Spotting fake gold nuggets
Word to the wise - watch for tricksters and scam artists online. Take a look at the photos here - taken from eBay. These are not real gold nuggets - they are native copper nuggets from the copper fields in Michigan which have been tumbled to smooth them off just like gold nuggets get tumbled in a stream. The copper nuggets are then professionally plated with pure 24k gold. They have the natural form of a nugget, because they ARE native metal nuggets (just copper, not gold). They have the color of a gold nugget because the surface is 24k gold. They FEEL heavy because they are solid copper.
(Photos courtesy of Badali Jewelry.)
They can be distinguished from real gold nuggets, because they are really only half as dense as gold. People who are used to handling real gold nuggets will catch on quickly that they don't quite weigh enough. Also if properly tested by an expert with the appropriate acid, they will foam green. A real gold nugget is unaffected by this test.
FYI this eBay seller thankfully declared these were fake gold nuggets and sold them as gag gifts. We've seen too many other unscrupulous sellers try to pass them off to the unwary. If in doubt about authenticity send us a pic or link - we'll give you our honest opinion.
More tips on spotting fake gold nuggets coutesy of Tesoro.com:
"As the value of natural gold nuggets and specimens keeps going up, so does the temptation of the unscrupulous to try to duplicate a gold nugget and make a big profit from scrap gold. There are already many fake or phony (man-made) gold nuggets floating around but they are not difficult to identify, and the more that people try to make nuggets, the higher the demand will be for the real thing.
Tips On How To Positively Identify Natural Gold Nuggets
To start with, "fool's gold" [iron pyrite (iron sulphide), chalcopyrite (copper pyrites or copper sulphide), or bismutite (carbonate of bismuth)] will only fool someone who has yet to see the real thing. The color alone is enough to identify fool's gold for what it is. If you study a gold nugget under a constant light source, whether sunlight or artificial light, you will see that the dull wax-like yellow color will remain the same no matter how the nugget is turned. "Fool's gold" on the other hand may look similar at one angle but then have a shiny, bright appearance when turned.
There should be no doubt at this point but if still unconvinced, place the sample on a flat metal surface and hit it with a hammer. Instead of breaking up in many small pieces, gold, being so malleable, will continue to flatten out and also retain its waxy dull color. Just remember before using the hammer test, that there is no use telling an interested buyer that the flat yellow pancake in your hand used to be a perfect miniature of their pet poodle as shaped by nature.
Perhaps a safer final test would be simply a drop of nitric acid which will not change the color of the piece if it is gold.
I am making the assumption that anyone seriously considering the purchase of a gold nugget would not be fooled by any other substance that has simply been painted by gold paint. Gold has a very high Specific Gravity (SG) of 19.3, which means it is very heavy! More than 7 times heavier than an equivalently sized stone that you might pick up from the ground. Even lead, which is the heaviest other metal that the average person has ever held only has an SG of 11.3. That means that a genuine gold nugget should be more than 50% heavier by volume than a piece of gold painted lead of the same size!"
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