How Do I Know If Silver & Gold Is Real?

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Verifying the authenticity of your precious metal purchases is, undoubtedly, the single most important aspect of investing in precious metals. Customers who fail to confirm this vital piece of information will not only waste a substantial amount of their time and money, but they will also jeopardize the value of their investment or collection. Fortunately, confirming the authenticity of silver and gold bullion is simpler than most people think and while it is generally advisable to seek the opinion of a professional, there are a number of ways that customers can begin the examination process on their own.

Markings

When inspecting gold and silver bars, rounds or coins, the first details you should examine are their markings. Practically every piece of silver or gold bears the mintmark of its producer, so any items missing this essential marking should give you cause for suspicion. Other common markings worth noting are weight, purity, serial numbers and, in the case of coins, mintage year and denomination. No markings at all are a clear indication that the piece is fake. 

Once you have looked over the markings, compare them with an up close image of the genuine article. Pay extra attention to small details such as the text font and the intricate designs of the artwork. Equally worth noting are any borders that surround the image. Such inconsistencies can help you differentiate between the genuine article and a counterfeit piece.

Edge Finishes

When it comes to coins, one of the most difficult structural details to replicate is the edge finish. (In fact, it was developed for this specific reason.) Every coin design has a distinct edge finish that is associated with a design. Some are smooth, some have lettering and others have “reeding” or little ridges. There are some edge finishes that even combine textures, like “interrupted reeding” which combines plain and reeded textures along the coin’s edge. So when examining the edge of the coin, check to see if the edge finish is appropriate for that particular coin design. Then, observe whether its texture has been executed properly. For instance, many counterfeit coins that attempt to replicate the reeded edge finish often display uneven reeding or reeds of the incorrect size.

Relief

Another structural detail that counterfeiters often fail to replicate is the relief of the coin. “Relief” of the coin refers to the height of its images in relation to the coin’s actual surface. Most coins designs have a standard relief that enables owners to stack them neatly on top of each other. However, counterfeiters tend to struggle with recreating the set standard resulting in either coins whose relief is so high that they topple over when stacked or coins whose relief is so low that the design is barely distinguishable. An average person can usually discern the difference by feeling the coin itself.

Weight

Since many pieces of bullion have their weight inscribed on them, another simple test is to compare the actual weight of the item with the weight indicated in its markings. If there is even the slightest difference, you can be sure you are dealing with a counterfeit. Misrepresenting the weight or purity of any precious metal bullion is considered a criminal offense and no reputable mint would ever allow itself to make such a mistake.

Dimensions

For this test, you will need to obtain the regulated measurements for your bullion piece as well as a caliper. A caliper is a tool used by many professionals in the precious metals industry to provide the most precise measurements possible. They can be purchased online starting at $15 USD. Use the caliper to measure both the diameter and width of your bullion piece. Any deviation between the actual and specified  measurements indicates a counterfeit piece since all bars, coins and rounds are pressed into identical molds by machines.

“Ping”

The term “ping” refers to the chime you will hear when you strike a precious metal piece. To conduct this test you will need another nonabrasive piece of metal. Gently strike this metal against your bullion piece. You should hear a ringing that lasts for approximately 1-2 seconds. If you hear a “clunk” or any other cumbersome non-ringing sound, your bullion is not genuine.

Magnetism

Since neither silver or gold are magnetic, measuring the magnetism of your bullion will enable you to determine whether its metal composition is pure or merely some alloy. Begin your examination by obtaining a small magnet and hovering it directly above your bullion piece. If the metal and magnet attract each other, you can be certain that your precious metal is not genuine. Please be advised, however, that there are plenty of counterfeit metals that are not magnetic, so be sure to do some further examination before confirming the bullion’s authenticity.

Conductivity

This test was specifically designed for silver bullion, as silver is one of the most conductive metals in terms of thermal energy. Begin by obtaining an ice cube and placing it on top of your bullion piece. If your bullion is genuine silver, the ice should start melting immediately due to the stored heat of the silver. If nothing happens or the melting occurs very slowly, you have purchased a fake.

Acid Test

This test identifies both genuine and counterfeit bullion through a small chemical reaction. Start, by purchasing the silver acid test kit. Be sure to read the instructions completely and carefully before attempting any testing. If performed improperly, you could not only cause harm to both the bullion and yourself. Apply the acid to your bullion as instructed. Observe the change in color to the site of application. Red, brown or green confirm that your piece is real silver. Any other color indicates a counterfeit.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound machines can be used to verify the authenticity of your bullion measuring its composition consistency. Different metals will affect how quickly the sound waves pass through it. However, we recommend that customers leave this particular method of testing to a professional since such machines can be costly, typically starting at $1,000 USD and assessing the speeds require a lot of technical knowledge.

Tests to Avoid

It is best to stay away from methods of testing that require indenting, scraping or dropping your gold or silver. These invasive tests could damage your bullion, consequently decreasing the value of your investment. Light striking as in the “Ping” test is acceptable and should not cause any damage.

Purchase Real Gold and Silver with JM Bullion

Ultimately, the best approach to assuring the authenticity of your bullion pieces is to purchase them from a reputable dealer. This is where we can be of some assistance. At JM Bullion, we are dedicated to helping customers meet their investment needs by providing them with a wide selection of authentic precious metal bullion and since we deal exclusively with only the most respected mints across the globe, customers can place their orders with full confidence that they are purchasing a genuine silver or gold collectible. For any further questions about our products or their authenticity, please give us a call at 800-276-6508. You can also contact our informed staff via live chat or online form submissions.

All Market Updates are provided as a third party analysis and do not necessarily reflect the explicit views of JM Bullion Inc. and should not be construed as financial advice.