How Do Pawn Shops Test Gold And Silver? 3+ Easy Ways

bars of gold

One of the first steps you’ll encounter when selling or pawning your jewelry is the shop is going to test that your gold is, well, gold.

So, how exactly do pawn shops test your gold? 

There are a number of tests to make sure that a piece of jewelry is real gold and not just plated or painted.

You will likely see the authenticator do these tests, but you can also do them at home before bringing jewelry to the shop to ensure that what you’re trying to sell is the real deal.

Visual Inspection

The first thing the pawn shop will do is a visual inspection. Real gold jewelry will have a stamp indicating the fineness or karat of the gold, anything under 10K isn’t considered to be real gold. Of course, these stamps often wear off due to use, and some counterfeit jewelry has a fake stamp, so the visual inspection is not the be-all, end-all. Another aspect of the visual inspection is to see if there are any parts that have been worn off to show another metal underneath, this checks to see if the jewelry is obviously plated.

Magnet Test

Real gold isn’t magnetic, so you will likely see the authenticator using a magnet to see if the jewelry is magnetic. If it moves toward the magnet, that’s a clear indicator that the jewelry isn’t real gold. Counterfeit jewelry can be made with non-magnetic metals, so there will also be more testing done.

Density Test

Real gold is one of the densest materials, so you can test your jewelry for density to test for gold.

First, weighing the jewelry in grams. You can then do a water density test.

If you fill a clear container with water, measure exactly how high the water is (you can try a plastic cup and sharpie). Add your jewelry to the container and measure the displacement in millimeters. Density calculated in mass (g) divided by volume displacement (ml).

So, if your mass was 29 g and your water displacement was 2 ml, you’d have a relative density of 14.5 g/ml, and 14K gold has a relative density of 12.9 to 14.6 g/ml, so 14.5 g/ml would likely confirm authentic gold.

  • 14K: 12.9 to 14.6 g/ml
  • 18K yellow: 15.2 to 15.9 g/ml
  • 18K white: 14.7 to 16.9 g/ml
  • 22K: 17.7 to 17.8 g/ml

There are many other tests a pawn shop authenticator may do using chemicals and acid, but these three are tests you can do at home that are pretty clear indicators of real gold.

The tests for silver are a little different, but not by a lot. Silver is also a non-magnetic precious metal, and a visual test to see about wear and plating is also a valid approach. You can also test for density with silver, where the average density is 10.8 g/ml. You can also test silver as a conductor. If you have silver jewelry, try putting an ice cube directly on it, the ice cube should start to melt almost immediately as energy runs through it.