Fool’s Gold Vs. Real Gold: What Is The Difference?

Last Updated on July 6, 2022

Gold is one of the most valuable currencies in the world that has stood the test of time. The value keeps on appreciating, which is why many people invest in it.

Fool’s gold looks similar to real gold, but in reality, its value is not even close to gold, as it is known as pyrite.

If you want to understand the difference between fool’s gold and real gold, you are in the right place. Here is your complete guide.

Ross-Simons Italian 18kt Yellow Gold Bismark-Link Bracelet. 7 inches


Fool’s Gold Vs. Real Gold: What Is The Difference?

Firstly, you must understand that fool’s gold is not a metal. On the other hand, real gold is pure metal. Fool’s gold is a mineral with a crystalline structure that is composed of iron sulfide.

However, it might have trace amounts of real gold.

Now that you understand the basic difference, here are some ways you can differentiate between fool’s gold and real gold:

1. Color

The main difference you can tell between fool’s gold and real gold is the color. You will notice that real gold is bright and golden yellow.

However, fool’s gold has a brassy yellow color that doesn’t resemble real gold. On the other hand, when you find gold in nature, it is mostly alloyed with silver.

When the ratio of silver to gold is high in such settings, the gold will have a white and yellow hue. You can check the difference in color and differentiate between fool’s gold and real gold.

2. Tarnish

Solid 14k Yellow Gold Men's 3-D, 14k Yellow Gold Men's Bar Pendant Charm - 22mm x 7mm

One of the best things about real gold is that even if you find it in nature, it doesn’t tarnish and has an incredible appearance with lots of shine. However, fool’s gold is also mostly found in nature.

But, it has tarnishing on its surface that is considerably noticeable. If the gold you have has tarnishing on it, then it is not real gold. Instead, it is fool’s gold. It is important to notice these small details so that you can understand the difference.

3. Shape

RS Pure by Ross-Simons Italian 14kt Yellow Gold Paper Clip Link Toggle Necklace. 18 inches

Real gold can be found near streams, and they have a smooth edge. Some of them may even have a definite crystal shape. However, real gold will always be smooth and shiny.

On the other hand, fool’s gold will have an angular shape. Most of these shapes will be distinct because you will find various shapes such as octahedrons, cuboids, and more. If you find any of these unique shapes, then you have come across fool’s gold.

5. Smell

Yes, you can differentiate between the smell of real gold and fool’s gold too. You can do this by rubbing the gold against a hard object.

When you rub real gold against an object, it will not produce any odor.

On the other hand, when you rub a fool’s gold against a hard object, it will produce a sulfur smell. Such a smell will be similar to rotten eggs and be incredibly noticeable.

6. Striation

You will never find gold with lines on its surface. That is because the surface is smooth and doesn’t include any striations.

On the other hand, fool’s gold is different as the surface is not smooth like real gold. Fool’s gold has parallel lines running across its surface.

You can notice these striations when you closely examine the gold. So, don’t forget to look at these little details to understand if it is fool’s gold or real gold.

7. Residue

Many stones will leave a residue when you rub them against a certain object. For example, when you rub pure gold against white porcelain, it will leave a pure yellow residue.

On the other hand, when you rub fool’s gold against white porcelain, it will leave a black and green powdery residue.

You can use any white porcelain object and rub these substances against them. Once you do, you will easily figure out whether you have fool’s gold or real gold.

8. Shattering

If you are on the hunt for real gold, you bring a hammer with you. If you find something you suspect is gold, you can simply give it a good hit. If the substance expands or flattens, then you have come across real gold.

On the other hand, if the object shatters, then you have come across real gold. These are small tests you can do to understand what you have come across so that you can know what you have. All of these differences will help you understand if you have fools or real gold.

Jackie Palmer is a Houston-based coin journalist and fashion enthusiast. She joined Jewels Advisor’s content team after years of experience as a content strategist, managing blogs and social channels for local stores. Jackie mostly collects and studies US coins produced during the 20th century and over the years, published hundreds of articles for multiple coin publications.