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How can you tell if 21k gold is real?

02/08/2023 | Rob Rizk

Table of Content

  • Introduction

  • What is 21k gold?

  • What is the difference between 21k gold and gold plating?

  • How to tell if 21k gold is real?

    • Testing the Weight

    • Testing the Quality Markings

    • Testing with a Gold Tester Tool

  • What are gold plated jewelry and gold filled jewelry?

  • How to maintain your 21k gold jewelry

    • Cleaning and storing your 21k gold jewelry

    • Providing regular maintenance

    • Avoiding contact with harsh chemicals

  • Key Takeaways

  • Conclusion


Gold, a symbol of wealth and prosperity, has been coveted by civilizations across history. Its luster, malleability, and resistance to tarnish have made it a preferred choice for crafting jewelry. Among the varying karats of gold used in jewelry, 21k gold holds a significant place. But, how can you be sure if your 21k gold jewelry is real? This article aims to guide you through the process of identifying real 21k gold, distinguishing it from gold plating, and ensuring its proper maintenance. So, let's dive into the world of gold and unravel its secrets.

What is 21k gold?

21K gold, as the name suggests, is a type of gold that contains 21 parts of pure gold out of 24, with the remaining parts made up of other metals like silver, copper, or zinc. This means that 21k gold comprises approximately 87.5% pure gold. This percentage of purity makes 21k gold significantly valuable and highly sought after, especially for jewelry.

Although less pure than 24k gold, 21k gold is often preferred for its balance between purity, durability, and affordability. The added metals provide strength and durability to the gold, preventing it from easily bending or scratching, which is often a concern with 24k gold jewelry. This makes 21k gold an excellent choice for intricate jewelry designs like rings, necklaces, and bracelets.

Visually, 21k gold exhibits a rich, vibrant yellow color, a little less intense than the deep yellow of 24k gold, but still more yellow than 18k gold. This rich hue is one of the factors that contributes to its popularity in jewelry making.

Now that you know what 21k gold is, you might be wondering - how can you tell if your 21k gold is real? Let's find out in the next section.

What is the difference between 21k gold and gold plating?

When it comes to gold jewelry, it's essential to understand the difference between 21k gold and gold-plated items. The key to this distinction lies in the composition and manufacturing process.

21k gold, as we've already noted, is a blend of gold and other metals, with gold constituting around 87.5% of the total composition. This makes it a highly valuable material, with the price and value directly linked to the current gold market price.

On the other hand, gold-plated jewelry is made by applying a thin layer of gold to the surface of a different, less expensive metal, such as copper or silver. Gold plating can give the illusion of pure gold but does not offer the same intrinsic value. The gold layer in gold-plated items is often extremely thin, typically ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 microns, which can wear off over time. This is why gold-plated jewelry is significantly less expensive than 21k gold.

Understanding this distinction is crucial when buying gold jewelry, as it directly impacts the value and longevity of the piece. But how can you discern real 21k gold from gold-plated items? Let's delve into that in the next section.

How to tell if 21k gold is real?

Ascertaining the authenticity of 21k gold can be a bit challenging, especially for a layperson. However, there are a few tried and tested methods you can use to verify if your 21k gold is real:

  • Testing the Weight: Gold is a heavy metal. Genuine gold items are often heavier than fake gold items of the same size. So, if your 21k gold jewelry feels lighter than it should, it might not be real gold.

  • Testing the Quality Markings: Genuine gold jewelry often comes with quality markings or hallmarks that indicate its purity. Look for a stamp that reads “21K” or "875", which signifies 87.5% pure gold. However, keep in mind that not all real gold pieces are marked, and some fake pieces may display false marks.

  • Testing with a Gold Tester Tool: Gold tester tools use electronic gold testers to measure the level of gold in an item. They are highly reliable and can provide an accurate assessment of gold purity. You can purchase them from jewelry supply stores or online.

Remember, these are just some ways to tell if your 21k gold is real. It's always best to consult a professional jeweler or a reputable gold testing service for a definitive evaluation. In the following sections, we'll explore more about gold plating and gold filled jewelry, and how to maintain your 21k gold jewelry.

What are gold plated jewelry and gold filled jewelry?

Gold plated and gold filled jewelry are popular options for those seeking the lustrous appeal of gold without the hefty price tag of solid gold. But what exactly are they?

Gold plated jewelry is made by applying a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another, less expensive metal, typically copper or silver. The gold layer can vary in thickness, but it's often quite thin, ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 microns. Because of this, the gold plating can wear away over time, revealing the base metal underneath. This type of jewelry is a cost-effective way to enjoy the look of gold, but it doesn't possess the value or longevity of solid gold pieces.

Gold filled jewelry, on the other hand, involves a thicker layer of gold bonded to a base metal using heat and pressure. The gold in gold filled jewelry makes up at least 5% of the total weight of the item. This results in a more durable and long-lasting piece that resists tarnishing and wear better than gold plated items. While gold filled jewelry is more expensive than gold plated, it's still more affordable than solid gold and can be a good compromise for those seeking quality and affordability.

Understanding these concepts can help you make informed decisions when purchasing gold jewelry. It's also crucial to know how to maintain these pieces to ensure their longevity, which we'll explore in the next section.

How to maintain your 21k gold jewelry

Now that we've established how to differentiate between 21k gold and gold-plated items, let's discuss how to maintain your 21k gold jewelry. Maintaining your jewelry ensures that it retains its shine and quality over time. Let's delve into some of the aspects involved in maintaining your 21k gold jewelry:

  • Cleaning and storing your 21k gold jewelry: Regular cleaning is essential for the longevity of your gold jewelry. You can clean your 21k gold jewelry with a soft, lint-free cloth. For a deeper clean, use a mild soap and warm water solution. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a clean cloth. It's important to store your jewelry in a dry, cool place, preferably in a lined jewelry box or soft pouch, away from other pieces to prevent scratching.

  • Providing regular maintenance: Regular inspections by a professional jeweler can help identify any potential issues before they become significant problems, helping to maintain the integrity and value of your 21k gold jewelry.

  • Avoiding contact with harsh chemicals: Substances like chlorine, bleach, and strong detergents can damage gold. It's advisable to remove your 21k gold jewelry when swimming, cleaning, or doing any activity that involves such chemicals.

Proper maintenance of your 21k gold jewelry not only preserves its beauty but also prolongs its lifespan, allowing you to enjoy its lustrous appeal for years to come. In the following sections, we'll wrap up with some key takeaways and a conclusion.

Key Takeaways

Identifying real 21k gold can be a daunting task for the untrained eye, but with a little knowledge and a few tools, you can confidently confirm the authenticity of your gold jewelry. Here are some key points to remember:

  • 21k gold consists of 87.5% gold, making it valuable and highly sought after for jewelry.

  • Gold-plated jewelry, while less expensive, doesn't offer the same value or longevity as 21k gold.

  • Testing your gold for weight, quality markings, or using a gold tester tool can help ensure its authenticity.

  • Understanding the difference between gold plated and gold filled jewelry can help you make an informed purchase.

  • Maintaining your 21k gold jewelry, through regular cleaning, professional inspections, and avoiding contact with harsh chemicals, can preserve its beauty and prolong its lifespan.

Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently navigate the world of gold jewelry, discerning real 21k gold from gold-plated items, and ensuring your precious pieces stay beautiful for years to come. Let's conclude this golden journey in the next section.


Gold, especially 21k gold, has been cherished through the ages for its timeless beauty and enduring value. Understanding its nuances, distinguishing it from gold-plated and gold-filled jewelry, and recognizing the authenticity of your 21k gold pieces can be empowering and enlightening. Moreover, knowing how to maintain your cherished 21k gold pieces can ensure they remain a part of your collection, gleaming brightly for years to come.

Whether you're a collector, a connoisseur, or simply a lover of gold, this guide can help you navigate the fascinating realm of gold with confidence and knowledge. Remember, while gold's luster can captivate, it's the understanding of its authenticity and care that truly makes owning gold a rewarding experience. So, go ahead and enjoy your journey in the golden world, knowing that you're well-equipped to tell if your 21k gold is real.

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