How To Tell The Difference Between Gold & Brass

Gold and brass are very distinct elements, but its color is often similar, so knowing the difference might prove challenging unless you’re familiar with a few techniques to try out. This article tells you what you need to know about the subject.

Difference Between Brass and Pure Gold

Even though there are numerous jewelry stores to visit, sometimes, finding pure gold can be a challenge.

Fake gold is more common than you might think, and in the jewelry industry, having the real deal is a must. Therefore, you must learn to distinguish brass from gold-plated jewels, especially if you want to buy different items.

Firstly, you have to learn what each precious metal is before understanding how to tell real gold apart.

What Is Gold?

Unlike other metals, pure gold occurs naturally. It’s a chemical element that has a shiny yellow finish, and in nature, you can find it in deposits, nuggets, and quartz rocks.

Humans have been using pure metal to make jewelry ever since thousands of years ago. Currently, real gold is one of the metals people rely on to measure wealth. At the same time, it’s a type of currency all around the world.

What Is Brass?

Polished brass is a result of a copper and zinc alloy. Therefore, when these elements vary, you might get different colors.

If the zinc value is high, for example, you can get a more yellow tone. However, if the alloy has more copper, you might get a dull yellow instead of a bright one.

Hittites and Sumerians found brass around 500 BC. Since it’s more precious than zinc and harder than copper, many artisans use it to make jewelry, and they love it because of its golden color and resemblance to this metal.

Brass vs Gold: Physical Differences Between These Precious Metals

Telling brass and gold apart can be a challenge unless you know the specific characteristics to look out for. There is more than one key difference between the two metals, so take a look at how you can distinguish between them:

Malleability and Softness

Gold jewelry is immensely soft. Therefore, if there’s a ceramic surface around your house, you can perform a very quick test.

The first time to determine whether or not you have fake gold is to grab your item and scratch a ceramic surface with it. If you do this, it should leave a fine golden line behind.

Brass and gold have different malleability and softness properties. Thus, if you do this with brass, it will leave a black streak.

Color and Appearance

Even though brass and gold are both yellow, there are some ways to tell them apart only by looking closely at the color.

The color of gold depends on its purity rating. In other words, if it has a lower karat count, it might look more like brass. However, overall, this metal is a bright yellow.

Even though gold and brass are similar in color, gold is often shinier, which is why many people prefer it to make jewelry.


The most effective way to tell gold and brass apart is by weighing them. Brass items are much lighter than gold ones. In other words, your gold items might feel heavier even though they’re the same size (or even smaller!) than your brass ones.

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and its density is much lower than gold’s. A bar of the latter would be more than two bars of brass, so a fast way to differentiate between them is to just determine their weight.


Another essential difference between gold and brass is that brass reacts to magnet sticks, whereas gold does not.

Since brass is an alloy, you can perform the magnet test and confirm that it attracts loadstone. Gold, on the other hand, should not be able to move an inch.

Electric Conductivity

Any metal can conduct electricity. However, their capability to do so varies. Gold’s conductivity is around 70% copper, whereas brass’ is only 28%.

Chemical Differences

If you’re thinking of buying gold or brass, you should keep in mind that they have different chemical properties as well. Here is what you should know:


Pure gold will never have signs of rust, discoloration, or oxidation. Alternatively, brass and other elements tarnish after reacting to the elements.

Acid Test

The acid test is a colloquial expression people use to say that if you apply concentrated acid, for example, nitric acid, to your gold or bass, you might be able to determine which of the two metals you have in your hands.

Since brass is an alloy, it shows both the chemical properties of copper and zinc. The latter, for example, will form zinc nitrate if you pour acid on it, whereas the former will oxidize.

Gold, on the other hand, is a non-reactive metal with corrosion resistance. Thus, if you pour a few drops of acid on it and don’t see any bubbling or discoloration, it’s the real deal!

Taste and Smell

If you’re at home, you might not have the materials to perform an acid test. However, this doesn’t mean that the question of whether you’re holding gold or brass should remain in your mind.

There is a quick, straightforward way to tell these metals apart, and it doesn’t involve knowing the supposed karat count of your piece of jewelry, either. After holding the item, sniff your hand.

The copper and zinc alloy of brass jewelry will leave a scent on your hand, even if you just hold it for a moment. Thus, you might be able to notice a slight metallic smell.

Gold, instead, has no taste or odor. Since it’s biochemically inert, it doesn’t do anything either.

Video On How To Tell The Difference

Other Ways to Tell Them Apart

If you want to have fun performing other tests to tell the difference between gold and brass, don’t worry. There are different ways to know which is which asides from determining if they change color, sniffing them, or using acid.

Check the Marker

Most manufacturers will mark both gold and brass items. When you have the former in your hands, it often comes with the karat count. Having the latter frequently means your item will say ‘brass.’


It might be evident by now, but gold is immensely expensive. It’s one of the costlier precious metals in the world, so if someone comes to you trying to sell you 10 pounds of it for a couple of dollars, you shouldn’t believe them.

One kilogram (2.202 pounds) of gold is often not cheaper than $55,000. However, you can buy the same amount of brass by paying $5. Thus, if you don’t know whether you’re buying brass or gold, analyze how much money they’re asking you for it. If the price is too low, it’s probably brass.

Purity Rating Gold

Unlike brass, gold comes with a rating, which tells you how much gold is in your item. The higher the karats, the more gold you get.

Since brass has no gold and instead it has zinc and copper, you won’t see any karat count on the surface. Again, if you paid little money and don’t have any acids to test the item nor own a magnet to see its reaction, compare the price and the item’s exterior to try and tell the difference.

Clean Them with Vinegar

Cleaning jewelry with vinegar is a very popular way to take some impurities off, and if you don’t have acids or a magnet at home, using this liquid will cause a reaction on your items (at least if you’re holding brass).

When your metal item is brass-made, it will change color. However, gold ones stay intact. Thus, using vinegar is also a quick way to tell which is which.

Make a Mark on Your Gold Coin

As was mentioned before, gold is malleable and soft, whereas brass is not. If you make a mark on your coin, you might not be able to clean it off.

Other materials such as silver might be different, but in the case of gold, it’s dense, it’s not reactive to air or the elements, and it never changes colors. Thus, a physical way to test it is to make a mark on it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which One Should I Buy?

When it comes to buying jewelry, you might want gold because it’s more expensive and shinier.

Is There Any Advantage to Buying Brass?

Brass is a metal with antimicrobial and germicidal properties. In other words, it finds bacteria and fights it!

Where Is Brass Used?

People in the music industry frequently use brass, as you might know if you’re familiar with the ‘brass section’ of the musical instruments. Tubas, horns, trumpets, and trombones are all made of this material.

Brass vs Gold: To Wrap Up

Just like every metal, both brass and gold have their unique properties. If you have an item at home, there are a few quick, straightforward tests that you can perform to tell whether it’s made of one or the other. Whether you pour vinegar on them or scratch a ceramic top, you’ll know the truth!

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Peter Grantham

Peter has been an avid investor in for all his life. Over that time he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience including stocks, bonds, real estate, retirement, precious metals, cryptocurrencies and business investments. You can get in touch at my email: As the owner of this site "My Gold Silver Bitcoin", he aims to bring his knowledge and experience to new investors and seasoned veterans. My mailing address is: 41847 Moen Grove, Greenton, Arkansas, 80976

The owners of this website may be paid to recommend Goldco. The content on this website, including any positive reviews of Goldco and other reviews, may not be neutral or independent.

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