5 Characteristics That Help You Identify Real Gold Nuggets

Fool’s gold, also known as pyrite, looks a lot like natural gold, but it is worth virtually nothing. Any inexperienced gold buyer or prospector can be fooled into thinking this mineral as something precious and valuable. Fortunately, there are various ways to identify raw gold nuggets from pyrite. Here are some characteristics that can tell you the difference between real gold and fool’s gold:

  1. Texture

Feel the gold nugget’s edges. Real gold has smooth ones but bumpy texture due to hitting and tumbling through debris, rocks, rivers, and streams. On the other hand, you can tell if your gold nugget is pyrite if it has jagged or sharp edges since it is made of crystals.

You can also try thrusting a fingernail through your gold in the gold pan. If it breaks easily, then it is a fool’s gold. In addition, set it in your palm with a rock of equal size next to it. The real gold should feel significantly heavier.

  1. Strength

Gold nuggets are malleable, soft metals you can bend and dent with pressure easily. If you are willing to try a destructive test, tap your gold lightly with a hammer. Some minerals or non-gold metals break, while real gold dents. It can also be cut with a sharp pocket knife. Meanwhile, pyrite will resist the pressure and cannot be cut.

You can also place your gold nugget in corrosive nitric acid. Just be careful to avoid getting it on your skin as it can cause severe burns, ulceration, and scarring. While this substance does not tarnish or dissolve real gold, remember that fool’s gold is also not affected by it. Therefore, consider using other identification methods.

  1. Colour

Raw gold looks bright and brassy yellow. To see if it is real gold, place your hand between your gold nugget and the sun and try creating shade over the gold. Real gold looks bright in the pan even when shaded, while fool’s gold doesn’t appear bright.

  1. Shine

Hold your gold nugget to the light and see if it sparkles. While real gold has a shiny, metallic surface that glistens, it does not create a glittery effect. On the other hand, fool’s gold twinkles as it reflects the light.

  1. Weight

Panning in rivers or creeks fed by eroded gold from natural deposits in rock formations above the water sources or mines is one of the best ways to look for raw gold. Real gold, regardless of its shape and size, weighs heavy. Therefore, when panning, one way to tell if it is natural gold is it can be found along the bottom edge of your pan or in the rifles.


Telling the difference between fool’s gold and real gold can be challenging because they look very similar. This is especially true when you have an untrained eye and are unfamiliar with their properties. Fortunately, you now have a better understanding of the characteristics that make real gold. Just remember how to identify raw gold nuggets mentioned in this guide to help you make informed decisions when planning to invest in natural gold.

Explore your investment opportunities in natural gold nuggets by reaching out to The Gold Nugget Shop. We specialise in unique gold specimens and premium nuggets. Browse our products or contact us to learn more about what we offer in Australia!