BUYER’S TIPS - Some things to look out for


    When purchasing a gold nugget, especially on the internet, there are two main areas to look at to ensure you’re happy with what you’re getting. In fact, these two areas of consideration are the same no matter what you’re purchasing, whether it be a computer, TV, or car. The first consideration is knowing what it is you’re actually buying, and the second is having some idea of what that item might be worth.

    Knowing what it is you’re buying, with regard to gold nuggets, comes down to clear information on four aspects: the nugget’s weight, the nugget’s dimensions, what the nugget looks like, and whether any companion materials such as quartz or ironstone are present in significant quantities.

    Let’s look at each of these aspects in turn.

    The conventional unit of weight used for gold and other precious metals is the troy ounce (correctly abbreviated as ozt, but sometimes left as oz). It’s important to note that the troy ounce (which is equal to 31.1 grams) is different to the commonly used ounce of 28.35 grams (the everyday avoirdupois ounce). Quite often the word ‘troy’ is included when the measurement is used, but if it’s clear that the measurement refers to gold or another of the precious metals then it’s considered acceptable for the word ‘troy’ to be omitted. So keep that in mind; when ounces are being used to give a weight for gold, it should be the troy ounce, which is equal to 31.1 grams.

    Weights can, of course, be given in other units, so you may see the weights of nuggets given in pennyweights (dwt) or grains (grn), as well as the most commonly used grams (g). One pennyweight (dwt) is equal to 1.56 grams, and one grain (grn) is equal to 0.06 grams. So you can see it’s very important not to confuse grains (grn) with grams (g), or you’ll end up with a nugget very much smaller than what you expected!

    The physical dimensions of nuggets, when given, may be in millimetres (mm), centimetres (cm) or inches (in or “), so be sure you understand the unit used, so as to have a good idea of the nugget’s actual size. Quite often though, no dimension measurements are given at all, and the nugget is just shown in a comparison photo, either next to a ‘common’ object such as a match head or American dime, or next to a ruler showing graduation marks. Personally, I don’t like these comparison photos at all. For a start, what may be a common object for some people, isn’t for others. For example, I have never in my life held an American dime in my hand, so have no idea whatsoever how big they are.  And matches aren’t standard, but come in all sorts of sizes - over the years I’ve come across very large and very small matches. Even worse are the ruler photos showing only one number and some graduation marks - it is impossible to know for sure how small or large the graduations are unless there are two numbers showing (and the unit of measurement). So, at best these comparison photos can be awkward or unenlightening, and at worse they can be downright deceiving. For me, a straightforward statement of the nugget’s physical dimensions (length, height, width), using numbers and units, is clear and unambiguous. And when given the measurements of a nugget, you can even draw out its size on a piece of paper so you can see exactly how big it will look. I recommend doing this.

    Though photos aren’t that good for giving a satisfactory understanding of the nugget’s size, they are, of course, invaluable for showing what the nugget looks like and giving an idea of its character. Photos should be clear and sharp close-ups, with as high a resolution as practicable.

    A statement should also be given on whether significant amounts of another material is present with the gold, for example a quartz or calcrete or ironstone matrix. Such a nugget is often called a ‘specimen’, or ‘speci’ for short. Companion materials don’t necessarily detract from the value of the nugget (in fact, specis can have greater beauty and scarcity, and so attract a greater price), but I believe that if significant amounts of another material is present with the gold, that should be made clear with a straightforward statement of gold content by weight compared to overall specimen weight. For example, “2.8g of gold in a 6.3g quartz speci” would refer to a 6.3 gram quartz and gold specimen that consists of 2.8 grams of gold and 3.5 grams of quartz. An acceptable calculation of gold content by weight in a specimen can be found by taking specific gravity measurements, which any prospector or nugget seller should be able to do. Note that if only a small amount of companion material is present rather than a significant amount, then it is acceptable for that small amount of companion material to be ignored, as the mass of the gold (being so very dense) renders the mass of the companion specks irrelevant (though of course they still play the important role of adding to a nugget’s beauty and character.)

    And, of course, the information you’re given about the nugget should make very clear, without room for any ambiguity, whether the nugget is a natural nugget (dug out of the ground or otherwise found in nature) or a so-called ‘man-made nugget’ (made artificially from processed gold). Look carefully at potentially ambiguous descriptions such as “real gold nugget”, which may refer to an artificial nugget made from real processed gold. Look instead for terms such as “natural” or other clear indications from the seller that the nugget is indeed a natural creation.

    So, now that you’re very clear on all the key aspects of the natural nugget in question - its weight, its physical dimensions, what it looks like, and whether there is a significant amount of companion material present or not - it’s time to decide how much that nugget might be worth.

    Nugget pricing varies greatly, though is loosely based on the current gold price. I’ve seen nice looking nuggets of a decent size sell for double gold price, with not-so-nice looking ones priced down closer to gold price, and especially rare or very large nuggets attracting prices many multiples of the current gold price. For example, the unusual shapes of crystalline gold are considered especially rare, as are some specimens, and these days any nugget over an ounce is noteworthy. (Smaller nuggets, although still rare, are more common than larger nuggets, because over time geological processes break larger nuggets down into smaller ones.)

    Perhaps the best way to judge a nugget’s worth to you is to follow your own instinct - some nuggets just jump out at you - you’ll know if you have to have it! Most people buy nuggets because they come across one they really like, or want a really surprising and amazing gift for a friend - the fact that the nugget’s value will most probably be many times greater by the time they’re passed on to your children or grandchildren is just a bonus; admittedly, a very nice bonus, and one that very few gifts possess, but in the end it’s the beauty and uniqueness of the nugget that counts. I hope that the above tips have been valuable, and I hope that you end up with a gold nugget that you or your friend just love.