Gold is a precious metal that has been used for jewellery and coinage throughout recorded history. Earlier, most monetary policies were built on a gold standard, until the world switched to the fiat currency system. Now gold coins have also ceased to exist, and the metal is primarily used in jewellery, investment, and industry.
Have you ever wondered if 14k gold is magnetic? In this article, we are going to discuss just that. We will begin by understanding the basics of magnetism. Then we will talk about the composition of different forms of gold jewellery and their magnetism. Finally, we will learn how to identify gold using this property.
Does 14k Gold Stick to a Magnet?
14k gold may or may not stick to a magnet, depending on its composition. A 14k gold piece is an alloy containing 14 parts of gold and 10 parts of some other metals. While gold in itself is not magnetic, these other metals will determine the overall magnetism of the piece.
Let us first understand what 14k means. Karat (k) is a way of measuring the purity of gold. Pure gold is given the value of 24 karats, and every alloy is represented as a fraction of that purity. So, 14k gold means that it contains 14/24 parts of gold (58.33%) and 10/24 (41.66%) parts of other metals.
Pure gold is too soft, and it can bend as well as scratch quite easily. This is why it cannot be used in jewellery. Instead, it is combined with other stronger metals and then turned into jewellery. 22k gold is mostly used in jewellery; it contains 91.67% pure gold.
Now, pure gold in itself is not magnetic. But since 14k gold is an alloy, it can be magnetic, depending on the other metals used in its composition. For example, if it contains iron or nickel (ferromagnetic metals), then it will be attracted to a magnet. However, if it contains metals like copper or aluminium, then it will not be magnetic.
Is 10k Gold Magnetic?
10k gold can be magnetic, depending on its composition. Being an alloy, it is made up of 10 parts of gold and 14 parts of other metals. If the other metals are magnetic, then the 10k gold piece will also be magnetic, even though pure gold in itself is non-magnetic.
Before talking about 10k gold, it’s important to understand magnetism. Magnetism is a force caused by the movement of electric charges. Every substance is made up of atoms. These atoms have electrons (particles that carry an electric charge) that circle the atom’s centre or the nucleus.
In most substances, equal numbers of electrons spin in opposite directions. This cancels out their magnetism, and so they are weakly magnetic. These include things like paper, wood, metals like gold, etc.
However, in some substances like iron, the electrons spin in the same direction. This allows their magnetic fields to combine together and produces a magnetic field extending beyond the atoms. These objects are strongly magnetic.
So, if the 10k alloy includes these magnetic substances in its composition, such as iron and nickel, then it will also be magnetic. However, if it contains substances like aluminium and copper, then it will not be magnetic.
Is 18k Gold Magnetic?
Depending on its composition, 18k gold may or may not be magnetic. 18k gold is an alloy that consists of 18 parts of gold and 6 parts of other metals. Now, pure gold in itself is non-magnetic; but if the other metals are magnetic, then they can make the entire alloy likewise.
Gold is a diamagnetic object. They do not have unpaired electrons and are not attracted by a magnet. Diamagnetism is a property found in all materials, but an object is called diamagnetic when this property is the only contribution to its magnetism.
18k gold consists of 18/24 parts of (75%) of gold and 6/24 parts (25%) of other metals. Gold in itself is non-magnetic, but if the other metals are magnetic, then they can make the whole alloy magnetic.
Magnetic metals include iron, nickel, cobalt, etc. An 18k gold might have metals like aluminium or copper, which are non-magnetic; in such a case, the alloy as a whole will remain non-magnetic.
Can You Make Gold Magnetic?
When we say that gold is non-magnetic, we are talking at the macro level. However, recently, it has been discovered that gold is magnetic at a nanoscale. So, if we manage to take such a small cluster and bring it into an extremely strong magnetic field, gold can be magnetic. For practical purposes, gold remains non-magnetic.
Scientists have discovered that even gold is magnetic at a nanoscale. We had earlier seen how gold is non-magnetic because it does not have unpaired electrons. However, this is true only at a macro level.
At a nanoscale, gold particles have very few atoms and these are unable to pair up. Fernandes de Farias studied the smallest cluster of gold (containing only two atoms) and discovered that the electrons were unpaired. At this point, gold is magnetic.
But as the number of atoms increases, the cluster expands, and it becomes easier for outer electrons to pair up with other electrons. When this happens, they lose their magnetism.
So, at the nanolevel, gold is magnetic. However, for practical purposes, most of us can still consider gold to be non-magnetic.
Is Silver Magnetic?
No, like gold, silver is also non-magnetic. Iron, nickel, and cobalt are the only magnetic metals that we normally see in our lives. But, even though silver is non-magnetic, it can interact with a moving magnet.
Silver is a diamagnetic material, meaning that it does not have unpaired electrons in its outer shell. As such, it is not attracted by a magnetic field.
You might wonder, if silver is not magnetic, then how do metal detectors find it? Metal detectors are able to find all kinds of metals (even non-magnetic ones like silver and gold) by a principle known as the Lenz effect.
Moving the metal detector over a piece of silver/gold will set up a slight electric field in the piece. The metal detector is able to sense this electric field and alert you about it. Check out this excellent video by Magnets&Motors to see how a silver ingot interacts with a moving metal.
When you move a magnet near the coin, what happens is that the moving magnet sets up an electric current in the silver ingot. This electric current has a magnetic field of its own, and it is this magnetic field that interacts with the moving magnet.
So, while silver and gold by themselves are non-magnetic, they can still interact with moving magnets—that is how metal detectors work.
Can Gold be Made Artificially?
Yes, gold can be made artificially from other elements, but it is an extremely expensive process. It requires nuclear reactions, and the whole process is so costly that you will not make any profit by selling that gold.
All substances are made up of atoms, which contain a nucleus (having protons and neutrons) and a number of electrons bound to the nucleus. An atom’s chemical and physical properties are mostly determined by its electrons, which are in turn determined by the protons.
Gold is a chemical element with 79 protons in each atom. In principle, we can create gold by putting together 79 protons (with enough neutrons to make it stable). Or, we can remove one proton from Mercury (80) or add one proton to platinum (79).
In real life, however, it is extremely hard to do. By chemical reactions, we can only change the number and shape of electrons. In order to make changes to the nucleus, we need nuclear reactions. These are extremely expensive processes, and moreover, the end product will be radioactive gold, which is unsafe for humans.
So, at present, artificially making gold is not feasible.
How to Test Gold at Home With a Magnet or a Lighter?
Yes, you can try testing gold at home with a magnet. Another method is using a lighter and trying to burn gold. Both these are good DIY ways to check the authenticity of gold, but they are not foolproof.
Gold’s non-magnetism can help us detect fake gold. If you are buying jewellery, you can test it by bringing a magnet near it. If it is getting attracted, then it means that is it not pure gold.
But just because the suspected gold piece is not attracted to a magnet does not mean that it’s pure gold. It might have been mixed with other non-magnetic metals like copper and aluminium, and these will not interact with the magnet.
Another method involves using a lighter. If it’s real gold, then the fire will make the piece glow brighter and it will not burn. However, if it is made up of other metals like iron or copper, then it will get darker.
Both these are good DIY methods, but if you want to be 100% sure, the only way to test the authenticity of gold is to take it to a reputable jewellery store.
Read: Is Wood Magnetic?
In this article, we looked at the magnetic properties of different kinds of gold alloys: 14k, 18k, 10k, etc. We discussed how magnetism works and why metals like silver & gold are non-magnetic. We talked about creating artificial gold and finally learnt how to test gold at home.