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Testing for Gold Filled
by: Yvonne

How to test if metal is gold filled? Item is a Chatelaine. You might be wondering what is a CHATELAINE?

A CHATELAINE is an ornamental clasp that was worn in the daytime at a women's waist. It was a attached to a belt or girdle from which were suspended several (up to nine but usually five) short chains to these were attached objects for daily household use. e.g. keys, watch chains, scissors, thimble case, penknife, pin cushion, etc.

Chatelaines were made of gold, silver PINCHBECK, cut steel, and later polished steel. They were at the height of popularity in the mid 1870's shortly after Prince Albert married Princess Alexandra in 1863. Alexandra revived the fashion by wearing one.


Purchase an acid testing kit if you don't already have one.

The kit is not expensive, it comes in a wooden box with a touchstone. You need nitric acid which is the most important ingredient. You can purchase from a chemical supply house. HANDLE NITRIC ACID WITH CARE. STORE IN GLASS OR PLASTIC OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.

First prepare an area to test. I use a Melamine tray (reserved just for acid testing) covered with white paper towel.

Make sure you have a glass of soda water on standby, just in case any acid comes into contact with your skin.


The ONLY way to know for sure that the metal is not just heavily gold-pated or gold filled is to FILE A MARKE DEEP ENOUGH TO GO PAST ANY GOLD SHEETS TO BASE METAL.

Use the tinniest, sharpest-edged testing file and look for an inconspicuous spot to "nick". Then carefully file deep enough to get past any layer of gold.

Never make along file mark as it could damage the jewelry and diminish its value. The mark should be so tiny, that you need a jewelers loupe to detect it.

On the area that has been filed, where you apply the acid, it starts forming tiny bubbles (effervescing) and turn green, it indicates gold over base metal. If the nitric acid just lays there like a drop of clear water, do a happy dance, it indicates gold.

Yvonne Hammouda-Eyre
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Bell, C. J., How to be Jewelry Detective, Ad Publishing, 2002, Kansas. (can be purchased from our library)

Newman H., An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, Thames & Hudson, 1981, London.

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