How to Test Gold at Home with a Lighter: Fast DIY Method

Discover how to test gold with a lighter at home, why it works, and the caveat of doing a fire test.

By
Jane Pardo | Updated March 30, 2023

Exposure to direct heat is one of the easiest methods to test gold. Anyone can do this simple authentication test with just a few tools. 

How to Test Gold with a Lighter

First, hold your gold using a pair of pliers or tongs for safety. Next, expose it to a flame for 1 minute. Burn larger pieces, like gold bars, longer. Put your gold under running water in the sink to cool down. Carefully examine it for any color differences. You may record the process for better evaluation. 

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You must use a butane lighter, which provides a more stable flame for easy control. Ensure your lighter has a full tank of lighter fluid to avoid interrupting the process. 

Why testing gold with a lighter might work 

Testing solid gold with a lighter can be effective because real gold is non-flammable and fire-resistant. 

That means gold does not burn and cannot be destroyed by fire. Gold is inert in nature and unreactive to oxygen, so no heat is produced when it’s exposed to flame. 

This much-sought-after metal does not burn in air at any temperature, it can even survive a house fire.

What happens to solid gold when heated? 

When you burn authentic solid gold, it initially brightens due to its reflective surface. However, it does not catch fire or get damaged. 

Gold is a good heat conductor. It will warm fast when exposed to a flame. It maintains its beautiful yellow color and appearance after cooling down. 

If authentic, your solid gold will look the same as before the DIY lighter test. 

Should I test my gold at home with a lighter? 

  • The DIY lighter method is viable only for solid gold, like gold bars and solid gold pendants. Solid gold has no top plating or base metal, so it won’t react to heat.  
  • It is NOT ideal for testing gold-plated accessories, like gold chains, necklaces, or bracelets. You will likely end up destroying your jewelry’s appearance. 

Gold jewelry pieces come in various kinds, including gold-plated accessories with top plating. Some are gold-dipped or gold-filled. 

Jewelers typically mix gold with other metals to increase strength and durability. In fact, the purest form of gold is soft and easily bendable. 

Different karats have varying levels of purity. For example, some gold pieces could be 10k, 18k, 22k, or 24k. Lower karats contain less gold, making them more reactive to heat.

Does fake gold burn? 

Counterfeit solid gold usually darkens, changes color, or shows burned marks when heated. The color change may not disappear even after fake gold cools down. 

If your solid gold shows any of these changes, it likely contains significant amounts of bronze, brass, copper, iron, nickel, or zinc. 

However, testing solid gold with fire is not foolproof at all. Some counterfeit gold bars have a thick layer of authentic solid gold around a metal core to pass authentication tests like the DIY lighter method. 

Is gold-plated jewelry that burns fake? 

Some gold-plated jewelry pieces have an authentic gold overlay, whereas others have imitation gold plating. Both authentic and fake plating reacts to heat when exposed to a flame. 

This means that gold-plated jewelry that burns does not always mean that it’s fake. You could have a gold-plated accessory with real gold underneath or a base metal. You could also have a faux gold-plated piece with a brass or copper overlay.    

In comparison, non-plated solid gold consists entirely of gold and alloys without a metal base. 

Fire ruins gold-plated jewelry  

Exposing your gold-plated accessory to fire causes the thin upper layer to burn and change color. Exposed areas will turn purple or black or look faded. 

While it is possible to wipe down burn marks on plated gold, you will still notice color differences. 

Therefore, it’s best not to test gold-plated jewelry with a lighter at home. Check out our comprehensive guide on how to tell if something is real gold.

Written by Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo is our senior gold & silver expert. Jane lends insight into precious metals investing, collecting, testing, and maintenance.