Inside: How to tell if earrings are real gold or not. A guide and a breakdown of why it matters.

Gold is the most popular metal this year, and adds a little trendy flair to just about any outfit. Throwing on a pair of gold hoops is the best way to dress up a cute sweats set or jeans and a tee shirt.

Practically, they’re also some of the best earrings on the market if you buy real gold earrings, they’re hypoallergenic and won’t cause irritation to sensitive ears. They’re a little pricier, but they’re worth the investment for a quality pair of earrings.

Once I thought I had a real pair and instead I ended up with a huge rash on my ear. It was not pretty! 😉 So figuring out if your next pair of earrings is a real metal or a fake/coasted one is really important. Especially if you have an allergy.

Not to worry though, I found an easy trick to help you decide.

Gold hoop earrings on a white surface

Investing in earrings, especially when you buy your staple classy pairs like diamond studs and classic hoops, it’s important to make sure you’re actually getting what you pay for.

So here are some tips to know before you buy gold and how you can test what you already own! Make sure you’re not settling for anything less than the best and know my trick how to tell if earrings are real gold.

A girl holding her ear with a gold earring on

Gold vs. Gold Plated

Since gold is so trendy and there are thousands of options online, you can find the same pair of similar style gold earrings for just about any price point.

This is nice for those of us rolling on a budget sometimes, but ultimately…

what makes cheap gold different from real gold?

The important word to look for when reading product descriptions is gold plated. Gold plated means that it’s a cheaper metal or a mixed metal, covered in gold plating to make it look more expensive. Sometimes this works just fine, but if you have a metal allergy or general sensitive skin, you need the real thing.

It’s common especially in new piercings that mixed metals cause irritation and lead to having to take the earrings out and letting the hole close up. Avoid this by making sure that you’re investing in quality metals!

Real gold comes in different levels and metal contents. The gold contents will be listed as 10k, 14k, 18k, or 24k, indicating how much of it is real gold. 24k is the purest form of gold you can find on the market, so if you find something that is labeled “gold” and is 24k, it’s as real as it’s going to get!

The other ratings are still considered real gold and hypoallergenic, but it can be found a little cheaper than an incredibly pure 24k.

These won’t tarnish when you wear them and they will all pass the at home gold tests. Benefits of investing in these real gold pieces is that they will last forever, you can easily clean them to refresh them without damaging them, and your skin won’t turn green from wearing them.

Gold hoop earrings on a table

How to tell if earrings are real gold before you buy

The best way you can figure out if earrings are real gold is if their labels and packaging say gold or gold plated. Now that you know the difference, reading labels and product descriptions will help you figure out what you’re buying well before you own it and have to test it at home.

There are plenty of tests you can do that we’ll go over once you own something, but as you’re shopping, if something says “gold plated” you know it’s a mixed metal with a fake gold on top. If it says gold but doesn’t list the contents or gold grade (14k, 24k, etc) then it’s likely not real gold either. If it doesn’t tell you what’s in it, they’re hiding it.

The brand that you’re buying from can likely be telling as well. Sterling silver is commonly sold at lower price points making it easier to find in different kinds of stores. Gold, however, being a more upscale metal isn’t going to be sold just anywhere.

If you’re at a department store, they will have their real gold at a fine jewelry counter while the gold plated will be in the normal jewelry section.

Any other store than one that sells fine goods likely won’t have real gold for sale.

Online stores and how good of quality their other items are should tell on themselves. And they have the product description more readily available, making it easier to do a little bit of research on the product that you’re about to put in your virtual cart.

Doing a little digging on the product and catching any excess or lack of details will help you tell if earrings are real gold.

A girl with triple ear piercings

Testing Gold At Home

So, you already own some gold pieces and you want to test it to see if it’s real gold? Especially if you’re looking into some of those vintage pieces you’ve been handed down, then it’s time to check it out with some of these at home tests to test your gold at home.

There are a few tricks to tell if earrings are real gold, some for invasive than others.

These tests are:
– Acid test
– Magnet test
– Float test

And many others that include measuring density and scratching the metal to determine. But these are the quickest and easiest ways to know ASAP if you’ve got real metal or not.

Acid Test

You can use either vinegar or nitric acid to test your gold. Both of these will work just fine, and you likely already have vinegar in your home to test it with.

Real gold will not change color when met with acid, so when you drop the solution on the earring, you’ll know if it’s real or not based on if it changes color.

Drop it on the jewelry, and wait 15 minutes. Vinegar will result in a slight color change on fake gold while nitric acid will turn it green or milk white.

If you don’t want to risk ruining the coloring regardless of it being fake, here are two more tests you can do!

Magnet Test

Gold isn’t magnetic! So if you find a good magnet (stronger than a kitchen magnet) and try to stick your earring to it, you can determine if it’s likely gold or not.

Non-pure gold and fake gold can be mixed with metals and materials that mimic the magnetic property of the other. I think if it’s non-magnetic, you can feel pretty confident in it being real metal, but I wouldn’t put a whole lot at stake on it!

Float Test

In short, gold sinks. So if you drop the earring in a cup of water and it drops quickly, you might have some real gold on your hands!

A girl with wet hair and wearing a gold hoop

You shouldn’t have to question whether your jewelry advertised as gold is actually gold, but unfortunately sometimes that’s the market we shop from. So make sure what you have is real gold whether you plan to pass it down or if you just want to know what’s irritating your ear!

Investing in good jewelry will never be a bad idea, so make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for before you start shopping! Being able to filter out brands and keywords that don’t bring you the high quality results that you need will help you through the process a lot.

If you’re looking for other high quality metal options, titanium is always a great option! Hypoallergenic and a common jewelry metal, it’s easy to replace your jewelry with titanium pieces.

I’ve done a deep dive on titanium jewelry and what makes it different from silver and gold, and why it makes a great investment– especially for new piercings!