What does an unrefined gold nugget look like?

Updated February 21, 2017

Gold is one of the most precious metals and is sought after by many. Because several other minerals resemble gold, knowing what real gold looks like is essential for separating the worthless from the valuable.


Gold comes in a variety of forms, from tiny dust particles and small flakes to crystal within a matrix, and larger nuggets. Nuggets can range from little pebbles to boulder-sized giants. Most are coin-sized, ranging from the size of a penny to that of a 50p piece.


Some nuggets collected from rivers are smooth, with crevices and indentations produced from the tumbling effect of water and sand on the surface of the gold. Nuggets collected from dry deposits or by hard-rock mining might be rougher. Gold crystals sometimes form and are big enough to be seen with the naked eye.


Because it does not corrode, a gold nugget retains its bright, shiny, metallic yellow appearance despite exposure to the elements. When mined by panning or dredging, gold's colour will make it stand out from the surrounding silt, sand and gravel.


A mineral called pyrite is also known as fool's gold. While it might look golden in appearance, it is not real gold.

Other properties

Unlike pyrite, which is hard and brittle, gold is heavy and relatively soft. The surface of a gold nugget can be easily scored with a knife blade. Gold nuggets are also heavier than many other more common minerals of comparable size.

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