Stebgo Metals Blog

How to Spot Fake Gold Chains

Posted by Scott Stebbing on Wed, Oct 12, 2011 @ 09:08 AM

The Number One Gold Buying Mistake

Chains are the number one gold buying mistake, and they are the most common fakes we see here at Stebgo Metals. Chains are a little harder to test and when the piece is a sterling/gold plate variety (Vermeil) they often have a “feel” close to a real gold chain. Because these fake gold chains are heavy, buying just one can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.


 Checklist when Testing Gold Chains:

  1. Look for hallmark

  2. Check  to see if chain is magnetic

  3. File into piece to get through plating /overlay or to expose sterling underneath.

  4. Test with Nitric Acid or your electronic tester

  5. Beware of any 18 Karat White men’s chains

Do not buy if you are unsure.It’s OK to pass rather than get burned!

Steps to find fake chains:

  1. Hallmark. When testing a chain look for the hallmark first. We have found that the fake chains will have a Karat stamp like 14K but not have a manufacturer hallmark. Your chain manufacturers are going to put the company hallmark on their piece.

  2. Magnetic. The next step would be check to see if it is magnetic, this will tell you right away you have a no value chain.

  3. Nitric Acid. When testing with nitric acid or an electronic tester remember to  file into the piece if you can, this will get through any plating or gold overlay.  Always test body of chain not end caps or clasp.

Tricky Fake Chains

Here is an example of a tricky one that some people have purchased. This chain is often heavy gauged and in a men’s style. It is a stainless, chromium mix that is inert with the acid (no reaction) and non-magnetic. The electronic testers will sometimes show this as a karat piece! Most examples we have seen are marked 18K and do not have any recognizable hallmark of any kind, they may have a random number sequence. It will seem much harder to file than an 18K/14K white piece so test heavy men’s 18 Karat White with a file if you can. These chains shown were stamped either 750 or 18K

fake chain random number sequence

Nitric Acid Reactions

Below are some reactions to look for when using the straight nitric acid method. (Be sure to wear eye protection)

  • 10 Karat Yellow - Brown color
  • 14KY - Very slight brown color
  • 18KY  -  No color change
  • 10Karat White - Dark brown, after 20 seconds the acid starts to fizz
  • 14KW - Slight brown
  • 18KW - Faint brown
  • Sterling Silver -  Milky whitish color with some faint brown
  • Pot metal - Grey color, no fizzing
  • Base Metal - Fizzes green, smokes (brass or copper present) see base metal plated bangle below

See the green residue present - this fake was stamped 14k



We have found that a little diligence when testing chain protects your bottom line. Remember, a stamp is just a stamp. Be sure to take the time to go through these steps with the chains and bracelets that come in.

Tags: Testing Gold, Stebgo Alerts