Should You Carry a Magnet When You Go Hunting for Gold?

A man called our offices recently and asked, “A magnet isn’t going to tell me anything about gold, right? I mean, only ferrous metals are attracted to magnets, so what’s a magnet going to tell me anyhow?”

Guess what? If your "gold" coins are attracted to a magnet, they're not pure gold. Image Credit: DenisKot/iStock.

Guess what? If your "gold" coins are attracted to a magnet, they're not pure gold. Image Credit: DenisKot/iStock.

We never like to criticize our callers, but it seems this gentleman was suffering from a few mistaken ideas about magnetism. First of all, he was not 100% correct when he said that “only ferrous metals are attracted to magnets,” because nickel and cobalt are slightly magnetic too.

Second, our caller was not correct when he said that a magnet wouldn’t tell him anything he needed to know along when he went hunting for gold. In fact, a magnet really can provide some valuable information in situations like these...

  • You find an old gold coin and get excited by your discovery…however you then discover that it is attracted to your magnet. The attraction is a sure sign that the coin you are examining is not made of pure gold; it is made of gold (or some metal that looks like gold) that has been plated over an iron core. So there – your magnet has told you something important. Good thing you brought it along.
  • You find a beautiful old gold chain that your magnet picks up…but then you notice that only the clasps on the end of the chain are attracted to the magnet. That tells you that those end pieces are made of gold-plated iron pieces. But don’t jump to conclusions then and decide that the gold chain that is not attracted to your magnet must be made of karat gold. It might be made of gold that has been thinly plated onto some other nonferrous metal, probably silver.
  • Magnets and the Process of Elimination

Those are only a few of the processes you can go through when you pack a big strong magnet and go hunting for gold, or for silver, platinum and other precious metals. Actually, you are not using a magnet to find precious metals, you are going to use it eliminate items that are not.

That explains why a magnet, just like a little gold-testing kit that can you carry with you, can’t tell you everything you need to know. How can you tell what you are really looking at? Give us a call at 800-426-2344 and ask us to test your discoveries in our state-of-the-art labs. When you call, be sure to mention our blog and ask about free or discounted shipping on items you send us for testing.

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