How to Identify Gold Nuggets

Written by ehow hobbies, games & toys editor
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Gold nuggets are more valuable than the weight of gold they contain. They're valuable because they're rare, collectible and often beautiful. Nuggets are rarely melted down; instead, they're sold as nuggets. With the price of gold increasing, though, there are fake nuggets appearing in markets and online stores. If you plan to find or buy a gold nugget, you need to know how to tell if it's real.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Light source
  • Nitric acid
  • Rock of similar size to nugget
  • Magnifying glass
  • Hammer

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  1. 1

    Look at the color of the nugget. A true gold nugget has a yellowish, waxy color and doesn't change if you change the angle of the light. Fool's gold, or iron or copper pyrites, will change color in different light or angle of light and is much shinier than real gold.

  2. 2

    Apply one drop of nitric acid to the nugget. Real gold won't change color or dissolve.

  3. 3

    Feel the weight of the nugget in your hand, and compare it to an ordinary rock of similar size. Gold has a specific gravity of 19.3, meaning it is extremely heavy, even heavier than lead. Fool's gold or fake nuggets won't be that heavy.

  4. 4

    Use a magnifying glass to get a closer look at the surface of the nugget. Real gold nuggets have a pitted surface similar to the surface of the moon. Gold that has been melted down from scrap gold and shaped into a nugget won't have pits or craters.

  5. 5

    Check the nugget for small bits of iron or quartz embedded in the pits and cracks of the nugget. A fake nugget may have had stone pieces stuck in it, but the difference will be obvious under a magnifying glass.

  6. 6

    Hit the nugget with a hammer. This test should be a last resort because it will destroy the shape of a real gold nugget. Part of the nugget's value is its shape, especially if it's a recognizable shape. Because gold is soft, hitting it will flatten it.

Tips and warnings

  • Some of the more famous nuggets include shapes like gloves, hands, dogs and bears.
  • Miners sometimes find chunks of gold embedded in the middle of a piece of quartz. These aren't called nuggets. They're called gold/quartz specimens. To be a real nugget, 75 percent of the surface of the stone should be gold instead of rock.

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