Testing Gold and Silver Items with Nitric Acid: A Comprehensive Guide


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Gold and silver are precious metals that have fascinated humans for centuries due to their beauty and intrinsic value. Whether you’re a jewelry enthusiast, a collector, or someone looking to sell gold and silver items, it’s essential to verify their authenticity. One commonly used method for testing these metals is by using nitric acid. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to test your gold and silver items using nitric acid, along with some useful resources to help you in the process.

Why Test with Nitric Acid?

Nitric acid testing is a reliable and widely accepted method for determining the purity of gold and silver. It works by applying nitric acid to the surface of the metal and observing the reaction. This method can help you verify if your items are genuine or if they contain other less valuable metals or alloys.

Materials You’ll Need:

Nitric Acid Solution: You can purchase nitric acid solutions specifically designed for precious metal testing online or at specialized jewelry supply stores. Ensure it has a concentration of 18-22%.

Test Stone: A flat, smooth stone (usually black) is used as a testing surface. It’s also known as a touchstone.

Test Needles: Test needles made of different alloys to compare reactions with your gold or silver item.

Safety Gear: Safety goggles, gloves, mask and a well-ventilated workspace are essential when working with chemicals like nitric acid.

Testing Procedure:


Put on your safety gear, including goggles and gloves.
Ensure you have a well-ventilated workspace.

Select a Testing Area:

Choose an inconspicuous area on your gold or silver item to test. It’s preferable to test on an edge or an area not prominently visible.
Scratch Test:

Gently scratch the item’s surface on the test stone to create a small streak or mark.

Apply Nitric Acid:

Using a dropper or a small pipette, apply a small drop of nitric acid to the scratched area on the test stone.

Observe the Reaction:

Pay attention to the color and rate of effervescence (bubbling) as the acid reacts with the metal.
If the streak dissolves without any reaction, it likely indicates genuine gold or silver.
If the streak turns a milky or cloudy color, it may indicate the presence of base metals or alloys.
Test Needles:

To further confirm the results, you can compare the reaction with test needles made of known alloys.
If the reaction matches one of the test needles, it helps identify the alloy’s composition.

Helpful Resources:

Rio Grande’s Guide to Precious Metal Testing: Rio Grande offers a comprehensive guide to testing precious metals, including using nitric acid.

GIA’s Guide to Precious Metal Identification: The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) provides a detailed guide on Precious Metal Identification, including testing procedures.

YouTube Video Tutorial: This YouTube video demonstrates the nitric acid testing process, offering a visual guide for beginners.


Testing your gold and silver items with nitric acid can help you determine their authenticity and purity. Remember to follow safety precautions and use the right materials and resources to ensure accurate results. With practice and the guidance of helpful websites and videos, you can become proficient in testing precious metals and make informed decisions about your valuable items.