Under karated caster

I have been using a few casting houses in NYC and wondered why the
recipes were so custom tailored by each group that one would not
take the gold from another house to melt. Well, I bought a tester
kit and discovered some casters sold me 14k yellow gold cast pieces
which were NOT 14k yellow. The color on the gold pieces turned brown
which leads me to believe the karat is low, maybe 12K or less!!! I
have already stamped the piece 14K (which I shall remove, pronto)
but what shall I do about the casting house, aside from never again
crossing their doorstep? And do I have the correct on
making this karat gold determination?

thanks, june

 And do I have the correct on making this karat gold

From your description, that you’re upset because the gold turned
color under the acid, then I’d have to say probably not, depending on
the type of kit you have, and how you used it. Acid testing is not
always as simple as it seems, and the acids commonly sold (the
premixed ones, marked for karat), can be confusing to use without
some practice.

14k gold, exposed simply to plain nitric acid, WILL discolor.
Depending on the mix of acid, (the premixed ones generally have some
mix of both nitric and hydrochloric) the exact reaction to a given
karat can be variable depending on the exact alloy. The best way to
be sure is with the type of kit that also includes test needles. You
need to put a streak of a known, same color, gold on a dark tile or
test stone, and a streak of similar thickness of the unknown gold
next to it. Add the test acid. What you’re looking for generally
is NOT whether it turns color, but rather whether it is affected by
the acid at a different speed than is the known sample. It is
generally supposed to be affected to some degree, which may be a
color change, or actually dissolving, or you wouldn’t be able to
judge the relative speed of action.

If in doubt about the acid, purchase plain, concentrated, nitric
acid (USE WITH CARE). A drop of this on most 14K yellow golds will
slowly give you a dark spot on the metal. On a test stone, it also
slowly discolors it. If in doubt, spread the drop of acid over about
half the length of the streak, then add a single grain of table salt
to one end of the puddle, stroking the acid there back and forth
across the ends of the two streaks with the glass acid bottle
applicator. As the salt dissolves and dissipates in the acid, it
greatly speeds up the effect on the gold (you can use this with
higher karats too), so you can then more easily judge which streak is
affected more quickly. Comparing the reaction to acid of the unknown
gold versus the known samples of the same color alloy, is capable,
with practice, of measuring within about a half karat or so, but
that’s with practice.

the above method, by the way, of using just nitric, with some salt
if needed, has the advantage that the premixed acids have a distinct
shelf life. if the kit has been on the shelf for a while, it’s
sometimes hard to be sure the acids are still as potent as they are
supposed to be. Plain nitric has a longer shelf life like this.
Experienced testers will use, instead of salt, a second bottle of
hydrochloric, as the combination of the two lets you also
effectively test platinum group metals, as well as being more
effective with high karat golds than the nitric/salt combo. But the
latter is cheaper, less acid to store and keep track of which bottle
is which, and for karats up to about 18K, just as accurate in my

And even with golds of the same karat, slight differences in color
(a slightly more rose, or slightly more “green” gold, for example) ,
will make the gold react differently. And so can differences in the
alloy such as differing levels of deoxidizers or other trace additions
used to improve casting quality, which may make no visible difference
in color.

For this reason, if you find that you are not confident in the karat
of gold of an unknown alloy such as this case, then you really need to
submit a sample to a qualified refiner who can offer a proper assay,
which will be FAR more accurate than a simple acid test. These
generally cost anywhere from 25 to 50 dollars to run. But only then
will you really know what the alloy is. Testing kits are OK for
checks where you don’t need exact accuracy, and are best when
you’re pretty sure of the type of alloy involved. But modern casting
alloys can be tricky sometimes. Don’t be too quick to jump to
conclusions. Casting companies, like jewelers, don’t stay in
business very long if they cheat their customers. So before being sure
of this problem, get the piece properly assayed. And talk to the
casters as well about your misgivings. People are all too human,
and even the most honest and conciencious caster may, on occasion,
have some sort of accidental mix up occur. Shouldn’t happen, but
every now and then, can happen, without it being intentional or
something that would be repeated.

And consider telling us, here on orchid, the name of the caster. if
you’re unsure of whether you should do this in public, register on
orchid with a new user name, so we won’t know it’s the person with the
problem, and then simply ask for Orchidians to tell you of their past
experiences with this caster. If everyone raves about how great they
are, then you can feel better that any mistake was proably a fluke.

Peter Rowe


Make sure the rings are low karat . Once you know for sure you
should file a complaint and turn over the rings to the FTC!!!

This is fraud and I would be mad as hell. You have paid for a
product and you have been cheated.

RC Gems

IF you are CERTAIN that your ‘assay’ of the gold is correct, MY
PERSONAL advice would be to report them to U.S.Treasury Dept.

They are putting YOU in line for BIG trouble. If you stamp it 14K and
it is NOT, YOU are violating federal law ! You would also be doing a
big favor to all the others who buy from them.

It’s probably a good idea to take some of their gold to an assayer,
and get a formal assay report of the actual karat (MUCH better than a
streak test kit.) Then you can submit their invoice along with the
assay to the authorities.

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718


Under karating is a very serious issue it is illegal. These
electronic testers are only good enough to give you a rough guess as
to the karat so you cannot rely on them to determine if you have a
problem with your caster. Nor can you rely on the color of the goods
to determine karat. The only way to do that is to have the work
assayed. There are many labs that can run this type of analysis for
you, most refiners will run an assay for you for a fee and if you
seriously think you have a problem with this then pay for the assay
and go back to your caster and have them fix this. If they will not
you have a good case for legal remedy if they sold you under karated

As for not taking in material from another caster there are
literally hundreds of gold alloys If I were still doing commercial
casting I would not take in another casters metal either. You can
ruin a batch of alloy doing this. It is just not worth the risk.

Jim Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

June, many Orchidians may not agree with this next idea, but here it

You should send a letter to JVC and make them aware of any
under-karating of gold from this company. You are also protecting
other clients who have been buying gold from this casting house. If
you have any scraps of gold with a monthly statement of account, send
it to them along with your letter. Let ‘them’ figure out what should
be done.

I knew of just one company who was doing this. He lost so many
accounts his name was plastered all over this city, some years ago.
He just closed up his doors and wondered why no one was trading with
him all of a sudden. He was selling rings for also “12 karat”…if
the Gov’t walks in and does a spot check,…(woops!..don’t

IF, the ring is under carat…contact the Jewelers Viglance people.
mike w

Have an actual assay done, a home streak test just doesn’t cut it
when you are going to ruin someone career. Also if it is under carat,
let them know, they themselves may not be aware and are using a batch
of over alloyed material. I am sure they would be extremely quick to
rectify the problem, it could be as simple as miss reading a number
on a scale when they made shot for that particular day. Accidents
can happen.


If you have actually been cheated by your caster you have a very real
problem. But be good and sure that this is the case. Before you do
anything else about it you should have an assay lab check it out. If
the do-it-yourself test was not acurate you could wind up in trouble
yourself for spreading false accusations. It is a very good and wise
thing you didn’t name names in your posting as this is a very serious

Ugly as it might be, I think you have a certain moral obligation to
take some action if the test prove that you actually were cheated. If
this is the case others are also being cheated. Whenever this kind of
thing gets out to the public we all suffer from the bad publicity.
Taking action on your own might be pretty messy. Maybe someone on
Orchid knows how the Jewelers Vigalence Committee deals with this
kind of complaint?

Stephen Walker


Woops I guess I should finish my coffee before replying to email. I
saw tester and assumed electronic not acid test. After reading Peter
Rowe’s excellent response about acid testing I realized my error.
But even with an experienced operator the acid test is not precise
enough to determine if your castings are of the correct karat .

The National Stamping Act only allows for a 3 parts per thousand
deviation under karat on items that contain no solder, that is
equivalent to .072 karat. You must get an assay from a lab to be
sure if you have questions as there is no other means to determine
fineness accurately enough. This narrow margin of error is one
reason why there is such a requirement for trust in our trade. An
accusation of under karating should not be made lightly but if there
is lab work to back it up then you need to have a heart to heart
talk with your caster to figure out if it was an honest mistake or a
pattern of behavior and then act accordingly.

Jim Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

[UK Perspective]

I am sure this thread is one of those that has the UK Orchidian’s
scratching their heads. Over there ALL precious metals must go to an
official Assay Office to be marked. You can only mark very small
pieces yourself.

I sell some Scottish and Irish jewelry in my shop and have become
friends with a few goldsmiths who have to work with the Assay system
regulating hallmarks. What a nuisance it must be! But the problem
that June has just doesn’t happen over there, the caster wouldn’t dare
try to cheat because everything is subject to third party spot
checking for metal quality.

Stephen Walker