Essential equipment needed when working with precious metals includes:
If you don't have any of the above items, I actually recommend just ordering a kit from eBay, it's quick and effective. Here is an example of a kit which can typically run about $50-$75.
Acid is a critical component of hunting for gold or other precious metals. Primarily it is a protection device to ensure that you are getting what you expect and to help inform others when something is amis (like the boyfriend that gave you a fake gold necklace).
Acids are very easy to acquire but they can be very dangerous so caution is necessary. Here's what you'll be working with:
To the left is the 'stone' which is a type of tile that you can pickup at home depot. The acids however you will need to buy. From left to right the acids are for testing 10K, 14K, 18k, 22K, Platinum, and lastly Silver. Expect the cost of the set to run about $30.
Learn how to use acids safely and correctly before you start.
Once you have gold, you need to know how much you have, so a scale critical. Either digital or analog scale will work though I prefer digital because it's faster. Below are two scales that I use, both capable of weighing up to 1000 grams at a time (this is important) and they are portable. Lastly I'm including a picture of an analog Triple Beam Balance scale. Expect a scale to cost about $15-$25 for the digital kind. Scales are very easy to acquire on eBay, here's a link to some of your options.
Often times the Karat marks that you are looking for are VERY VERY small and even with great eye sight, it is often times necessary to use a Loop, which is a type of small magnifying glass. These items are also easy to acquire on eBay and cost about $5-$10 depending on the magnifying power and type. As a general rule, use a Loop that is at least x10 power...meaning it can blow things up to 10 times the size. Whatever design or style of loop you want is probably as effective as any other. However, for simplicity and portability I recommend going with a loop that has a low profile - perhaps no more than 1/2" high, so that it fits neatly into your pocket. I actually keep several loops around the house - they are very easy to misplace ;-) Here's a quick link to an eBay search for low cost loupes.
Pliers you say!? Yes - as you acquire gold you will likely need to pull stones out of the materials. If you send a ring to a refinery - they will vaporize the stone - so if you want to keep the stone, you'll likely need pliers to help free it from the material. While some refineries will pull stones for you, I don't recommend it. Doing so will add a couple extra weeks to the refining process, plus you have to pay return postage. If at all possible I pull stones myself and throw them into a jar...not sure what I'm going to do with a quart jar of gems yet!
Alternatively if you don't care about stones being left in the gold material then that's fine, it will burn during the smelting process. The downside of not preparing your materials however is that you won't have an accurate estimate of what materials you are sending to be refined - so you can validate after the refining, how much gold was recovered and if it was as expected.
Sometimes as you are buying gold you don't always have pliers at the ready so you might have to estimate how much gems weight and deduct that from the weight of the item. This takes practice but after you have pulled a number of Gems - practice with trying to guess the weight in grams. Also see the key concept of Gems to learn about more accurately estimating the weight of Gems and learn about the term Karat as it refers to Gems - totally different Karat that when referring to gold!
I recommend having a couple types of pliers, especially a pair of Needle Nose pliers & Cutting pliers.
The yellow Needle Nose below are an example from Home Depot. The blue Cutting pliers are also from Home Depot. Though you can buy these tools new I don't recommend it. The next time you are out hunting at a flea market for gold keep your eyes open - there's tons of used tools for sale as well - might as well pick your tools up then, usually only a couple bucks per tool - and you're 'recycling'.