Is Gold Magnetic? How to Use a Magnet to Spot Fake Gold

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Written By Monica

A friend of mine once thought he had struck gold while prospecting in the wilderness.

He had panned for hours, sifting through rocks and dirt, until he finally saw it – a glimmer of gold that made his heart skip a beat. But as he picked up the nugget to admire it, he noticed something odd – it didn’t feel quite right. And when he brought it to a magnet, it stuck like glue. 

He had been fooled by a fake!

He knew that because he understood the magnetic properties of gold, which is crucial for anyone who wants to strike it rich without getting taken for a ride.

In this article I’m going to dive deep into the science of gold magnetism, and show you how to use it to your advantage when prospecting.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, we’ve got tips, tricks, and techniques that will help you spot fake gold a mile away, and separate the real deal from fool’s gold. So grab your pan, dust off your hat, and let’s get ready to find some shiny G!

Gold and magnets: best friends or worst enemies?

When it comes to magnets, you might think they’re just for holding up pictures of your cat on the fridge. But did you know that different materials can react to magnets in different ways? It’s like how some people love pineapple on their pizza (weirdos), while others can’t stand it (normal humans).

Now, let’s get technical for a sec. There are three types of materials that react to magnetic fields: ferromagnetic, paramagnetic, and diamagnetic.

Ferromagnetic materials, like iron, are the magnets’ equivalent of a crazy ex. They’re strongly attracted to magnetic fields, and once they’ve latched on, good luck trying to shake them off.

John Schnabel Gold Rush

“There’s gold in them hills, but there’s also fool’s gold in them hills. The trick is to know the difference and not be fooled by fool’s gold.”

— John Schnabel, Gold Rush

Paramagnetic materials, on the other hand, are like magnets’ good friends. They’re attracted to magnetic fields, but not as strongly as ferromagnetic materials. Think of materials like aluminum, pyrite (fool’s gold) or platinum.

Finally, we have diamagnetic materials, like gold. These materials are the magnets’ equivalent of a cat that just wants to be left alone. They’re actually repelled by magnetic fields, so they won’t stick to magnets like ferromagnetic or paramagnetic materials do.

Now, you might be thinking, “Who cares? I just want to find gold!” Well, here’s where it gets interesting. Since gold is diamagnetic, it won’t be attracted to a magnet like other metals, which makes it an excellent tool for gold prospecting. It’s like having a superpower that lets you detect gold like a heat-seeking missile.

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If it holds, it ain’t pure golds

Now that we know a bit about the diamagnetism of gold, let’s take a closer look at how we can use this to our advantage when it comes to prospecting.

First and foremost, a magnet is a great way to identify fool’s gold.

This tricky mineral looks a lot like gold and can be a real pain for novice prospectors. But fear not, my friends, because there’s a simple solution – use a magnet! Pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, is magnetic, while gold is not. By using a magnet, you can quickly and easily tell the difference between the two.

pyrite AKA fools gold is magnetic

You can apply this simple test to anything in your home that you want to test for pure gold. A piece of jewelry or something that sticks to a magnet may contain a high percentage of a ferromagnetic metal like nickel in its alloy.

That says, just because something sticks to a magnet doesn’t mean there isn’t any gold in it. And if it is not attracted to a magnet it may not contain pure gold, or any at all. Many common metals that are alloyed with gold are non-magnetic or only attracted to magnets weakly like silver, copper, platinum or zinc.

Dave Turin from Gold Rush

“Finding gold takes patience and persistence, but avoiding fool’s gold takes wisdom and experience.”

— Dave Turin, Gold Rush: Dave Turin’s Lost Mine

Using magnets to help you clean gold concentrates

So, we’ve established that gold is diamagnetic, which means it’s not a big fan of magnetic fields. But what does that mean for gold prospectors and miners? Well, it turns out that diamagnetism can be a real game-changer when it comes to separating gold from other materials, like black sand concentrates and even fool’s gold.

Black sand concentrates (and, hopefully, lots of gold) are what you’re often left with after you’ve run dirt through an extraction method like a sluice box or a gold cube.

Black sand is usually a mixture of different materials, including magnetite, hematite, titanium, zircon, rhodolite, monazite, tungsten, pyrites (aka fool’s gold), and other elements found in the area.

Unfortunately for the gold prospector, these black sands are often the most difficult to separate the gold from as they are very heavy minerals and exhibit some of the same movement tendencies in a gold pan.

Removing black sand is often the toughest part of Emily’s and Alex’s process when they’re cleaning the sluice box and gold from the dredge.

This is where a magnet comes in.

Some of these black sand materials are highly magnetic, like magnetite. Others, like gold and hematite, are not. By sticking a magnet in your pan you can easily extract the magnetic materials and leave the gold.

But you have to be careful, because if you have a lot of magnetite in a pan and you pick up a big clump of it with a magnet, gold can easily be trapped in the ball of metal sand and removed even though it doesn’t stick to the magnet. So go carefully when you use a handheld magnet.

Kyle Thielmann has a great video on Youtube that shows how to find gold with a magnet.

There are other tools designed for prospectors that use the same properties. The next step up is a magnetic roller or magnetic matting that goes in your sluice box to separate the ferrous black sand metals before the gold even gets into the riffles.

At the higher end there are tools like shaker tables with magnetic separators to help prospectors clean sluice boxes. Those start around $5,000-$6,000 at the low end.

Of course, it’s important to remember that not all gold deposits will contain magnetic minerals, so using a magnet won’t always be effective. But when you do come across magnetic minerals, a magnet can be a powerful tool in your gold prospecting arsenal.

The best handheld magnets for cleaning gold

Gold prospecting is no easy feat, and separating the real gold nuggets from the fool’s gold can be a daunting task. But with the right tools and techniques, you can become a gold-finding machine. By using magnets to spot fake gold, you can avoid being duped by dishonest sellers and increase your chances of striking it rich.

If you’re prospecting in an area with a lot of black sands, you’ll want to make sure you have the right tool for the job. The ASR Outdoor Gold Panning Portable Compact 8lb Magnetic Pickup Tool with Quick Release is an essential tool for any gold prospector, particularly when it comes to separating magnetic black sands from gold. With its powerful magnet and quick release, this handheld tool can grab up to 8lbs of metal material, making it fast, efficient, and compact.

Don’t waste time sifting through black sands by hand – with this handheld magnetic pick-up tool, you’ll be able to spot real gold faster and easier than ever before.

ASR Outdoor Gold Panning Portable Compact 8lb Magnetic Pickup Tool with Quick Release

Another great quick release magnetic tool we recommend is the Pocket Black Sand Magnetic Separator. This handy little guy makes the process of separating the gold from the black sands right in your gold pan easier than ever before.

With its powerful magnet and quick-release plunger, you can quickly pull black sand and other magnetic materials away from your concentrate. This means that you’ll be able to extract fine gold more easily and efficiently, without the hassle of sifting through unwanted material by hand.

Pocket Black Sand Magnetic Separator

As the old saying goes, “there’s gold in them there hills!” And now, armed with the power of diamagnetism, you have the tools to uncover it. By understanding how this phenomenon affects gold and how to harness it using simple tools like magnets, you can increase your chances of striking it rich.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a magnet, head out to your favorite prospecting spot, and put your newfound knowledge to the test. And don’t forget to share your success stories with us! We’d love to hear how you’ve applied these techniques to uncover hidden treasures.

Remember, even the most successful prospectors started out as beginners. It takes time and practice to hone your skills, but with determination and a little bit of luck, you could be the one who strikes gold. So get out there and start prospecting – your fortune could be just a few feet away!

The professionals have an expression “gold is where you find it.” That means it can settle in surprising places. So remember to take some time and check around the area, as long as it’s safe to do so. The paystreak might surprise you.

And if you’re curious about how pure that gold nugget you found is, head over to our guide all about Gold Purity!

Real Gold by Emily Riedel from Bering Sea Gold

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