How to Tell If a Chain Is Real Gold
Real gold chains are the perfect accessory in style right now. They come in many different styles that can elevate your outfit, for any lifestyle or fashion preference. Gold chain necklaces have meaning and symbolism, and they off your personality and confidence.
Finding a cheap real gold chain for men or women is totally possible—but how can you be certain that you’re buying the real deal? What makes a gold chain necklace real or fake, and what are the signs that a gold chain is fake? To help you tell the difference between a real gold chain vs fake gold chain, we’ve put together a guide on how to know if a chain is real gold. We’ve provided tips to help you know what to look for so you’ll know how to check if a gold chain is real before you buy, or after you buy, so you can resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
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- What Qualifies As A Real Gold Chain
- How To Check If A Gold Chain Is Real
- Checking Diamonds
- Gold Chain Buying Tips
- Buy Smart, Know Quality
What Qualifies as a Real Gold Chain?
There are a few different types of gold jewelry. There’s solid gold, hollow gold, gold-plated, and gold-filled. Which type is considered a real gold chain? Understanding gold purity is important when buying a real gold chain. Most standards around the world determine anything with less than 41.7% or 10 karats of gold as fake gold. Gold-plated chains and gold-filled chains do not contain enough gold to meet this threshold, while hollow gold and solid gold chains are considered real.
A real solid gold chain necklace is composed entirely of real gold, including 10K gold chains, 14K gold chains, 18K, 22K, etc. 24K gold chains are rare—pure gold is too soft for jewelry. Solid gold chains are the most valuable and the most durable.
Hollow gold chain necklaces are just like solid gold chains, except they have a hollow space inside the gold links. You may buy a hollow gold chain if you’re looking for cheap real gold chains on a tighter budget. Hollow gold chains are real gold chains because the gold is pure, unlike gold-plated or gold-filled chains. However, hollow gold chains are less durable than solid gold chains, so they’re not a great choice for pendants. Here are the instances where you may consider choosing a hollow gold chain over a solid gold chain:
- If you don’t plan on wearing it often (i.e. for specific events).
- If you’re extra careful and clean it consistently.
- You want a large gold chain, but need it to be lightweight.
We do not recommend hollow gold chains for pendants or regular wear. You can do it, but you’ll have to put more effort into caring for the gold chain to prevent it from breaking or bending. It’s almost always a smarter option to buy a solid gold chain with the width and karats you can afford.
Why are gold-plated chains considered fake? The reason is that although gold-plated chains contain a coating of real gold on top, they are not made of real gold. They consist of a cheaper type of metal (or non-metal) that has been dipped in gold to add an extremely thin layer of gold on top of the chain so that it looks real. Over time, the gold-plating will wear off of a gold-plated chain. It requires re-plating to continue to look like real gold.
Gold-filled gold chains are also considered fake. Gold-filled chain necklaces are similar to gold-plated jewelry, except they contain more gold. While gold-plated chains only have a thin gold coating, gold-filled chains have a much thicker layer of gold that is measurable. The base of a gold-filled chain is a metal that is typically not precious, such as brass, copper, or a nickel alloy. The gold coating will stay on this metal longer due to it being a thicker layer.
How much gold is in gold-filled chains? Usually, the gold layer in gold-filled jewelry is about one 20th (1/20) of the weight of the piece of jewelry. It could be more or less—a gold-filled chain will indicate its percentage with a quality mark. For example, a gold-filled chain might say 1/10 14K, indicating it has a layer of 14K gold equal to one 10th of its weight.
Solid Gold is Best, Hollow Gold is Second
Solid gold chains are the best type of real gold chain necklace. You can find many cheap solid gold chains—If you check out our clearance section, you’ll find cheap real solid gold chains that are better than hollow gold chains. Or, to save money, you can always shop sterling silver chains for a high-quality, affordable real chain necklace.
Gold-filled chains and gold-plated chains are considered fake. While gold-filled chains are a better alternative to gold-plated chains, they’re not as good as hollow gold chains. You can always melt and scrap a hollow gold chain or a solid gold chain to receive its gold value when selling it. You can’t do this with gold-filled or gold-plated jewelry, because it’s hard to separate the gold from the base metal. So if you do buy a gold-plated or gold-filled chain, you’re better off keeping it than reselling it if you get tired of it. If you do sell it, make sure to indicate that it’s plated or filled.
How to Check if a Gold Chain is Real
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While the best and surest way to tell if a gold chain is real gold is to have it appraised by a certified jeweler, there are things you can look for to know how to check if a gold chain is real at home. Here are some tests you can do, as well as things to look for, to tell real gold chains from fake ones.
The first thing to check to determine if a gold chain is real or not is its assembly. If you have the gold chain in question on hand, you’ll want to look closely at the overall craftsmanship and quality of the gold chain. Gold chains are a work of art. Some styles of gold chains are harder to make than others. A quality real gold chain will be perfectly detailed and put together. Here’s how to figure out if a gold chain is real through visual inspection:
Check the Chain Links
Observe the chain links closely. You can often get a good sense of the gold chain’s authenticity by how it feels. Quality craftsmanship can be felt and seen.
- Do the individual chain links appear individually soldered? It’s probably real.
- Do the chain links look like they were molded poorly in a factory? It might be fake.
- Does the gold chain have a good weight to it? It might be real solid gold. If it seems a bit on the lightweight side but seems to be real gold, it may be a real hollow gold chain. This is still good news.
The chain should feel firm and durable. If it feels like metal-coated plastic, it probably is. This is especially true of the strongest types of chain necklaces.
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Check the Chain Clasps
The next thing you’ll want to look at is the clasps. Although the clasp of a gold chain necklace isn’t the most exciting part of a gold chain, it is definitely important. It’s one of the most underlooked things that people make the mistake of ignoring when buying a gold chain necklace.
- Look for a gold clasp that’s consistent with the color and quality of the chain.
- Look for a clasp that works effectively and securely.
- The clasp should be metal—it may be cold to the touch like the rest of the chain.
- Look for a hallmark on the clasp indicating the purity of gold. You may need a magnifying glass.
The clasp of a gold necklace matters a lot because it’s what keeps it secure around your neck. There are all different types of clasps out there. Some are more functional than others, and some are more for style. For the best men's gold chain styles, check out our guide.
In general, the lobster clasp is the best option for a real gold chain. It’s both secure and easy enough to open and close for daily wear. Unlike cheaper clasps, it won't open unexpectedly and cause the chain to fall off. When the clasp breaks, you risk losing or damaging the chain.
To check the purity of the gold, first, you’ll want to check for hallmark stamps. As mentioned above, the gold chain may be stamped on its clasp. If you can’t find it there, look elsewhere. Here are the different gold hallmarks indicating real gold:
- Look for a Hallmark: This is the first way to tell if the gold chain necklace you’re buying is real or not. A hallmark is a small stamp on gold jewelry that indicates the gold’s karat weight. Depending on the location, there will be different hallmarks.
- In the United States., the hallmark describes gold purity out of 24 (i.e. 10k, 18k, etc.). In Europe, the number will be a decimal percentage (1.00 would be pure gold, .916 would be 22K, .75 would be 18K, .417 is 10K, etc).
- If there are no marks on the gold chain, it still could be real gold. Not all real gold jewelry has hallmarks—older pieces may have had their original markings wear off.
- Some manufacturers produce fake gold with hallmarks, so it’s not always a definitive test—if the gold chain necklace seems lightweight or cheap in design, conduct further tests.
- Look for a Letter Mark: If the gold chain has letters GP, GF, or GEP stamped or engraved onto it, it is not real solid gold. GP means gold plated, GF means gold-filled, and GEP means gold electroplate.
- Common gold-filled and gold-plated chain stamps are GP, GEP, RGP, HGE, HGP, or GF. These fake gold hallmarks mean the following:
- Gold Plated
- Gold Filled
- Gold Electroplated
- Gold Electro Plated
- Heavy Gold Plated
- Heavy Gold Electroplated
- Gold plating and gold-filled is real gold, but it’s often thin and far less valuable, so an unusually cheap price could be an indicator. It’s not considered true gold.
- Hollow gold, on the other hand, refers to real gold that has been hollowed out to make jewelry more lightweight. Look for solid gold and hollow gold for the most valuable gold jewelry.
- All you need to do it will cost you up to $20
- The process will take about 30 minutes
- unglazed ceramic plate
The letter marks and hallmarks tell a lot about a gold chain’s authenticity. For example, if you want to know how to tell if a 14K gold chain is real, look at the marking. If it says “14K GP”, it’s not real, but gold-plated; the gold used to plate the chain is 14 karats, but it’s not worth much. That said, gold hallmarks are easy to fake. It’s a good idea to test if gold is real at home using a few different methods.
Test The Gold Band With Magnets
It may help you decide if gold is real or not because gold isn’t a magnetic metal, so if a magnet reacts to the gold chain, it’s not a real gold necklace.
Do A Scratch Test
Applying slight pressure, scrape gold chain across an unglazed ceramic plate, with light pressure. If you can see a gold mark left on the ceramic, then the gold is likely real. If the mark is black or grey, then it is fake; possibly gold-plated.
Test Gold with Acid
You can take your gold chain to a jeweler for a test, or do this at home. Make a small scratch on the chain and then put a few drops of nitric acid on it. The acid will dissolve any base metals that aren't real gold.
Test Gold with Vinegar
Add a few drops of vinegar be applied to the gold chain, in an inconspicuous place. If the chain is made of fake gold, it will change colors. If it’s made of real gold, there will be no color change. Gold-filled jewelry can still pass this test.
Take It to a Jeweler
This is the best way to test gold to be 100 percent certain it’s real. Jewelers have many different methods to test gold, including XRF spectrometers, sigma metalytics machines, etc. They also have expertise when it comes to telling real gold jewelry from fake. They can use a scale to determine gold’s authenticity as well.
Besides professional testing, these methods can’t always guarantee your gold chain is real. It can be hard to tell gold-filled silver chains from real, for example. One thing they will tell you is that a gold chain is fake if it fails one of these tests.
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Gold diamond chain necklaces are an extravagant type of gold chain. They’re eye-catching, luxurious necklaces for men who have the confidence and personality to show them off. That said, there are a lot of convincing diamond simulants and other fake diamonds out there. Here’s how to tell real diamonds from fake diamonds in your diamond chain necklace.
There are two ways to do a diamond scratch test at home—sandpaper and glass/mirrors. Sandpaper has a hardness between 7 and 9 on the Mohs scale, so it may be harder than many fake diamond tennis bracelets.
- Use the sandpaper scratch test. First, Rub the gritty side of sandpaper against the gemstone.
- Look closely at the diamond for scratches.
- If the sandpaper left scratches on the stone, it’s not a real diamond.
Another method to conduct a scratch test on diamonds to tell real vs. fake is s by scratching it on glass. The sandpaper method is slightly preferable to the glass method, but it’s more likely to damage your gemstone if it’s not a real diamond, so the glass scratch test may be safer if you’d like to preserve the gem.
- Use the glass scratch test. Scrape the diamond against a mirror or panel of glass.
- If it scratches it, it could be a diamond, since diamonds are the hardest material and they should scratch glass panels or glass mirrors.
Many diamond simulants, however, are also harder than glass, so you should look at other tests to identify a real diamond chain necklace vs. a fake diamond chain.
Diamonds, due to their molecular arrangement, disperse heat quickly. This makes fog disappear. Cubic zirconia and other diamond simulants have different compositional properties, so they will hold onto condensation longer.
- Make sure your diamond and hands are clean first; oils can tamper with the results.
- Put the diamond necklace in front of your mouth and breathe on the diamonds until they fog up.
- Time how long it takes the gemstones to clear up.
- If they clear up after a few seconds, it’s a real diamond chain. If they stay fogged up for over three seconds, it’s most likely a fake diamond chain necklace..
If you have diamond jewelry you know is real, it can help to breathe on both the real diamond jewelry and the diamond chain to compare the results.
The sparkle test is a diamond test you can do at home to help determine if your diamond chain is real or fake. It’s a visual inspection of how the stones appear in the light.
- Hold the diamond chain necklace in the light.
- Twist it around in the light to observe its gemstones from different angles.
- Examine the colors of light in the gems’ reflection.
- Look for shades of grey and rainbow colors in the gold chain’s gems.
- Diamonds reflect light very well. You should see both shimmers of white or greyish light, as well as colors inside the diamonds. You should see many bright different colors. If the gems only reflect colored light or produce weak light reflections and poor colors, it might not be a real diamond tennis bracelet.
Diamonds appearance vs. cubic zirconia: If the gemstones reflect more orange colors than white reflections, it’s probably a cubic zirconia chain necklace.
Diamonds appearance vs. moissanite: Moissanite is also highly reflective, but typically shows a wider range of bright colors than diamonds. In a naked-eye inspection of diamonds, look for a balance of white light reflections and colors. The diamonds should still appear white overall, with hints of color.
Gold Chain Buying Tips
Here are some tips for choosing a real gold chain for men or women, without getting duped.
- Communicate with the seller—The seller should have good communication with the buyer. They should be able to guarantee the authenticity of their gold chains without hesitation. Be bold—ask any questions or concerns you have in regards to the gold and/or diamonds upfront. Good sellers should communicate quickly, displaying their knowledge of their products.
- Shop online. This is a great way to compare gold chain necklace prices. Shopping in stores is a good way to see gold necklaces in person and try them on, but it’s harder to compare prices of different gold chain styles, and it’s tough to narrow your selection. When looking at real gold chains online, you can filter your search by carat, metal, and price range.
- Look at the styles: the types of gold chain styles a seller offers can give a good indication of how the seller responds to buyer demand. If they offer limited selections that don’t change much and can’t be customized, they’re probably not keeping up with the trends. This means they might not sell a ton of inventory, so they’re not as likely to have the lowest prices.
- Look for reputation: How long has the seller been selling gold chains? There are new businesses out there that sell gold, of course, but it’s a good sign if a seller has name recognition and reviews for their products. The longer a gold business has been active, the more likely the jewelry is to be authentic, since there’s been plenty of time for customers to call them out. The more customers they’ve had, the more they can stand by their quality.
- Look for reviews: This is a good way to tell if a seller is reputable or not and if their gold chains are high-quality. New sellers might not have many reviews, and new products might not have any either. This is totally fine. But more established sellers should at least have some reviews for their products. If there are no reviews at all, or if there are many 5-star reviews for every product that don’t seem real, the seller may be suspicious. When in doubt, contact the seller for clarification.
- Shop online stores that manufacture gold chains. Brick-and-mortar stores rarely offer the same discounts on gold chain necklaces, so opt for buying online from a store that manufactures their own gold chains. This will cut out the cost of the middleman stores that provide an upcharge on jewelry since they had to buy it from a manufacturer first. Here at ItsHot, we make our own gold chains and sell directly to consumers.
Buy Smart, Know Quality
Here at ItsHot, gold chains are our specialty. We set the bar for online jewelry sales, and have been the leader in online suppliers of high-end, real gold and silver chain necklaces and New York City style jewelry. Here at ItsHot, we strive to satisfy the customer, and we offer all of the best gold chains in style right now for unbeatable prices.
We keep in touch with the market values of gold and diamonds, so you won’t overpay. Even our cheapest gold chains are real and made by experts with years of experience in fine gold jewelry making.
Our website is reputable, 100% authentic, guaranteed. It’s also easy to browse since you can filter all of our necklaces and chains by width, karats, men’s and women’s chains, unisex jewelry, and more. You can customize all of our necklaces to your desired length. You can even create your custom chain necklace here.
Founder of ItsHot.com
Denis Stepansky is a founder of ItsHot, a diamond jewelry and watches store based in NYC. He has been in the jewelry business for about 20 years and owns such high-end jewelry brands as Luccello and Luxurman. As a jewelry expert, he has citations on well-known magazines and newspapers like Insider and Daily Mail.
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