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How to check gold purity

Updated on May 29, 2013

Checking gold purity is important for anyone who wants to buy, sell or even calculate the value of their own gold jewelry, coins or bullion. Thankfully, it's very easy and just takes a couple of minutes to do once you have established what carat your gold is.

Some gold jewelry is hallmarked and it's pretty easy to see what carat the gold is. If you need to get a closer look at the hallmarks, which often become worn and faded over time or are very small to begin with, use a powerful magnifying glass and a source of bright light.

If you can see a clear hallmark that's great, but sometimes they are unclear, or not marked. In this case, you will need to perform a simple gold test using acid. These kits are widely available online, and are useful for anybody performing regular gold testing. However, if you only want to test a few pieces simply take them to a local jewelers and ask them what carat the gold is. Most reputable places will have electronic gold testers which work quickly, cleanly and safely.

It's also possible to tell what the purity of gold is by finding out which country the item is from. This is because every country has certain standards that they use when making gold. This standard is the minimum amount of gold that has to be used.

Once the carat value of the gold has been established it's easy to find what purity, or fineness as it is sometimes called, of gold has been used.

Gold is mined and then often alloyed and mixed with different metals. The gold purity describes the percentage of real gold (pure gold) that is contained in the jewelry, coin or bar. Mixing the pure gold with different metals is done for various reasons. It is easier to make intricate items of jewelry with gold that is mixed with other metals. And for coins, there needs to be another metal in there to make them harder and stronger (pure gold is actually quite soft) when they are going through circulation.

So in general...

  • Jewelry often have the least amount of pure gold in it.... 9 CARAT
  • Coins have a relatively high amount of gold in them..... 22 CARAT
  • Gold bars and bullion are often pure gold.... 24 CARAT

The above points are just a rough guide. Once you have established the carat value of the gold you can use a very simple chart to see how much gold is used. And most importantly, once the purity of the gold has been established it's possible to calculate the value and price of the gold to see how much it is worth.

Use the table below to find out how much pure gold there is in your items, then see my other hub 'How to calculate gold value' to see the price of your gold and how much money it is worth.

Gold Content
Three nines (pure)
Two nines
Indian subcontinent
Arabic countries
Portugal standard
Standard mintage
Dental gold
U.S. purity
U.S. standard
UK standard
Germany (minimum)


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