How To Test Gold Using Vinegar? Multiple Methods For Checking If It’s Real

As we all know, vinegar is a liquid that has a lot of uses. Primarily, it is used in cooking, both as an ingredient and as dressing. It can also be used for certain cleaning applications since as it is an acidic substance. But, did you know you can use it to test gold? Vinegar can, indeed, be used to test gold and we are going to explain how it’s done.

Vinegar can be used to test gold and it is one of the best methods for testing gold available at home. You simply place the gold in the vinegar and see if the gold keeps shining or changes color. Real gold will not change color or shine when exposed to vinegar.

Today’s article will present to you a very interesting application of vinegar in a process that is completely unrelated to cooking. Vinegar’s acidic properties allow it to be used as a test for yellow gold and we are going to be explaining how the process works and how you can do it yourselves. You will see how gold reacts to vinegar, what you need to do, and how to interpret the results. Finally, we are going to show you some other methods you can try at home.

A Little About Gold

Gold (Au) is a chemical element whose atomic number is 79; it is a transition metal, located in group 11, period 6 and is one of the higher atomic number elements that can be normally found in nature. But gold is not that famous for its chemical properties – it is known as one of the most valuable materials known to humans. Gold is highly valuable and is most commonly used as a measure of value in economics (a lot of historical currencies were either made from gold or based on the value of gold) and as a material to make jewelry. It is very resistant (though you can dissolve it aqua regia) and is relatively rare, which contributes to its value.

The measure of the purity of gold is the karat (K or kt) or carat (C or ct), which shows the percentage of gold in an alloy. The lowest purity is set at 14K (between 58% and 62.5%), while the purest gold is measured at 24K (it is considered to be 100%, but since absolute purity is unattainable, it is actually around 99.999%).

As we’ve said, gold is very resistant and is it this property that allows you to see – with relative ease – whether the gold you have is real or not. There are a lot of fake gold items out there and while some are clearly labeled as being only gold plated, there are a lot of forgers that will try to sell forged gold as real. And, while there are good forgeries which you might not be able to detect immediately, there are a lot of home tests you can do to see whether you have a forgery or not. One of them includes vinegar and that is the main topic of today’s article.

Close-up of a test tube with a piece of yellow gold and vinegar

How To Use Vinegar To Test Gold

The so-called vinegar test is just one of the tests you can perform at home to check whether your gold is real or not. It is a very simple test that doesn’t last more than 20 minutes and, if you don’t have a really good forgery, it will give you the correct result.

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You’ll need a cup, some vinegar, water and a cloth.


What you need to do first is to clean your gold (whatever it is) with a cloth to remove any dust, dirt or liquid on it. Your gold needs to be perfectly clean for this test to work. Then, you should pour some vinegar in a glass cup and put your golden item inside that cup. You can also pour vinegar on the golden item or pour a few drops on the surface, but such results might not be as conclusive as the first method.

After you’ve done all of this, leave the gold in the vinegar for approximately 15 minutes before taking it out. After this is done, you need to rinse the gold with water thoroughly and then wipe it. If the fold shines and retains its original color – it’s real and you don’t need to worry. But, if you see any kind of discoloration, your “gold” is not actually gold – it’s fake.

Gold is – as we’ve said – a very resistant metal and it does not react or corrode when exposed to acetic acid, which is the main acid in vinegar. Non-gold materials corrode easily, which is why vinegar is a good and cheap way to test your gold.

So – in short – if your gold retains its color, you’re safe. If it changes color, then your “gold” is not actually gold and sadly, you’ve been tricked. The colors you need to watch out for are either black or green, as these are the colors your fake gold will likely manifest if you expose it to vinegar. Those the colors the non-gold metals mixed into the item usually exhibit when reacting with the acid.

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What Type Of Vinegar Should You Use? Is This Test Safe And Reliable? Can It Harm The Gold?

Now that you know how the procedure is carried out, you might be wondering what type of vinegar you can use, whether the procedure can harm your gold and if this test actually reliable.

As far as the type of vinegar you need to use, your best pick would be your common white vinegar. Apple cider vinegar might also come into question, but people don’t actually use it that often so it cannot be fully confirmed as ideal to use. Theoretically, most types of vinegar could be used in this test, except those with low acidity. If you can, stick with regular white vinegar.

The test is completely safe for your gold. If it is real, that is. You know the consequences of using it on fake gold. Real gold is – as we’ve said multiple times already – very resilient and the acidity of the vinegar will not damage it at all. In fact, vinegar is often used to clean actual gold, because it adds a little extra shine by removing visible impurities.

As far as the reliability of the test is concerned, this test is pretty reliable. Surely, there might be some good forgeries around and you might have to consult a specialist, but most of your common back-alley forgeries are going to fail on this test, i.e., it will prove reliable in most cases. (Think non-gold metals well-encased in gold or hollowed gold items)

This test should not be done with white gold as it contains a slightly different makeup of metals other than just the gold element.

What Are Some Other Home Tests For Checking If Gold Is Real?

Now that we’ve told you everything you need to know about the vinegar test, we can continue to some other tests you can perform at home without much trouble. The vinegar test is far from being the only home test you can do and although it is the focus of our article (i.e., we won’t be digging into the other tests too deeply). It’s good that you know there are some other options out there since you never know, you might just run out of vinegar when wanting to perform this test. Now, let us see these other tests:

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The Discoloration Test

The color of real gold is extremely resilient and will not fade or corrode when exposed to different atmospheric influences. If you see some signs of discoloration, be sure to check that it’s not just a stain or something similar. If it’s actual discoloration, then you know your gold is not real.

The Stamp Test

Real gold will always have a stamp attesting its purity somewhere on the piece itself. The stamped numbers indicate the piece’s purity and can also contain information about the manufacturer. If there is no stamp or there is only lettering without the numbers, your gold is probably fake. You might need a magnifying glass or a loupe to read the stamps.

The Acid Test

This one functions on a similar basis like the vinegar test, but you actually use nitric acid instead of vinegar. You need to scratch the surface and then pour nitric acid on it, observing what happens. If the scratch turns green or disappears, your piece is probably fake (in the latter case, it can also be real gold, but of lower quality); if it turns white, it’s actually plated silver and not real gold; while, if nothing happens, you have yourself a real piece.

The Magnet Test

This is also a common test, but it’s not always reliable. If your piece is magnetic, it’s probably fake or contains an alarming quantity of non-gold metals. If it’s not, it might be real, but there’s no guarantee since fake pieces are often made with non-magnetic metals to avoid failing this test.

The Ceramic Test

This is also an interesting test, but you’ll need an unglazed ceramic surface to perform it. You have to drag your piece over that surface and then analyze the marks. If the marks are golden, you have real gold; if they’re black, it’s fake. Be careful, this test can damage your ceramic surface.

The Skin Test

The last test on our list concerns the fact that real gold doesn’t react with human perspiration. If you expose a suspicious piece to perspiration, it will change color, so it’s similar to some other test, with the exception that you don’t need anything else besides your own sweat and is thus perhaps the cheapest of all the tests available.

In Conclusion

And that’s it!. We’ve explained to you how you can use vinegar to test whether your gold is real or not, but we’ve also given you a list of some other tests you can do at home.

We hope you found this helpful and if you think of anything we should know, let us know!