How to Identify Raw Gold


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 jewelry. You may have handled fool's gold or shiny stones that were golden in color 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.

Gold nuggets on display
(David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Things You'll Need

  • Image of fine gold or gold nuggets
  • Hammer
  • Nitric acid
Step 1

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.

People panning for gold in river in Jamestown, CA.
David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Step 2

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

Flake of gold found while panning in creek
David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Step 3

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.

10 grams worth of gold flakes on scale
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Step 4

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.

Gold prospector holds vial of gold flakes
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Tips & Warnings

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


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