Brass vs Gold: How to tell them apart!

It can be difficult to tell the difference between gold and brass.

Blue twitter IconBlue Facebook IconBlue Instagram Icon
Brass Pen

While gold and brass have a distinctive yellow metallic luster they're very different in terms of their chemical, physical, and application characteristics. Gold is a pure metal; brass, however, is an alloy or combination of copper and zinc.

We need to look closely at the two metals to tell the difference.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between gold and brass, especially if you aren't an expert in precious metals. A brass alloy of zinc and copper can make what looks like a costly piece of jewelry. Both metals look beautiful, but there are important differences in their prices, oxidation, and density.

How to Distinguish Gold

Gold is a pure chemical element with a shining yellow luster. Gold is naturally found ingrained in deposits, nuggets, and quartz rocks.

This soft, dense, malleable metal is resistant to chemical reaction and has a distinctive characteristic.

Humans have used gold in jewelry and coins since 6500 BC. Archaeologists claim that our ancestors used it as early as 40,000 BC in the late stone age. Gold today is a currency and a measure of wealth.

How to Distinguish Brass

Brass is an alloy of zinc and copper. Brass can have different properties depending on how much copper or zinc is present. The varying combinations can produce a wide variety of properties and color variations. Zinc added increases strength and ductility. Brass can also vary in color from reddish to muted yellow. Appearing darker when copper is the main ingredient, and shiny and yellow with zinc.

The Sumerians and Hittites discovered the yellow-colored alloy in 500 BC. Being more valuable than zinc and harder than copper. Because of its similarity to gold, brass is an ideal metal for jewelers and sculptors.

Copper's presence in the alloy confers antimicrobial and germicidal properties. The alloy destroys the structural membranes of bacteria and other pathogens, thereby fighting them.

Because of its acoustic qualities, brass is a favorite for musical instruments. It's used to make trombones, trumpets, horns, and tuba connections.

The brass with a zinc content between 32% and 39% will have greater hot-working capabilities, but it will not be as efficient in cold-working.

Brass with more than 39% zinc (example: Muntz Metal) will have higher strength and lower ductility at room temperature.

The Physical Differences Between

Brass and gold are the same color and can be hard to tell apart if you're not familiar with these metals. But looking at their properties you'll be able to see their physical differences.

Color and Appearance

First, they're both yellow metals. While brass is not bright yellow, it's more dull than gold. However, gold is much shinier causing its golden color.

Impurities can cause the shiny metallic luster that is characteristic of gold to fade. The purity of the gold determines the shine of ornaments. Making it hard to distinguish gold from brass if it has less than 12 Karats.

Malleability and Softness

You can draw a line of gold on a ceramic surface if you scratch it, due to its softness. Brass is extremely hard so it will not leave any yellow marks on surfaces. Instead, press the alloy onto the ceramic surface to create a black streak.

Gold is also more malleable than brass. Due to this, you will see lots of bronze and brass statues, as these materials are more durable than iron.

Gold, however, can easily form shapes in their purest form. A low karat count is preferred by most smiths and sculptors because it's less difficult.


A magnet is all you need to determine if your precious metal piece is brass or gold. Because brass has iron, the magnet sticks due to it iron being a magnetic metal. Gold, on the other hand, is pure and will not move one inch under the influence of any strong magnet.

Test the density of the metal

Their weight is the best way to distinguish. The density of gold is 19.3g/cm, while that of brass is 8.5g/cm. To test its density, pour boiling water into a cup and then place the chain inside the container. Catch and weigh any water that spills. And divide the weight of the water spilled by the chain's weight. If the chain is made of gold, it will weigh 19.3x more than the water. If it's made from brass, it will weigh approximately 8.5x the water.

A gold bar is equivalent to two bars of brass.

Electric conductivity

While metals conduct electricity; alloys have a lower conductivity than active elements. For example, brass has a conductivity level of 28% copper while gold has a conductivity level of about 70% copper

Chemical Difference Between Brass and Gold

It's best to test a metal in a laboratory to determine if it's gold or brass. Although they may share similar physical characteristics, their chemical compositions can be quite different.

Gold is a pure metallic chemical element, with the symbol Au79 in the periodic tables. However, brass is a mixture of copper and zinc.


The acid test is a common colloquial term that can be used to determine metals. This test is based on the principle of gold being inert and brass reacting with strong acids.

Holding your metal object firmly, add a few drops of concentrated acid that can be poured on a piece of brass to form nitrous compounds with zinc and copper. Zinc is reactive and will form zinc nitrate. Copper, however, can oxidize in concentrated solid acid.

Pure gold is technically inert so the liquid nitric acid won't work on it. If you see bubbling or discoloration, the metal is brass. If there is no way to tell, you may have pure gold.


Look out for areas that are tarnished or discolored. This is due to oxidation or rusting. When metals react with oxygen in natural and industrial environments to make a compound, they rust or tarnish. Brass reacts and tarnishes when it reacts with oxygen in the environment. Pure gold will not have any oxidized parts.

Smell and Taste

The smell test is the simplest, though not scientifically accurate, way to identify brass and gold chains. You can rub the chain between your fingers for several seconds, long enough to allow the chain to warm up slightly. Then, take the chain off of your fingers and smell it. If the chain has a metallic odor it's probably fake gold. If the odor is absent, it's likely that your chain is gold or coated with a thick gold-plating. This can be used to determine if your chain has gold or not, but it doesn't necessarily prove that your chain is brass plated.

Brass leaves a distinctive smell and taste, even on your hands. If you touch solid brass and then rub your hands together, you'll notice the metallic smell. The copper and zinc most active elements in the alloy give it a distinctive taste and smell.

Gold is a tasteless, dense, odorless metal. This yellow metal, which is corrosion-resistant, will not react with saliva or sweat. Leaving no traces of taste or smell on your skin.

Some people even use E175 gold as a food ingredient. It's biochemically inert, so it doesn't harm them or add any nutritional value.

You can perform the following tests on your metal if you're in a rush and don't have any time for some physics or Chemistry.

Check out The Marker

A hallmark is a mark that identifies the origin and purity of gold. Although brass doesn't have any karat, most manufacturers will put "brass” on it.


Brass is a more affordable option than Gold, which can be quite expensive. Asking for the price will reveal the difference between gold and brass. A 1kg gold ingot can fetch more than $55000, while a similar amount of brass costs only $5.

You shouldn't buy genuine gold-plated jewelry from someone selling it at a lower price.

Purity Rating Gold

A purity rating (or character count) is assigned to gold. Pure gold has a purity rating of 24 Karats. The number of karats is a measure of the proportion of gold in an alloy. Brass is made of zinc and copper, containing no gold.


Gold has been used as currency such as a gold coin, as a wedding ring, trade, and for other purposes for hundreds of thousands of years. Although brass may look like gold, its historical value, corrosion resistance, and density are all lower than gold. There are specific uses for brass and gold in today's world. It's important to verify the authenticity of any gold-filled jewelry or bullion before you invest in it.