Testing Precious Metals for Long-Term Preparations

With the current world economic situation, wise people understand that paper money is simply the illusion of money. It is a representation of wealth of which the value can be rapidly manipulated. The US Federal Reserve randomly prints off bills with no commodity backing them, making the only value of these bills the worth that is allowed by the banksters and the elite

So in light of this, how do we save for the rainy days to come?

Once you’ve established the basics of your survival preparedness, you can protect your personal wealth by investing in precious metals. There are many different ways to acquire gold and silver. Here are a few:

• Purchase the pieces from mints or exchanges
• Purchase old pieces of jewelry or coins from yard sales, estate sales, thrift stores and Craigslist
• From trusted sellers on EBay

Mints and exchanges offer a sure thing. These businesses are built on trust and integrity. However when you purchase from everyday people or take a gamble on buying something at the thrift store, you need to be able to identify and test the metals yourself.

1. Look for markings. Jewelry made from precious metals in the US was required to be marked for metal content in 1906. On silver pieces you are looking for the numbers “925” – this indicates that the piece is Sterling Silver or 92.5% silver. If the piece you are considering is gold, you are looking for 10K, 14K, 18K, etc. 24K is 100% gold, and is very soft, so the other numbers are indicative of the gold content that has been mixed with a harder metal to make it less pliable.

2. Inspect the piece carefully. Is it rough near the edges? Is it discoloured in places? Is the finish chipping or flaking? These are all indicators that the piece may only be plated with silver or gold. These items require further testing. (Note: Sterling Silver will “oxidize” and tarnish – don’t be put off by black discolouration. This should wipe off with a soft cloth.)

3. If the piece has been marked, then you will want to test it further. Carry with you a strong magnet. Precious metals are NOT magnetic, nor are the other metals that are used in jewelry to harden them. If the piece of jewelry or coin reacts to the magnet it is not gold or silver.

4. Test it with ceramic. You can purchase a small piece of unglazed ceramic tile at your local hardware store. If you have a piece of questionable gold, run the piece across the ceramic tile. If it leaves a blackish mark, it is not genuine gold.

Once you have performed these quick tests, you may want to go further. There are two more definitive tests – the “Archimedes Test” and the acid test.

Archimedes Test

Break out your physics hat and perform a density test to determine the content of the metal you have on hand. For this you will require a vial marked in millimetres in which you can submerge the item in question.

Do not fill the vial to the top, since you will be displacing water with the jewelry item. Note exactly the amount of water in your container.
Weigh your item on a digital jewelry scale, marking down your result in grams. This is the “mass” of your item.

Place your piece in the vial and note the new water level.

Calculate the difference between the two numbers in millimetres. This is the “volume displacement” of the item.

Use the following formula to calculate density:

Density = mass/volume displacement

Here is a sample calculation:

Your gold item weighs 38 g and it displaces 2 milliLITRES of water. Using the formula of [mass (38 g)]/ [volume displacement (2 ml)], your result would be 19 g/ml, which is very close to the density of pure 24K gold.

Remember that different gold and silver purities will have a different g/ml ratio:

o 14K – 12.9 to 14.6 g/mL
o 18K yellow – 15.2 to 15.9 g/mL
o 18K white – 14.7 to 16.9 g/mL
o 22K – 17.7 to 17.8 g/mL
o 999 Silver – 10.49 g/mL
o 925 Silver – 10.2 to 10.3 g/mL

Nitric Acid Test

This is the most definitive way to test the metal in question. This test is where the saying “passing the acid test” originated.

WARNING: Nitric Acid is highly corrosive. Wear safety eyewear and protective gloves when working with this product. Protect all surfaces that could come into contact with the acid.

To perform an acid test, you will require Nitric Acid, a non-reactive dropper, and a stainless steel container in which to perform the test.

Place your item in the stainless steel container. Using the dropper apply a very tiny drop of acid on a non-exposed part of the item in question. (Remember: If the item is not gold or silver, the acid may permanently mar the finish.)

If you suspect that the item was merely plated, you can make a small scratch in a hidden place in which to test the item.

The acid will turn different colors in reaction to different metal contents:

Cream: 90 to 100% silver
Gray: 77-90% silver
Green: less than 75% precious metal content
No reaction: Gold

Test kits containing the chemicals and instructions can be purchased through Amazon for less than $10.

Finally, when purchasing gold or silver, always trust your instincts. You may not always have access to your testing kit when an opportunity arises. If an item looks suspicious or the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published March 26th, 2012
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  • Linda

    Let me add a few comments:

    1. European jewelry is marked differently. 750 = 18K, 500 = 14K  333 =10K,

        9K is a british mark used prior to 1931

    2. I found Morgan and Peace dollars (pre 1964) which PASSED the asset and magnet test, but were FAKE. They weigh less than real ones. Source: The “silver” dollars you used to be able to win at casino’s. I was going to buy them, but the (very honest) seller showed me on the scale.      

  • EastTenn

    If you use nitric acid, be extremely carefull.  It will react with the water in your skin and a single drop can cause a very bad burn.

    • 5150

      Yes I also note the same thing. There are people who say there are a lot of these fakes but have yet to show fakes purportedly made here or there. Except for the Chinese copycoins that are obviously fake due to quality and weight, there are those who allege that there are fakes that have the same weight and dimensions as genuine coins, yet do not bother to explain why they’re fake.I think bigtime commercial coin collecting is a scam as there are “experts” who will call genuine coins fake in order to get them from the owners dirt cheap then they will market it in their artsy fartsy auctions so some rich sucker will bid on them high.

      Even these grading companies are cartels that say that this coin or that coin is extra fine very fine etc. Extra fine my shit. I can determine that myself and I can do it without shelling money so some moron tells me what the coin looks like.

      There seems to bea scam everywhere, including hobbies.

  • clark

    A lot of websites mention these fake silver Dollars. I’d like to own one, but I have yet to find one. Some fake Dollars are said to be made partially with silver, so they still have some value.
    Also, I stopped at a department store jewelry store the other day, seems they, and a few of the other stores, have stopped selling 14k or 10k gold jewelry and are now selling something they call, “gold over silver”…  they said it was because People don’t want to pay that much for gold.
    My thought was, is this just another fancy term for gold plated?

  • Ed

    Just a minor correction on specifics:
    For the “Archimedes Test,” you referred above to measurement in “millimetres” which is incorrect.  It should be “milliLITRES,” which is a volumetric measurement (milliMETRES is a measurement of length).  The correct formula is:
    Density (g/mL) = mass (in grams) / volume displacement (in milliLITRES)
    Excellent article!
    Ed :o)

  • Desertrat

    I began meddling with rare coins and bullion coins in 1965.  Learned a little.  My preference for bullion is gold coins and “junk” sliver.  Known quantities.
    Some US gold coins are fakes.  There is a book available through coin stores (and maybe Amazon) which illustrates and explains how to detect them.  I use a 16X pocket lens.
    Many US fakes come from Lebanon, the “Beirut branch of the Philadelphia Mint” in the parlance of coin dealers.  Lebanese law had it as legal to mint other countries’ coins so long as the gold content was the same as the legal coinage.  As bullion, they are okay–or close enough as creates no serious monetary loss.
    In the opinion department, I like small-denomination gold.  Hard to make change for a one-ounce coin.  But a Mexican two-peso coin is only about 0.05 ounces, or about $80 in today’s world.

  • Doc Loch

    Just a note.  Gold and Silver are known as “paramagnetic” which means that they will affect a magnetic field.  Thus you WILL feel something when you bring a magnet close to them.  A magnet suspended on a string and hung over and very close to the peice will “center” by this effect.  Not knowing this will cause huge alarm in persons bringing magnets near their pure gold and silver and feeling this paramagnetic effect.  Tungsten (a common fake), if I remember correctly, will not have the iron magnetic or heavier metal paramagenetic effect.

  • Joe R

    Ferromagnetic-attracted to magnets (iron, nickel, cobalt)
    Diamagnetic-repelled by magnetic fields (copper, lead, silver)
    Paramagnetc is something else entirely.

    as for testing gold bullion coins, theres always the Fisch test, though its pretty expensive:http://www.fisch.co.za/home.htm

    one can also take advantage of silver’s notable diamagnetism by building a magnet slide as shown here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gUjuS5TzwI.

    you can also perform a ring test, as gold and silver have distinct sound. you can search online for videos of the quality of the tones before testing your own. i find that a scale that measures in in grams to at least 2 decimal places along with a caliper is enough, provided you already know what the dimensions should be. and if youre looking for a strong magnet, you cant do better than neodymium magnets.

    just my 2 cents.

  • Bazza

    If push came to shove and you wanted to barter with me for an item I would need something in return that I could use and that would not be a piece of metal no matter how (so called) valuable it was supposed to be.

    Your valuables are only worth what someone else is prepared to give you for them. To me building materials, seeds, grains, tools etc. are much more valuable as barter items than any intrinsic piece of metal.

  • Joe Shepherd

    People in the foundry business use a handheld X-Ray analyzer to determine the exact metal content of a sample.  However the ones I have found available for sale cost around $20,000.

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