We would all love to be able to go out and find a pile of gold nuggets, but since it’s is much easier said than done, you may be thinking about buying some gold to add to your collection instead. If you have never bought natural gold before, or you want to learn a bit more about investing in rare gold nuggets, there are some things that you should consider before buying.
If you decide you want to buy some gold nuggets, you should first ask yourself whether you are more interested in the metal itself as an investment, or are you more interested in natural gold for its collectability as a rare mineral specimen. This will help you decide what your best options are.
If you are simply interested in buying some gold as an investment in precious metals, then you may actually be better of purchasing refined bullion. This is commonly available at most coin shops and is guaranteed to be at least .999 purity. These can easily be purchased in a variety of sizes, most commonly as 1 troy ounce rounds and bars. If you simply want some gold as an investment then this can be a good option, but if you want some natural gold then there are a few things to consider.
Size & Weight
If you want to purchase natural gold for investment and are just looking for the best price, then smaller sized placer gold is going to be your best option. This is because placer gold general has the lowest premium due to being much more common when compared to the larger and much rarer nuggets and specimens.
Size has a huge effect on the price and collectability of natural gold, so if you are looking for the cheapest price by weight alone, then fine dust or flakes will probably be your best bet. Its small size also means that you will be able to sell small amounts at a time rather than all at once. Many people like to have gold dust as an item that they can barter with.
Natural placer gold is nice, but most gold collectors prefer larger gold nuggets. It pretty much goes without saying; a big gold nugget is almost always worth more than small placer gold dust due to its rarity and collectability.
People who want to add a piece of rare gold to their collection almost always want a nice chunk of gold, something that they can hold in their hand and enjoy as a display piece. While smaller placer gold is still beautiful, it just doesn’t compare to the awesome feeling of owning a gold nugget. This is why size is such an important factor in the price of natural gold.
Even though there is a higher premium price that you will generally pay for larger nuggets, this doesn’t mean that they are not a good investment. You may pay a premium when you buy, but you can also ask a nice premium when you decide to sell also. Big gold nuggets never go out of style!
Beauty of the Piece
Regardless of which type of natural gold you decide to purchase, its natural beauty is always an important consideration. Each piece of gold that exists in nature is unique; it all has different shapes and colors that have an effect on its overall beauty.
Gold is never 100% pure in its natural form. To get gold that is truly pure it needs to be refined, so the true gold content within any piece of gold as it comes from the Earth will vary. This variation can actually be quite amazing, and each different region will produce slightly different purities of gold. The gold that has a higher purity is generally more beautiful than those that have lower purities due to other metal alloys such as copper and silver.
Gold generally averages in the range of 18 karat to 22 karat purity, but there are some areas where it runs well over 23 karats, and other places where high silver content within the gold lowers the purity down around 14 karats or even lower. These extremes in purity are generally rare, but they do occur, and you can often tell just from looking at the piece.
The gold content within a nugget is not the only thing that has an effect on the value and beauty of a natural gold nugget or specimen. Sometimes very low purity gold brings a very high premium price to collectors.
Some of the beautiful gold specimens that come out of the state of Nevada are an excellent example of this. Many mines in Nevada produce natural gold that has a very high silver content. In fact, it is technically not gold at all, but is actually a metal called electrum, which is an alloy of the two metals that is has more than 20% silver content. The high percentage of silver makes the gold noticeably lighter in color than an average piece of gold, yet these specimens are some of the most highly sought after by rare mineral collectors.
This is a good time to talk about another factor that has a huge effect on the value of natural gold. The shape of a gold nugget has a huge impact on the price that a collector is willing to pay. Not all nuggets are created equal; some are very smooth “lumps” that don’t really attract a lot of attention when compared to others. The overall character of a nugget has a lot to do with the price that someone will pay for a piece of gold. Most collectors are looking for something different and unique to include with their other minerals. They don’t want the same stuff that everyone else has, thus a nugget with an interesting shape will usually command a higher premium price.
Gold can also come in some very interesting formations that are quite rare and highly sought after by collectors of rare minerals. Rather than being smooth, rounded placer gold nuggets, these pieces have a beautiful crystalline structure. Some of the interesting formations in them are so unique that you can identify the exact mine that they came from just by looking at them.
Source and Origin
In some instances, the general location or mine that a nugget came from can have an impact on their interest to collectors. Some beautiful specimens from specific mines are sought after due to their appearance, but specific locations can also appeal to certain collectors for purely nostalgic reasons.
People often want gold that comes from their home state or country. If someone grew up in a mining community, then they often want a nugget that came from a specific area that they are familiar with, and they will pay a premium for it.
There are also certain locations that appeal to people for other reason. Gold from the Mother Lode region of Northern California, the well-known mining districts in Alaska and the Yukon, along with certain regions of Australia, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada all hold interest to certain buyers.
Spot Gold Price
While most natural gold nuggets will bring a premium over the spot price of the metal itself, it is still worthwhile to know what the current gold price is. This information is easily found on websites like kitco.com.
The price of gold itself should only be used as a general guideline when it comes to natural gold values. More average placer gold dust may only be valued at around spot price, but almost any nugget is worth at least some percentage above it. At the present time, it seems that around 1.5 times spot price is the going rate for most quality nuggets for sale by dealers, but exceptional crystalline specimens can easily bring several times their weight in gold.
A Few Words of Warning
This article would not be complete if I did not include a few warning that any gold buyer should be aware of if they are serious about buying natural gold. These concerns mainly apply to buying gold online on places like eBay and Amazon, where you are unable to see the gold in person. However, some of these risks will also apply to buying in person too.
It is very important to educate yourself on what natural gold looks and feels like, because there are fakes out there!
We all know that gold is a very heavy element, which is a great indicator. It is noticeably heavy when you hold it in your hand, and most other metals will be significantly lighter when you hold them in your hand. This is one good indicator of whether a gold nugget is real or fake.
The shape and overall “look” of a nugget is also an indicator, assuming that you have seen enough natural gold to be able to notice the difference. Most of the fake gold nuggets are very easy to identify, but if you are not sure or have concerns, you should not buy!
If you have concerns about a certain nugget, have it tested. Simple acid test kits can be purchased very reasonably that will indicate whether what you have is real of fake.There are also a lot of sellers, primarily on eBay, who are selling gold “specimens” and “ore”, that are little more than rocks. They often contain minerals like mica or pyrite which have a shiny, reflective appearance. I can assure you that these so-called “specimens” contain no gold, and are sold with the sole purpose of deceiving the buyer into thinking they are buying gold when they are actually just buying a pretty rock.
Where you choose to buy your natural gold is up to you, but whomever you buy from, I recommend that you make sure that they have a good reputation for selling gold and have an established presence within the mineral collecting community. There are several well-known, established gold nuggets sellers online. I will just warn you that some of the eBay sellers (even ones that have decent feedback rating) are selling these so-called “specimens”.
Another issue that is very common on eBay is to take very close-up photographs of a gold nugget without anything in the picture for size reference. You should always buy from a dealer who includes something in the photo to give you an indication of size. The last think you want to do is to think you are buying a nice sized nugget and end up with a small flake.
Understanding the common weights used by sellers of precious metals is also very important. The most common weights used by gold dealers are grams, pennyweights, and troy ounces. Gold and precious metals are weighed using troy ounces, NOT in avoirdupois ounces! Grains are also used by some sellers, which is fine, but know that grains are very small and a piece of gold that only weighs a few grains is very small. Understand the basic weight conversions before you buy so you are not disappointed.
Hopefully this information provides you with some good information to consider if you decide that you want to start investing in natural gold nuggets and specimens. Regardless of which type of natural gold you like best, be sure that you are happy with your purchase and enjoy it!