How to Tell Real Gold From Fake Gold


As a business that specialises in buying and selling gold, fine jewellery and luxury watches, we often meet people that want to sell their gold items. There are many reasons for coming to this decision, but commonly we find it’s because the individual wants to upgrade to something else, simply fancies a change, or they want to realise the asset into cash. In light of this, we carry out daily valuations on a huge range of individual items of jewellery. Of course, as experts, we have a well-trained eye for what is real and what’s not. For those that are unsure as to how to tell genuine gold from fake gold, it can be a little trickier.

While the best way to be sure of the authenticity of your gold is to bring it along and have it inspected by our experienced team, there are other tell-tale signs that should help you establish if your piece is the real deal.

The most widely recognised go to bench mark for this is called a ‘hallmark’.

What Is A Hallmark?

Perhaps the best way to tell the difference between real gold and fake is by looking for what is called a ‘hallmark’. Be mindful real gold doesn’t always carry this stamp, depending on a range of factors including which country it was produced in, the age of the item, the style of the piece and how much wear and tear it has had. Many countries however, do have a hallmarking system.

Here’s what to look for:

Until 1998, a Hallmark had to include four compulsory marks.  Since 1998, this has reduced to three (the date letter has become optional).

how to tell real gold from fake gold

The symbols must include:

  • The maker’s stamp – who made the item
  • It’s guaranteed standard of fineness – is it 9ct, 18ct, 22ct etc.
  • Assay Office at which the article was tested and marked
  • The year that the article was tested and marked (not compulsory on more modern pieces)

As mentioned above, with pieces made since 1998, the date mark is no longer compulsory.

In the example below, the RJ symbol is the maker’s mark. The crown refers to gold and is an optional mark. The number 375 represents 9ct gold and is the standard mark to verify the fineness of the metal. The lions face is the symbol of the London Assay Office where it was verified.


These symbols tell us that this is a 9ct gold ring that has been certified by the London Assay Office and is therefore a genuine piece of gold. It tells us everything we need to know in order to provide an accurate valuation of the item.

You can find a full explanation here.

No Hallmark

If the piece is not hallmarked, it is much harder to tell and you will need to get it verified by an expert who is trained to differentiate real gold from gold plated metals using other methods. Even if the item is verified as real, it can be tricky for the jeweller to resell the item without a hallmark so please bear this in mind.


While something might contain gold, it needs to be a certain purity to have value. Anything that is less than 37.5% or 9cts of gold is considered fake in the UK market.

DIY Ways to Spot Fake Gold

Not by any means conclusive or fool proof, these “do it yourself” home tests may assist with how to spot real gold from fake or plated:

Does it Float?

Drop your ring in a jug full of water. Gold is denser than other alloys and will sink to the bottom. If your item is fake, it will likely float although this is not the case in all circumstances.

Try the Vinegar Test

If you drop a few drops of vinegar onto a ring and wait 15 seconds, real gold won’t change colour. Fake gold will.

Look for Faded Spots

If your ring is gold plated, over time the plating will wear away and you may find that your ring, necklace, bracelet etc is discolouring. Solid gold will not discolour so this is a pretty obvious sign that item is genuine.

Does it Leave Green Marks?

If your jewellery leaves a green mark on your skin after wearing it, it’s a sign that you are possibly wearing copper. Ever seen what happens to bathroom pipes etc? Over time they too can become green. This is the same with any copper that is exposed to the elements.

If your item is a mixture of gold and other base metals, the same may happen so this is not a definitive that your jewellery is not gold to some extent, but will give you an indication.

Understanding the Value of Your Jewellery

If you own a sentimental piece of jewellery and are unperturbed as to whether it is real gold or fake gold then you need not worry. The meaning is there to you regardless of its intrinsic worth.  If you want to ascertain the monetary value of something for insurance purposes however, then it is prudent to understanding your jewellery, or jewellery collection and arrange to have it formerly assessed. If you are looking to sell something and want to know if what its worth, getting the right price for your gold is key.

At The Goldmarket, our staff are trained to identify real gold from fake gold and are also licensed and certified to carry out written insurance valuations on items. In addition to this we buy gold at competitive prices and also purchase items of jewellery for resale. If you have a piece of jewellery that you would like valued, please bring it along to our High Street store in Weston super Mare and our friendly, expert team will be only too happy to help.