How to tell the difference between real gold and Fool’s gold

Can you tell the difference between fool’s gold and the real thing? Many of a beginning miner has thought they struck it rich when they were really collecting really pretty rocks!


Is it real gold?


If what you found was glittering right on the floor with out digging down you probably might have mica, pyrite, or some other type of disappointing “fool’s gold”.


smaller gold and pyrite1 How to tell the difference between real gold and Fools gold



Listed below are some quick assessments to test when you find your ”gold”.


Solar Check – After you have seen your first Gold you will always remember it. A fast and easy test is to take a glance and note the color and brightness of the material in your gold pan. Next move your hand over the pan to create a shadow over the material. Anything that isn’t Gold will grow to be dull or fade. Gold will retain its colour and luster – it will still be golden, just Gold within the shade.


All that glitters isn’t gold, in fact probably not! Take a glance at the material in the daylight if it’s all a glitter it is a 99.999 chance it is not gold.


Pin test – Stick a pin within the “gold”. If it breaks or fractures or crumbles it isn’t gold. Gold is malleable and ductile meaning you presumably can bend it and dent it. Lesser minerals will crack, break or crumble.


Pan check – One of the first lessons to learn about gold is it is REALLY heavy. Gold will not move around in your pan much. After panning the material down to your final cons, rock your pan forwards and backwards with a little bit bit of water in the pan. You can see that the gold really hold in one place and pretty much keep put, whereas different lighter weight material will move away. As the light material moves, tap your pan lightly on the highest edge. This will separate the heavy gold even further from the waste.


Think about the location and the source of the material. In case you found your “gold” on top of the soil, it most likely isn’t real gold since gold is heavy and would have sunk through the ground. Gold is extremely heavy and can at all times seek the lowest place to rest – usually above bedrock or other dense material such as clay or limestone.


Consider buying one of those practice panning bags (we do not have experience nor recommend any particular vendor, although we have heard good things about Felix’s Pay Dirt). Having quality material will help your panning skills so you know how the gold will move and sit in the pan. Plus, you can do all of your practicing in a controlled and warm environment. Use catch pans to see if you lose any material. Once you see the real deal you’ll always be able to recognize it again.


This last year I was dredging on one of my favorite local rivers near another prospector running a much larger dredge.  We chatted over lunch and compared our sluices to see who was on the gold.  While my box had lots of fines that were starting to pile up, his dredge was practically void of any color.  He was completely dumbfounded because he had just finished telling me he was in the gold so thick!  He and I both initially thought that something was up with his dredge and recovery, but when I looked underwater, it became clear he was seeing the mica on the top of the float sand and hadn’t gone down over 1 foot since he thought he was simply vacuming up the gold on top.  The gold was actually along the bedrock 4 feet below where he was working and his recovery improved dramatically once he stopped messing with the fool’s gold.


Don’t be discouraged, keep looking – discovering your first few flakes will ignite your gold fever!

Jan 05, 2012 | Category: General Information | Comments: none | Tags: , , ,