8 Ways to Tell If Pocket Watch Is Gold

Do you want a pocket watch? Have you always loved the look of such jewelry? Are you interested in gold pocket watches in particular? Do you believe it will enhance your appearance and give you an air of elegance? Are you concerned that your inexperience with gold pocket watches may lead you to make a bad purchase? Are you worried that you will not be able to tell a real gold pocket watch from a fake one?

To some people, a gold pocket watch is more of a costume item than a real accessory that someone would wear. It harkens back to the Victorian era when they served as a mark of a gentleman. But this is a wrong-headed view of this jewelry. Gold pocket watches are still being designed and manufactured, and there is a large market for them. There is also a booming trade in antique or vintage gold pocket watches.

If you intend to purchase or sell a gold pocket watch of either type, then you should be sure about its authenticity.

The best way to get a real gold pocket watch

The most efficient and time-saving way to purchase a real gold pocket watch is to shop at a well-known and reputable vendor. You have two options here.

You can buy the pocket watch from a retail chain store that specializes in selling such jewelry or you can buy directly from the manufacturer. You will pay standard market prices, but you will be guaranteed to take home a real gold pocket watch.

First appearances matter

First appearances matter
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If you go outside this conventional buying space, you will need to be more careful. Just because you don’t buy your gold pocket watch from a shady character on the street doesn’t mean you will not be defrauded. You will need to keep your guard up even when dealing with smaller jewelry shops as well.

Although you cannot tell if a pocket watch is real gold with a simple glance, you should not buy it if it is discolored in any way. You should also be wary if you do not recognize the name of the manufacturer.

Vintage gold pocket watches

If you have received a gold pocket watch as part of an inheritance, there are ways you can test its authenticity. Doing so is not a wasteful exercise.

A real gold pocket watch can be worth a great deal of money—especially if it is a limited edition or was made by a company that was well known for making high-quality watches.

In such instances, the person who originally purchased the watch may have known its value. But this knowledge may have been lost as the jewelry was passed down as an heirloom from one generation to the next.

Testing for real gold

You should not allow the opportunity to test the authenticity of the pocket watch pass by. Here are some of the tests you can conduct:

1. The stamp test

The stamp test

Most gold jewelry is not made of pure gold. The latter is too soft and unstable to shape into an item that can be worn. The gold must be blended with other metal alloys to make a pocket watch that is sturdy and durable.

All real gold jewelry is stamped with a hallmark, which identifies its content and manufacturer. The hallmark for a gold pocket watch is likely to appear on the back side of it. The fineness or purity of a gold item is measured in karats, which run on a scale from 9 to 24—the latter signifies the highest purity.

In lieu of a karat number, the hallmark may contain a 3-digit number that indicates the percentage of gold. Even this number must conform to a standard gold conversion chart. Each karat corresponds to a certain gold percentage, as follows:

  • 9K-37.5%
  • 10K-41.7%
  • 12K-50%
  • 14K-58.3%
  • 18K-75.0%
  • 22K-91.7%
  • 24K-99.9%

If, for example, the 3-digit number on the hallmark reads 750, then the watch is 75% pure gold. Any number that does not come from this conversion chart is fake, which means that the jewelry cannot be trusted.

However, you should automatically dismiss a gold pocket watch that is without a hallmark. If the watch is really old, then the original markings may have worn off and cannot be seen by unaided eyesight.

In this case, you should take it to a professional jeweler who will have the equipment to study the watch using magnifying equipment. They can also conduct other tests to determine whether it is made of real gold.

2. Skin test

Skin test
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This is a simple test you can do at home. To conduct a skin test, you should hold the watch between your hands for a couple of minutes. The metal will make your hands perspire.

This will either change the color of your skin or leave it unaffected. Real gold will leave your skin with no discoloration. Fake gold will cause your skin to turn black, blue or green.

You should remove all makeup and other oils that may be on your skin, as gold that touches makeup can turn your skin black at the contact points.

3. Magnet test

This is not a fool-proof test, but it can be a good place to start in your assessment of the gold watch. Gold is non-magnetic. If you hold a strong magnet next to your watch and there is a strong attraction, then you most likely don’t have real gold.

It may also be the case that the non-gold alloys in the watch are being pulled toward the magnet. But even in this instance, an exceptionally strong attraction may indicate that the purity of gold in your watch is quite low. You will need to take it to a professional for further study.

4. Vinegar test

Vinegar test

You can carry out this test without damaging the watch. All you need do is apply a few drops of vinegar to the metal—preferably on the back side of the watch. If there is no change, then it is real gold. If the metal changes color, then it is a fake.

5. The nitric acid test

You may be more comfortable having a professional jeweler conduct this test. But if you are comfortable doing it at home, here is what you need to know.

Gold is a noble metal. It is resistant to acid, corrosion, and oxidation. To perform this test, rub your gold watch on a black stone to leave a mark, and then apply nitric acid to the mark. The acid will dissolve all metals that aren’t gold.

More advanced tests

6. Professional jeweler

If you have conducted the tests described above and you are still not certain about the authenticity of your gold pocket watch, then you should take it to a professional jeweler. Such professionals have a wide range of methods to test gold content.

Those who are in the business of trying to pass off valueless metals as real gold have become increasingly sophisticated over the years. There are even those who specialize in making fake vintage pocket watches. Only the most experienced jewelers can spot the deception and warn you off the purchase.

The best jewelers will know their limits. A well faked gold pocket watch can be hard to spot. If you go to a jeweler who cannot be sure that the watch is real, they should refer you to a specialist who can do the kind of machine verification that will get an accurate result.

There are two main kinds of machine tests.

7. Sigma Metalytics Gold and Silver Verifier

The Sigma Metalytics Precious Metal Verifier delivers accuracy on a minute scale. It sends electromagnetic waves into the jewelry to read the resistance of the underlying metal. If the meter reading is consistent with the resistance of gold, then your gold pocket watch is real.

8. XRF Spectrometer

The XRF Spectrometer is another commonly used device. It sends x-rays through the gold that excite its atoms. When these atoms return to their normal state, they give off radiation. The spectrometer can identify the metal by reading the radiation output. This is a fast and accurate method, and it can be done without damaging your pocket watch.

These machine tests may sound invasive and rigorous, but you should know that none of them will damage, degrade, or cause the devaluation of your pocket watch.

Testing newer gold pocket watches

If you want to buy a newer model pocket watch from a second-hand jewelry store, the owner will probably not allow you to take the watch for testing before you buy. If this is the case, then you have two options.

If the shop has a generous returns policy that you can trust, then you can purchase the pocket watch and have it tested by a professional elsewhere. The other option is to demand that the retailer conduct a test in-store. If they are willing to do so, then they should use one of the common gold tests mentioned above.

Summing up

Gold pocket watches are not mere relics of the 19th century. They are still a mark of style and elegance in the 21st century. If you want a gold pocket watch, there are a range of contemporary brands to choose from. The best way to obtain a real gold pocket watch is to purchase one directly from a well-known retailer or manufacturer.

If you have inherited an antique gold pocket watch, it may be of greater value than you think. You can determine its authenticity by putting the jewelry through a series of tests, most of which can be conducted at home. If you want to be certain about your heirloom or a gold pocket watch that you purchased from a second-hand store, then you should have it tested by a professional jeweler.

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