the United States must be stamped and support its karat grade.
Be aware, there are counterfeiters of gold, just as there are of money, even though it is illegal.
The usual type of jewelry that is copied are heavy necklaces, were they take silver chains and gold plate them. And yes, they put a karat stamp on them!
Although it is rare that you will look at fake items, it’s good to keep your guard up and be ready if and when they do appear.
Early on, you may want to make it a rule to test every item you look at. Eventually you’ll be able to tell the fake from the real just by looking at it.
Although there is electronic testing equipment available, the less expensive route to take is simply a gold test stone and acid.
When testing the item you simply rub it against the stone. Press firmly as you rub until you see the gold on the stone.
Then, using the bottle of acid, squeeze a drop on the stone where you rubbed the gold.
If it disappears, or turns green, the item is not gold. If it stays unchanged it is gold.
If it turns a dark brown it is most likely a lower karat grade than the acid you are using. In that case try a higher karat acid.
If you already have an idea what karat grade the gold is, use the acid labeled that particular karat. If you're unsure what karat it is, start with the 18k acid. If it turns dark brown then try it again with 14k acid. If it still turns dark brown it is most likely 10k.
If you have any doubts about the item being genuine, or if you think it may be gold plated, run the test several times. Sometimes the gold plating is very thick and will not disappear from the stone during the first test.
You could also rub the item on the stone several times to be sure to rub through the plating. Then just drop the acid on the stone where you did the last rub.
When buying scrap gold you sometimes have pieces that are very small and hard to handle. In this situation just lay the piece on a folded paper towel and put a drop of acid right on it.
After you are finished testing, wipe the acid off of the stone with a wet cloth.
Be careful not to get the acid on your fingers it will leave a yellow stain deep into your skin and take weeks to wear off.
Once you’ve determined the item is gold, the next thing you need to do is calculate it’s weight.
Weighing The Scrap Gold
In the gold industry weights are measured in troy weight. The troy system began in medieval times and is named after the city of Troyes, France.
The troy ounce is what the price of gold is based on, hence the spot price is for one troy ounce of pure gold.
Below are some popular weights in the troy system and their conversion: