Gold nuggets are generally the most sought after form of natural gold due to the fact that they take time to form and are difficult to find. Buying gold nuggets is actually pretty straightforward but the only challenge is ensuring that the gold nugget that is being bought is a naturally formed one and is authentically gold. In this guide, the buyer will learn how gold nuggets are formed, the different scales that are used to measure their weight, how they are priced, and tips on determining their authenticity.
What Gold Nuggets Are and How They Are Formed
Gold nuggets are naturally occurring pieces of native gold that take time to form. They are thought to be formed by cold welding of fragments and particles of gold in streams and rivers, though recent research has hinted that they may in fact be produced under the earth’s crust and are brought to the surface by the Earth’s natural plate movements.
The original point of view of how gold nuggets were formed was that it happened through the process of cold welding by waterfalls and rapids. It is thought that cold welding in rivers and streams occurs when the high pressure of the water (such as given by waterfalls and rapids) forces small particles of gold to fuse together, over time forming a large nugget. Since the surface of gold is not oxidized, there is nothing inhibiting this fusing, and the soft nature of gold also explains why it is easily influenced by the impact of high pressure. However, this theory has been refuted by recent findings of scientists.
The new train of thought appeared when scientists examined gold nuggets and found that the gold in the nuggets had a crystalline structure. The nuggets also had trace amounts of silver. These features are found only in substances formed deep under the earth’s surface, where temperatures can reach 300 degrees centigrade, giving gold nuggets such a structure. These gold nuggets appear on the surface of the earth where people find them due to weathering, erosion, and movements of the earth crust (which usually happens during earthquakes).
The Composition of Gold Nuggets
Gold nuggets consist of different levels of purity, usually ranging between 20K to 22K (83 to 92 percent). Australian gold nuggets tend to have a higher purity levels, while those from Alaska tend to have lower ones. Gold nuggets are also sometimes assessed by their millesimal fineness, which means the parts per thousand of the gold nugget that are actually gold. The impurities in gold nuggets are usually silver and copper. Rarely, gold nuggets are found as quartz gold specimens,, where the nugget is mixed with pieces of quartz, or lodged inside a large piece of quartz.
Different Weight Scales for Gold Nuggets
When buying gold nuggets, the buyer may be confused by the vast range of measuring scales used by different nugget sellers. These measurement scales are usually in the form of grams, grains, pennyweight troy, ounces troy, and ounces avoirdupois. The table below can be used to easily see the difference between these measurements.
It’s important to know the abbreviations of gram (g) and grain (gr) as well as their weight equivalents, as these two are often confused by buyers. For example, 10 gr of gold nugget is not even 1 g of gold, but buyers may think that it means 10 grams instead of 10 grains.
Pricing of Gold Nuggets
Gold nuggets tend to fetch a higher price compared to other forms of gold in the market due to their rarity. Usually, pricing is based on the appearance and weight of the nugget. The brighter and shinier the nugget is, the higher the percentage of gold in it, and thus a higher price. The same can be said for its weight, the larger the weight, the higher the price.
Real natural gold nuggets that have certain shapes such as shapes of letters, animals, plants, and so on, fetch an even higher price compared to regular gold nuggets that have no particular shape. Quartz gold specimens also tend to be more expensive due to their rarity, even though the percentage of gold is them is smaller than pure gold nuggets of the same weight. Another type of gold nugget that is usually priced higher than usual is jewelry grade nuggets, as these tend to look better than other types of nuggets.
How to Tell If a Natural Gold Nugget Is Real
A big issue for buyers when purchasing gold nuggets is determining whether what they are buying (or have bought) is truly a gold nugget. Sometimes, a nugget really is gold, but it is manmade instead of being naturally produced by Mother Earth. The tests below are a good start in determining whether a gold nugget is really what it seems, but the only real way to know for sure would be to send the nugget to a professional for appraisal.
The Light Test
For this test, the buyer holds the gold nugget under a bright light (such as under a desk lamp). The color is noted, and then the nugget is turned to see the shade it gives off in every angle. A genuine gold nugget will give off the same color, usually a yellowish, waxy color, and lustre no matter which angle it is observed from under the light, while imitation gold will show variations in color and brightness when looked at from different angles.
The Weight Test
Gold is very dense and heavy when compared to other metals, so by holding a gold nugget in one hand and a similar-sized rock in another hand, it is possible to gauge if the gold nugget is real, as it will be much heavier compared to the rock. An experienced gold nugget collector can tell right away if the gold nugget is only gold-plated or truly composed of gold, if he or she has handled numerous gold nuggets before.
The Magnet Test
If a gold nugget is composed of mostly gold, it will not be attracted to a magnet that is placed close to it. If the nugget gets attracted to the magnet, it is certainly not made of mostly gold, and is probably only gold plated.
The Nitric Acid Test
This test is carried out by dropping a single drop of nitric acid onto the nugget. If the gold nugget is truly gold, it will be unaffected by the acid. If it is a copper nugget instead, it will fizz and some green foam will be seen.
The Heating and Cooling Test
To test for copper, another test that can be done is to heat up the nugget until it is red hot using a torch or other fire source, and then leave it to cool. If the nugget is mostly copper instead of gold, it will turn black in the copper areas and sometimes even pink in some areas. For other metals, it will get discolored too but in different colors and hues. True gold will not be affected by the test and will remain the same color.
The Hammer Test
This test will change the shape of the nugget, so it should be used as a last resort. Hit the gold nugget using a hammer, and due to the malleable nature of gold, if it is true gold it will flatten. If it crumbles, it is certainly not gold. Alternatively, this test can be done by tapping the nugget with a small nail using a hammer and observing if there is any crumbling. Gold never crumbles under any circumstance.
The Magnifying Glass Test
Using a magnifying glass,, the surface of the gold nugget is observed. Real natural made gold nuggets have rounded edges and a pitted surface similar to the surface of the moon. They also tend to have some scratches over their surfaces. Gold nuggets that have sharp edges and perfectly smooth surfaces (or mostly smooth), without any pits or scratches at all, are likely manmade nuggets that were shaped from melted gold instead of being naturally formed. The magnifying glass test is the only real way to inspect a gold nugget to see if it is manmade, as all the other tests above only test for whether a nugget is really gold, which a manmade gold nugget is. Do remember that manmade gold nuggets are just like replica collectibles, which do not fetch as much as a real natural gold nugget.
Another tip for purchasing gold nuggets online, specifically, is to ensure that when the gold nugget is placed next to a ruler scale, that the two side-by-side units are shown clearly in the photograph. That is to say, if the gold nugget is less than one centimetre in size, the numbers one and two (between 1cm and 2cm scale-wise) on the ruler should be shown in the picture to give a true overall impression of how big the nugget really is. Otherwise, it is easy to overestimate the size of the gold nugget as pictures can be deceiving.
Gold nuggets can be purchased from private sellers on online sites like eBay,, or from businesses who specialize in the buying and selling of gold nuggets, whether online or in physical stores. Wherever a gold nugget is bought, care must be exercised to avoid the disappointment of having purchased something that is not a true gold nugget.
Purchasing Gold Nuggets on eBay
eBay is an especially popular site for purchasing gold nuggets, since it is a worldwide sales platform that allows sellers from any country to list the gold nuggets they have for sale. Navigating and buying on the eBay site is extremely easy.
For starters, to search for listings on gold nuggets, you can choose to use the provided search box and key in a relevant search term according to what you are looking for (e.g. Australian gold nugget), or search by category by following this order: Coins & Paper Money,, Bullion,, Gold,, and finally Nuggets.. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see pages of listings relevant to gold nuggets.
To get more information on a nugget for sale, click on a listing and you will be brought to the item page, where a description of the item together with photographs will be provided for your viewing. Read through the description carefully, and inspect the provided photographs, enlarging them if needed. Be sure to check whether the weight is in grams or grains, and make sure the scale given in the photograph, if it is a ruler, is clear enough. If you still have doubts, feel free to contact the seller who will be glad to give you the information you require. If you decide to purchase the item, click on the Buy It Now button or place a bidiif the item if up for auction (you will need an eBay account to purchase or bid on items). When conducting a transaction with a seller, be sure to follow eBay’s policies at all times to qualify for the eBay Buyer Protection Program..
Buying gold nuggets is pretty hassle-free, if one knows how to differentiate between real natural gold nuggets and imitation nuggets that don’t have the same value. In this guide, the buyer learned the way gold nuggets are formed, their different weight scales, how they are priced, and several tests to confirm their authenticity. With all this information, the buyer should be able to successfully purchase a real natural gold nugget without being misled.