There are several supplies that we sell for gold testing and I wanted to give you an overview of the kinds of things that you can expect to use and need and talk about the basics of gold testing.
So, what I’ve got in front of me are some beginning supplies. We’ve got our testing solutions that can help you test different things from 10-karat, 14-karat, 18-karat, 22-karat, silver and platinum. We’ve got storage boxes that can help you keep everything organized. We’ve got testing stones, those are the surfaces that you’ll actually do the testing on. We even have things like these testing needles that can help you make comparisons so that you can do your testing more accurately. And you might need a few other things too. We recommend things like getting yourself a loop, maybe a needle file, a polishing cloth, some sand paper, definitely some paper towels and you might even need a magnet. And I’m going to show you how all of these things are going to help you do your testing so that you can determine if things are gold or not.
So, let’s start testing a gold item. I got a ring here that I’m not sure what it is, so let’s check it out. First thing I’d like to do is take my loop and I want to examine the item because manufacturers will put a mark on the inside to tell you what karat that the item is. They’ll say 10-karat, 14-karat, things like that. What that does is it gives me a good starting point for the solutions I’m going to use. This ring says 14-karat so that’s where I’m going to start. I’ll take my polishing cloth, I’m going to clean it off real quick there because you don’t want any dirt or anything there that might interfere with the test. You always want to have a good test and it’s always a good habit to get into. So let’s clean that off real quick there.
Now, we’re going to use our testing stone. And the way we do the test is we’re going to take our item and we’re going to make a mark or a scratch on our stone. And you want to make a nice, firm mark and I like to make my mark just a little longer just in case I need to apply different solutions for various tests. I’ve got one big mark that I don’t have to go back and do more with. So now I’m going to start with a 14-karat acid. I’m going to take that, open it up and I’m going to apply just a drop or two here on the end and I’m going to look for the reaction that the solution makes. These testing solutions come in various strengths. The weaker solutions are for testing 10-karat and they get stronger as the karats go up. And the solution will dissolve away any mark that has a lower karat than the solution. So for instance I applied 14-karat solution to the mark, it will dissolve away any gold marks that are lower than 14 karat. And as I look at this mark I can see through the drop of solution that the mark is still there. So we’ve got a ring that is 14-karat.
But there’s way that you can be a little more sure. Got my paper towel here, that’s why I always keep it on hand, I’m going to dab that off. There’s a couple of things you can do. One thing is you can make a comparison mark with something that you know is 14-karat. Myself, I always like to use my ring because I know that’s 14 karat and it’s always on me, so it’s a handy way to have something on hand that you know what it is. So I can make a mark on the stone right next to my unknown and I can compare the marks. Another thing that you can use is you can have a product called these testing needles. And it’s a product that we have and it’s a set of 5 needles that gives you little gold tips that range anywhere from 8 karat all the way up to 18-karat. So you can use that as your comparison if you’ve got other items that you’re not so sure about, you can actually have different karats of gold to make marks to compare them.
Another way that you can be a little more sure is to go ahead and use the next step up in solutions. So I grab the 18-karat solution and I’m going to apply that to both marks and I’m going to see how they react. If the item that I’ve tested is 14-karat, by applying the 18-karat solution we’ll watch closely and it will start to dissolve right away and within a couple of seconds or so the 14-karat mark will be gone and that tells you that it’s not 18-karat. So there we go. We’ve got a 14-karat ring. Through multiple testing and as you do more testing you’re going to build a lot of experience and making these observations are going to become very second nature to you and you’ll have a lot more confidence as you go through testing.
Now, sometimes when testing gold you’re going to run into items that aren’t gold, gold-filled, gold plated and you kind of want to know how to handle those things, so let me just give you a couple of little tips here. When testing an item that you’re really not sure if it’s gold or not, sometimes that brings it the attention of your magnet. And this has been a really handy tool here recently that people have been using because a lot of times gold-filled and gold-plated items use a base metal underneath that is attracted by a magnet. Gold isn’t, so that’s a great test to start right away if you’re really not sure if something is gold or not. You don’t have to start with the acid because a gold item won’t be attracted to a magnet. But if you want it to go further, there’s other ways to tell if it’s not gold or not. Another way is to just actually go ahead and do the test. Because a plated item will make a mark just fine on your testing stone, but if you apply any type of testing solution to it, it dissolves almost immediately. Even if I use the lowest karat testing solution that I have, the 10-karat. Mark doesn’t even stay. So I can tell you right there that this is definitely not gold.
But you may run into some situations where you’ll encounter a piece that has a gold plating that is incredibly heavy and just by even making a scratch on your stone all you’re going to get is that plating, and that’s what’s going to test and it can often give you a false positive. That’s when it’s a really good idea to have a little needle file in our arsenal tools over here. Because if you’re really, really not sure about an item a good thing to do is just make a nice little scratch on your item and then scratch where you made the mark with the needle file. That way you’re sure to get the metal underneath and you can make a good test with your solutions so that you can be absolutely sure – yeah, it’s not gold.
Now, another type of metal that you might begin testing is silver. And you’re going to do that in a similar fashion. Got a piece of silver here, or at least I think it’s silver and I want to give it a test. But I don’t need to use my testing stone because I’m not going to make a mark on it. The testing solution that you use for silver is this one and it relies on a color change rather than whether it dissolves a mark or not. So I’m still going to keep it on my paper towel here because I don’t want to make any kind of mess. And I want to find out if this particular item is silver or not. Now, what you want to do is you want to get through the surface of the silver and there’s a couple of different reasons for that. One: a lot of silver items have a coating over them to keep them from tarnishing because as you can see from this dark color when they’re exposed to the air, they can tarnish. And a lot of newer items are going to have a coating over them to prevent that and you want your solution to be able to get through there.
Also, anything silver that’s tarnished can affect the outcome of the test because the tarnish is on the surface of the metal and again, you want to get through that because you want to get through to the silver that’s underneath. So in the case of my little piece of metal here I’m going to take a file and I’m going to fil on the surface there, so I can get to the bright, shiny silver underneath and I’m going to apply a drop of my silver testing solution. Now, I’m going to be looking for a reaction from the solution just as I was looking for a reaction from the gold testing solutions, but I’m looking for a different reaction. Here, I’m going to look for a change in the color of the solution because the more silver an item has, the stronger the color of the solution is going to be. I’m going to be looking for a very bright red. The brighter the red, the more silver an item is going to have. So if it’s fine silver, it’s going to be a very brilliant bright red. If it’s sterling silver, it’s going to be a little bit darker red. If it’s something like German silver that’s going to have 80% silver or less, it’s going to be in the very dull reds to browns. If it has less than 50% silver, it’s going to start turning into the very dull browns and greens. So you’re looking for red and that’s what you want to see. And I can see after a few seconds the solution on my sheet has a very, very dark red to it. And that’s what I’m wanting, I want red for my sterling silver.
Another metal that you might run across in your testing is platinum. And we’re going to do a platinum test to show you how that works. Got my ring here, use my loop to look inside. I don’t see any marks in there. So nothing that says 14-karat or anything like that. Clean it off with my polishing cloth. Let’s go ahead and make a mark, just like we did when we tested our gold. Nice, strong mark on our testing stone there. Take our platinum solution and we’re going to apply a drop or two and we’re going to look for the reaction. And the reaction I want is no reaction at all. I want that mark under that solution to be brilliant bright white just as I put it on the stone and that’s exactly what I’m seeing. So there we go. Our platinum ring withstood the test. But should that mark be completely dissolved by your testing solution on the platinum, don’t worry. Nothing to panic about – it’s probably just a white gold ring. And all you’re going to do is take your gold testing solutions and perform the test just as if it were a gold ring.
Now, testing is not a hard thing but it something that does require practice and it does require common sense. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of things and I’ve done a lot of testing and I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks here and there and I’m sure you’re going to pick up your own. But a few things I learned are these: I learned that when I examine the piece with my loop before I do the testing to find the gold mark I want to make sure that that gold mark is the same that I’m going to be testing. And what do I mean by that? Well, if this ring is marked 10-karat and I make my scratch, I want to make sure that it stands up to the 10-karat. But if it stands up to the 14-karat as well and even the 18-karat acid, that’s something to be suspicious of and I want to examine this piece much further. Also, be aware of things like this: this particular piece is a beautiful white ring. Isn’t attracted by a magnet so is it platinum? Is it white gold? Well, platinum and white gold don’t have cheap components. They’re not going to have plastic or rubber inserts in them, so this piece is nice as it is and it wasn’t attracted by the magnet. It’s stainless steel and therefore it’s not really something that I’m going to want to be buying.
Also, be aware of things like this: be aware of things like class rings. Class rings are very common, a lot of people have them but they’re not necessarily made of precious metals. Sometimes they’re made of very low karat gold or in fact made of non-precious metals at all such as stainless steel. A big, giant men’s class ring is a lot less expensive in stainless steel than would be in gold, so therefore you might see a lot of those. And the unfortunate part about stainless steel is that when you make your marks they can often stand up to your gold testing solutions. But knowing this about class rings, that will make you aware of it and you’ll examine them further and determine what it really is.
Lastly, if you’re really unsure about things is just go ahead and break out your file, file under the piece, get below that surface because you want to test what’s underneath. You don’t really care about the surface just in case there’s a plated item and if you can’t get through there, go head, break out your side cutters, cut it. If you’re buying these for scrap, you’re not buying these for their jewelry pieces, you’re buying these for scrap so it doesn’t really matter the condition – all you care about is what metal they are. So once you’ve gone under that surface, now you can make your mark and now you can get a good test. And filing and cutting is also a good test of your client – because if a client wants to sell you a piece, they’re not selling it for their jewelry value, they’re selling it for the metal so they don’t care what condition it’s in. And if they’re not going to allow you to file into the surface or cut a piece so that you can get underneath, that’s a situation that you need to examine further and make sure that you’re really buying gold or buying what you think you’re buying. These little hints and tips can be helpful to you. I’m sure you’re going to pick up a lot more during your testing, but it’s something you definitely need to practice and you definitely use your common sense.
An important part of testing is cleanliness – you want to make sure that you’re clean when you perform the tests and you want to make sure that everything is clean before you pack everything away. We always try to use a cloth or paper towel underneath our testing stones just to make sure to catch any spills or drips that can happen, and always keep stuff on hand to wipe off our stones when we’re done. I mean, the testing solutions are liquid and they do have an acid in them, in that they are testing acids but at worst they might make your fingers a little yellow, they can definitely get a stain on your clothes so that’s why we want to have paper towels just to make sure we can clean up any drops or spills like that. Your stones will need to be cleaned as well because over time you’re going to develop a lot of marks and scratches on there from the metals and you always want to start fresh so that way you don’t get any kind of confusion. That’s where your fine sandpaper will come in. All you need to do is gently rub over the top of your stone and it gets rid of those marks quite easily.
We do carry two different types of stones. We also carry a glass one too. The glass one’s a little bit easier to clean than the standard testing stone, but it doesn’t hold the marks as well. You can get a much darker marker on these, so if you’re inexperienced to testing I would definitely stick with the regular stone. If you’ve got a lot of experience and you like fast cleanup, then the glass one might be good for you. But when you put everything away, always make sure just to clean up, put everything where it needs to go. Testing solutions, we always carry a box that you can store the testing solutions in. Keep them nice, neat and out of the way. You definitely want to keep your testing solutions away from anything else. Make sure the caps are on tight to keep the acids fresh, but even with the caps on tight, fumes can leak out from your testing bottles because they’re acids, those solutions can rust things that are in box like your needles, they can rust your side cutters and if you kept them in a briefcase with your electronic scale, it can rust those too. It’s always good to keep those separate from everything else. Pack everything away, be clean and you’ll have good testing.