Pawn shops have become a popular destination for those in need of fast cash loans or looking to sell their valuable items. One of the most commonly accepted items in pawn shops is gold jewelry and coins. However, before they offer a loan or purchase gold, pawnbrokers must assess the quality and authenticity of the gold to determine its worth. pawn shops use various methods to test gold, and each method has its advantages and disadvantages. In this blog post, we will explain how pawn shops test gold and what methods they use to evaluate its worth.

Axel’s Pawn in Spokane, WA tests all their gold. They understand the difference between the gold purity used to make white gold and yellow gold jewelry. They also have a coin tester to test the gold content in coins.

Why Pawn Shops Test Gold?

The testing process helps them ensure they accept genuine gold items and accurately assess their worth. Here are a few reasons why pawn shops test gold:

  • Authentication: Pawnbrokers need to verify that the gold being offered is genuine. There are various counterfeit gold items in circulation, such as gold-plated or gold-filled pieces that may appear solid gold but are not. By testing the gold, pawnbrokers can confirm its authenticity and avoid accepting fake or fraudulent items.
  • Purity Assessment: Gold is often mixed with other metals to create alloys of varying purity. The purity of gold is measured in karats, with 24 karat gold being the purest form. Lower karat gold contains a higher percentage of other metals. Pawnbrokers test the gold to accurately determine its karat age. This information helps them assess its value and set an appropriate loan or purchase amount.
  • Value Determination: The value of gold fluctuates based on factors like weight, purity, and market rates. Pawn shops test gold to determine its weight and purity, which are critical in calculating its value. By assessing these factors, they can offer a fair loan amount or purchase price to customers based on the current market conditions.
  • Confidence and Legitimacy: Testing gold items adds credibility and professionalism to the pawnbroking business. It assures both the pawnbroker and the customer that accurate evaluations are being made. Customers can have confidence that they are receiving a fair assessment of their gold items, and pawnbrokers can protect their business by ensuring the gold they accept is genuine and valuable.

Common testing methods used by pawn shops include acid tests, electronic gold testers, and density tests. These methods help determine the purity of the gold and differentiate between various karat ages.

  • The Acid Test

The acid test is the most common method used, while pawn shops test gold. This test involves applying a small amount of nitric acid to the gold item to determine its purity. If the gold is genuine, it will not react with the acid, and there will be no change in the color of the metal. However, if the gold is fake or of a lower purity, the acid will cause the metal to discolor or turn green.

The acid test is considered the most reliable method for testing gold, because it can determine the exact purity of the metal. However, it can damage the item being tested and therefore is usually performed on a small inconspicuous part of the jewelry.

  • Magnet Test

Another quick and easy way to test if gold is real is to use a magnet. Real gold is not magnetic, so if the item is attracted to the magnet, it is likely not pure gold. However, some fake gold items are made from other metals that are not magnetic, so this test is not foolproof.

  • Electronic Gold Testers

Electronic gold testers are more accurate than the acid test and do not damage the jewelry. They work by passing an electrical current through the gold item and measuring its resistance. The resistance is then used to calculate the purity of the gold.

These testers are easy to use and provide fast and accurate results. However, they can be expensive, which is why not all pawn shops have them.

  • X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry

X-ray fluorescence spectrometry is a non-destructive method of testing gold that can determine the purity of the metal down to the smallest detail. This method works by firing X-rays at the gold item, which then emits a unique pattern of radiation. A computer analyzes this pattern, which determines the purity of the gold.

This method is highly accurate and can pawn shops test gold in any form, including coins, bars, and jewelry. However, it requires expensive equipment, so it is not commonly used in pawn shops.

  • Visually Inspecting the Gold

Finally, pawnbrokers may visually inspect the gold item to determine its value. This method involves looking at the quality of the craftsmanship, the condition of the piece, and any hallmarks or engravings that may indicate the metal’s purity.

While this method is not as accurate as the others, experienced pawnbrokers often tell if the gold is genuine by looking at it. This method is also useful for determining the value of antique or unique pieces that may not have a specific purity level.

In A Nutshell

Pawn shops use various methods to test gold before pawning. One of the most widely used methods is the acid test, which involves applying nitric acid to the gold item to determine its purity. The magnet test is another simple method used to test if gold is real or not. Electronic gold testers and X-ray fluorescence spectrometry are more advanced methods that provide fast and accurate results. Pawnbrokers may also visually inspect the gold to determine its value based on the quality of craftsmanship and any hallmarks or engravings that indicate its purity. 

Pawn shops test gold in various methods, and they have its own advantages and disadvantages. Eventually, the pawnbroker will choose the one that is most appropriate for the item being tested. By understanding these methods, you can be confident that a pawn shop is accurately evaluating and fairly your gold accurately.


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