How Do Pawn Shops Test Gold

Gold and Jewelry Buyers
Pawn Shop: Gold and Jewelry Buyers

Are you thinking about selling gold to pawn shop employees, but first want to know what to expect? A pawn shop employee is trained to be a discerning gold buyer early on and follows a specific process to ensure the gold is genuine. Most pawn shops offer anywhere from 25% of the gold’s value and up when buying gold, to cover overhead and other expenses.

Whether you’re planning to borrow against gold for a pawn loan or sell it to make some extra cash, it’s helpful to know the different ways pawn shops test gold. In this article, we’ll answer the question, “How do pawn shops test gold?” and go into detail about how to test your gold at home before you arrive at a pawn shop.

Read on for more information.

The Acid or Touchstone Test for Gold

Most pawn shops use acid to determine not only whether something is real gold, but what karat gold it is. The acid test is sometimes also called the touchstone test.

How accurate is this type of test?

The acid test is the most commonly used test by pawn shops to determine whether gold is real. This is due to the fact that it’s very accurate. There is only one other test used to determine whether gold is real, and it’s far more expensive than acid testing.

Other ways of telling if gold is real (like visual inspection, weighing it in your hand, or trying to calculate its mass) are flawed and wouldn’t be used by pawn shop employees, whether you’re trying to get a pawn loan for gold or sell it for cash.

Where to get an acid test for gold

These tests are available on Amazon for $20-$30 and contain nitric acid and a black stone. For each karat you test, there’s a different container of acid. Gold tests often contain acid for 10 karats, 14 karats, 18 karats, and 22 karat gold.

How to perform a touchstone test

Before you perform a touchstone test, there are some things you should know. First, test an inconspicuous part of the jewelry item. Since rubbing your gold items on a stone may cause damage, you should take extra care if you choose to test this way.

Since you’ll be working with acid, it’s important to use gloves and goggles as well. Nitric acid can cause burns on your skin and should be handled and stored with care.

Performing the test is simple: all you need to do is rub the item you’re testing on the stone so it makes a mark. When you’ve done that, you can drop the acid on top of it, starting with the 10-karat acid. If the mark you’ve made disappears, that means the gold is not genuine.

If the mark stays, you can use the next type of acid to determine what karat your gold is. Place another drop of acid on top of the last one. If the mark disappears, then your gold is the karat of the acid type you chose before it disappeared. (For example, if the mark stayed at 14 karats but disappeared when you used the 18-karat acid solution, the gold item is 14 karats.)

If you’re feeling any confusion about how to perform a gold test, you may find this gold testing video very helpful.

Are There Alternatives to the Acid Test?

As far as accuracy goes, there’s only one solid alternative to the acid test: X-ray fluorescence (XRF) testing. With XRF testing, you can determine the content of gold and all other precious metals. An XRF machine can tell you if there’s gold plating on the jewelry, and it’s less destructive to the jewelry or gold item than acid testing is.

Although acid testing is one of the most accurate ways to test for gold, it’s not entirely foolproof. This is why those who handle precious metals on a regular basis (jewelers, for example), tend to invest in XRF machines. They provide a higher level of detail and insight into what types of metal are in the jewelry, making it a great option for fine jewelry stores, but not a very realistic option for pawn shops due to the cost of XRF analyzers.

Considering that the cost of an XRF machine can range from $18K to $50K compared to a simple acid test that costs around $30, it makes much more financial sense for pawn shops to use acid tests.

Other Ways to Check Gold

If you’re at home and don’t have access to an acid test or XRF machine, there are a few other ways you can check if you’ve got gold. Just keep in mind that these tests are far less reliable, so don’t be surprised if, after all this, you find out your gold isn’t genuine after all.

Here are some of the common at-home ways people test their gold:

  • Tarnish test. Genuine gold doesn’t tarnish or rust. If your jewelry is tarnished or rusted, it’s not made of real gold.
  • Magnet test. Take out a magnet and hold your jewelry up to it. If your jewelry is drawn to the magnet, it’s not gold. Unlike other metals, gold is not magnetic.
  • Float test. Gold is a dense metal, so it won’t float in water. Keep in mind, though, that other metals are also heavy and may sink to the bottom.
  • Skin test. This takes more time, but if you find that your skin starts turning green after wearing the jewelry for some time, it’s not genuine gold.
  • Look for a hallmark. Many gold jewelry items have an engraving in an inconspicuous place to show what karat it is. That said, fraudulent jewelry is also common, so you may find that you’ve got a bogus piece of jewelry with a hallmark.

The Decision is Up to You

Knowing that pawn shops often test jewelry by scratching it on a stone can be unnerving for some people. If you’re planning to borrow against gold jewelry that’s a family heirloom, you might feel reluctant about our testing methods.

If you have qualms about testing, the choice is up to you. At the end of the day, your gold jewelry is yours, and you should do what’s right for you.

Sell Your Gold or Borrow Against It

If you’re interested in selling your gold items (or would like to borrow against it to get a pawn loan), we would be happy to help. At NYC Luxury Pawn Loans, we prioritize our customers and work hard to provide exceptional service.

If you want to learn more about how to buy or sell your gold with us, request a quote today!

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