Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is it Gold? Silver? Platinum?

We’ve all heard the admonition: “All that glitters is not gold.” The eyes can be deceiving… Precious Metals are not always what they may appear to be... So, how can a home prospector -- suffering a touch of gold fever -- be able to separate salvageable “pay dirt” from worthless “tailings”? ...A poor fellow not wishing to appear to be foolish may ask.
At Silver Gold Buyers we go to great length to enable prospective customers to know if what they have is salable, that is, solid gold, platinum or silver of commercial value or if the product is merely plated or made of base metal and generally not worth the selling bother and fuss.
We begin by educating customers. A picture is worth a thousand words. Since brevity is the soul of wit. We try our best to keep it short and sweet. And simply -- via show and tell -- illustrate WHAT WE BUY and exemplify what we mean through a pictorial GLOSSARY. Our recently updated Silver FAQs, Gold FAQs and Coin FAQs conveniently link to a treasure trove of authoritative information, e.g., U.S. Government Mint, Smithsonian Museum, Wikepedia… and enable the curious to become a “Precious Metal Detective”, to learn the art of home prospecting with ease, and place relevant information on an "as needed basis" instantly at their fingertips.
According to Sherlock… the investigation of purported precious metal should start by carfully examining the article under a good magnifying glass or 10 X loop to find clues of the manufacturer and if the item bears quality marks indicating the material purity. The most frequently encountered hallmarks for Karat Gold jewelry are: 10K, 14K and 18K. In comparison, European gold jewelry is usually marked -- metrically -- in decimal notation: 417, 585, or 750. These marks indicate that an item is 41.7%, or 58.5% or 75% Gold by weight respectively. Platinum is usually marked (Plat.) or Platinum and is alloyed with (Ir) Iridium usually followed by 900 indicating a purity of 90%. Solid Silver is usually stamped Pure Silver or 999; Sterling or 925... 900 or 800… But there are numerous others, older or foreign quality marks, less frequently encountered, that indicate a an object is made or not made of solid precious metal. The website: provides an extensive complillation and illustration of just about every hallmark known to man.
But just like one may not believe everything they see, they too should not believe in everything they read… words, symbols and numbers can be deceiving. Quality marks can overstate, mislead... And from time to time they may prove to be just downright fake: counterfeit; intended to defraud unwary buyers. History proves it is indeed a cruel BUYER/SELLER BEWARE! …world out there. It pays to be cautious and circumspect...
For example, not all of the so called “Karat Gold” is plumb. The gold content of an item may have been reduced by soldering. German Silver is actually a copper/nickel/zinc that more frequently is referred to as Nickel Silver. This silvery-like alloy goes under a long list of other misleading names... Nickel Silver merely resembles silver, but its chemical composition in fact contains no silver at all. Silver and Gold Plated items contain only trace amount of precious metals on their surface. The thickness is so thin that it is measured in angstroms (i.e., by the number of atoms).
The “Acid Test” is the real Moment of Truth… Why? Gold and Platinum do not react with concentrated Nitric Acid. And an item’s fineness can be determined by comparing a test strip against known sample strips rubbed across a touch stone. When acid is applied to the strips -- observing the rate at which the test strip dissolves relative to the strips of known fineness provides a reasonable indicator of the materials purity.
Although a 10K Gold does not react with a drop of Concentrated Nitric Acid, the color of a 10K item will darken at the tested surface. In comparison, 14K, 18K, and Platinum, neither react, nor do they exhibit any change in color in the presence of concentrated Nitric Acid.
On silver, a drop of concentrated Nitric on Silver forms a creamy splotch of Silver Nitrate. If the item, however, turns green, blue or black the item is either plated or base metal.
A quick test for gold plated or gold like costume jewelry is to simply rub the item on a test stone, and then apply a drop of acid to the abraded strip to see if it dissolves. If the strip dissolves immediately, the item is either plated or base metal that does not contain gold.
But just because the test strip does not dissolve, should not be taken as proof positive an item is made of solid gold. The situation still warrants further investigation in order to rule out the possibility the item may be gold filled: i.e., base metal with a layer of karat gold bonded to the surface. To determine whether or not that is the case, the surface of the item should be pierced, penetrated or notched with a drill or file the cavity or notch and then tested for base metal. If the newly exposed surface discolors (turns green, blue or black) when concentrated acid is applied, the material is not solid gold.
But even at this point, one should not draw a hasty conclusion… Why? Fork-tongued counterfeiters are very bold, creative and crafty creatures. And there are other deceptive fakes, and scams that on occasion can may seemingly run the gantlet of the Acid Test if one is rushed and does not patiently and carefully observe what is happening with the material.
For example, a Rhodium plated Stainless Steel class ring I once examined passed the Acid Test. Although the ring was hallmarked 10K, did not react with concentrated Nitric Acid, and when notched… did not turn green, blue or black where it had been pierced and tested. Yet, something about the ring was “fishy”. It just didn’t seem to have the right heft for gold class ring.
Although 10K gold does not react with Nitric Acid; it does slightly change in color on the tested surface… That did not happen in the suspect case. The conclusive evidence the item was not gold, simply came through caution and patient observation. The clue: taking notice there was a slight bubbling occuring in the acid where the ring's surface had been notched and tested. As Dr. Watson would surmise… the rogue's metal was base: the Nitric Acid was reacting with the alloy, albeit slowly and releasing bubbles of Hydrogen Gas. That should not occur with gold or platinum. Ergo, the ring is a fake.
A word of caution! Concentrated Nitric Acid is an extremely hazardous, toxic, and corrosive chemical… It should be used with all due safety precautions. Even a single eye drop of the acid -- is capable of causing serious bodily injury or property damage.

To be continued at Silver Gold Buyers...

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  1. Very helpful information, am bookmarking this page. Have found the owners of this site to be not only trustworthy and honest, but a wealth of information.

  2. Everything in here is very helpful. The acid test can be used by any ordinary people even though not an expert what makes it very cool.

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