Gold and Fool's Gold - How to Field Test and Tell the Difference

Latest update: September 1, 2022. Page URL indicates original publication date; meanwhile, times change and the updates continue.

Here are the quick, reliable, easy field test methods one can use on the spot to recognize real gold versus fool's gold when prospecting.

Side note. After one has gotten what they came here for, do check out the federal USGS gold resource at the end of the article. All sorts of worthy information is there. Maybe this page should have been titled: Summer Time Gold Rush.

Crystal Form of Pyrite Fool's Gold.
If you happen to find a really nice pyrite fool's gold crystal (the larger, the better), there's a market for it on eBay.

Fool's Gold

Chemically known as iron pyrite or iron sulfide, the chemical symbol and formula being FeS2, representing the chemical composition of iron and sulfur. The symbol for gold is Au. Determining the difference between an iron-sulfur mineral rock and the metal element gold is straightforward.

List of Physical Observations and Tests on How to Discern Gold versus Pyrite Fool's Gold

  • Both are yellow, but of different tones. Gold is golden to silvery yellow. Pyrite is pale to medium brassy yellow.
  • Gold shaped as crystals are rare. Pyrite shaped as crystals are common.
  • Gold is soft; fool's gold is not. Scratch the mineral with a knife blade. Gold is softer than pyrite and will be scratched or cut. Pyrite cannot be scratched. Beware, a mineral called chalcopyrite which looks like pyrite and can be scratched. However, its brassy, yellowish color will give it away.
  • Gold does not smell; fool's gold does. Forcefully rub the specimen with a hard object. Gold has no odor. Pyrite smells like sulfur or rotten eggs.
  • Gold is malleable; fool's gold is not. Strike the specimen with a steel hammer. Gold will flatten or change shape and is not known to break. Pyrite will give off sparks, crumble, and generally act like any other hard rock hit with a hammer.
  • Bring a piece of unglazed porcelain with you. As a side note, weathered mica is also known as fool's gold. When scratching unglazed porcelain:
       1. Gold leaves a golden, yellow streak.
       2. Pyrite and chalcopyrite leaves a dark green to black streak.
       3. Common micas will leave a white streak.

Iron Pyrite Crystals aka Iron sulfide Crystals, known as fool's gold.

And here is the federal USGS search query results for gold page; all sorts of interesting items and resources there as well. May your gold prospecting adventures be prosperous ones.

Current and historical prices of gold and silver can be found here. What with the Russia-Ukraine situation, prices are expected to rise.

- End of Article -

Re: Using Mobile?
Home: site intro and featured articles/resources.
View Web Version: displays Main Menu article categories (will be located below), additional site info (below and side), search function, tanslation function.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for publishing this, I read this because I was just curious about what you had to say about gold and fool's gold(pyrite) because I just recently found out that my pyrite specimen is not real gold, but, I kinda figured that was the case anyway, because it is about 3½-4 inches long about 2½-3 inches wide and about 2½-3 inches in height, so I figured I wouldn't be that lucky to find a gold nugget that big and figured it was fool's gold(oh well it's still nice to look at lol)! I read the part you mentioned that there's a market for them on eBay, do you have a "guesstimate" about how much you think it might be worth given the size I mentioned? I appreciate all the knowledge and information and other stuff that you post here on, it's endless!!!


Alas. Anonymous comments have been disabled for a while.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.