How to identify raw gold

Updated February 21, 2017

Raw gold, or rough gold, is a valuable, naturally occurring metal. Before it is processed, it contains impurities such as copper or silver, which are removed to make gold jewellery. You may have handled fool's gold or shiny stones that were golden in colour and mistaken them for gold. Such items are quite different in value and appearance from real, raw gold. It is easier to identify raw gold when referring to an image of fine gold or gold nuggets.

Determine the shape and size of the substance that may be raw gold. Raw gold is random in shape and ranges in size from fine bits to large, rounded nuggets.

Assess the substance's colour. Raw gold is brassy yellow and bright.

Feel the specimen's texture. Raw gold has a smooth surface, and fool's gold is jagged because of its crystal structure. The surface of raw gold may have lumps and bump but is clearly metallic in texture.

Hold the substance up to a light. Real gold has a shiny surface that glistens as it is twisted in light, but it does not twinkle or sparkle. Fool's gold twinkles and sparkles in light, reflecting the light and creating a glittery effect. Real gold is bright yellow with a shiny, metallic surface.

Tap the specimen with a hammer. Gold is a soft, malleable metal that can bend easily, unlike other minerals that snap when hammered. Strike the gold firmly to check whether or not you can dent it without it breaking.

Place the substance in nitric acid. Nitric acid does not dissolve or tarnish raw gold. Fool's gold, however, also is not affected by nitric acid, but other identification methods will help you determine whether or not the specimen is fool's gold.


Be careful when using nitric acid. Take necessary precautions, such as wearing goggles and gloves.

Things You'll Need

  • Image of fine gold or gold nuggets
  • Hammer
  • Nitric acid
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About the Author

Based in Bristol, Philippa Jones has been a music journalist and script writer since 2007, working across a range of radio programs in the U.K. and Australia. Her articles have appeared in "Impact Magazine," "The Mic" and in local newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics from the University of Nottingham.