Tips For Buying Gold Nuggets & Flakes


First we need to talk about weight when considering buying raw gold nuggets or flakes. Gold is generally weighted as “troy” or in some cases “metric”. Troy being the most common for most of our customers let’s use that:

1 oz. (troy) = 31.10 g (grams) 
1 oz. (troy) = 20 dwt (penny weight) 
1.55 (grams) = 1 dwt (penny weight) 
1.0 (grams) = 15.43 gr (grains)

Next let’s take a quick look at what we mean, and gold miner’s and seller’s when we talk about mesh size. Classification of gold ore and flake, flour, or nugget size is important. While we all dream of huge, multi-troy ounce nuggets. They are rare. If fact so much that the odds are far better than you will find a 5 karat diamond than a 1 oz. gold nugget.

So, that leaves us to think in terms of small gold. Well, pretty much ALL gold is small gold in relative physical and general terms. We describe that as mesh. Most of the world’s gold fits into the approximately #10 mesh to #150 mesh range. So what does that mean? For comparison a standard widow or door screen in the U.S. is 18 mesh. So the next to you raise a window or open a storm door look at the screen. Basically when someone is talking about gold that is large that 20 mesh they mean gold that is too large to pass through the opening on your window screen. Likewise “under” 20 mesh is gold that will pass through a 20 mesh classifier. The word mesh means the number of lines per inch across the screen. A 20 mesh would be 20 lines per inch of of screen. (both directions) A 10 mesh = 10 lines per inch. A 50 = 50 lines and a 400 or 500 would mean the same. And with that in mind you can see when someone is talking gold as small as 400 or 500 mesh….it would be comparable to looking at one of you blood cells, or a skin cell on your body! Yeah! That’s pretty small! But gold that small exists and with skill, technique and the proper equipment it can be recovered!

So, having briefly said that I am sure you are getting the idea that “caveat emptor” (to the buyer beware) is the first rule of thumb when considering buying raw gold! As you finish reading the article you can scroll through the slider below for some general examples of gold and how it looks from different lights, closeness, position, etc. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

Lastly before we get to some general guidelines and tips for buying gold we need to look at gold itself, it’s forms, and value., content, and so on. Basic forms of gold are raw natural gold, refined and processed gold, and gold such as bullion or coin. Pure gold is defined as being 24 karats or having a fineness of 1,000: one karat equal to 41.66 fineness. A 22 karat gold-alloy, for example, has 22 parts gold and 2 parts other metal (usually copper), and has fineness of 916.66 (is 91.666 percent pure gold). Similarly, an 18 karat gold-alloy is 75 percent pure gold. And it’s important to note that “solid gold” and “pure gold” are two completely different things! Solid gold might be used to describe a piece of jewelry or trinket of knick knack. But, that doesn’t mean it’s pure! It may be 8 karat, or 14 karat, or whatever, so it isn’t pure, but may be made from gold melt and pour or other refining or processing. And this in real terms, since gold is very pliable on jewelry or craft making other elements such as copper would be added to give the gold piece strength. hence it would be less pure. And generally all refined 24k gold is sold a 999.999 finess instead of the 1,000 mentioned above because it’s physiologically impossible to achieve or have 100% pure gold.

Here we are talking predominantly about raw, natural gold buying and collecting. Collecting Gold is a global and rewarding venture for many. Yet, many, especially the beginner find themselves hoodwinked in the end. No, I am not going to sit here and write about unscrupulous sellers, of brokers who seem to misrepresent what they are selling, or anything like that. They are out there, just like any other type of business or selling operation in today’s world. The key is having some know-how, guidelines, and tips to insure that you get what you pay for.

And it’s equally important to know a few key things. When considering buying and/or collecting raw, natural gold there are two basic types it it sold in. And, it may or may not be sold by weight. Often in small amounts it is sold by the piece or lot. The first question you need to ask yourself is are you looking for “specimen” quality gold? Or, collectible quality?

Specimen gold is by far the largest end of my sales at Merchant Creek Mining. Whether to individuals, business customers, or simply selling as a revenue generator to a gold buyer or broker. Most of what you see in the slider below is specimen gold. Although, there are some collectible quality nuggets and pickers mixed in. I’ll let you determine which you think is which!

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Collectible quality gold on the other hand is gold nuggets or flakes that have some general unique properties. Size, texture, luster, origin (where it was found) and shape. The more unique the better! The level of uniqueness comes down to two basic things. They eyes of the seller, and the eyes of the buyer! However you can expect to pay significantly more for collectible raw gold pieces.

Without testing requirement and with online sales it’s pretty much impossible to know exactly what you are buying. Trust and origin are key! Gold from a historic mining area of the 1800’s Gold Rush days is significantly worth more than raw gold nuggets and flakes recovered from less or not at all historic locations as we know today. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t collectible or that it is less unique. As an example, MCM gold is sure impressive sometimes! It’s sometimes unique and collectible, but put it next to Canadian Yukon Gold. And the Yukon gold is hands down the far more collectible for the broader audience of collectors because of it’s historic value!

Depending on size, luster, physical dimensions, luster it’s not uncommon for raw, natural, specimen gold to sell from 10% to 40%, or 50% over current spot gold price. That’s pretty much true for all gold nuggets, flakes, or gold dust on this nature. The two main things you need to take into account here are: 1) Luster. While by simply looking there is no way to know the purity/karat of gold. But a simple rule of thumb is the brighter, the more yellow looking it is, the purer it generally is. The more deep golden colored it is the more it contains other elements and alloys such as copper, tin, lead or other. 2) Remember if the seller where to sell to a gold buyer he would be discounted on price depending on karat value/weight/purity. In rough figures 14 karat gold is worth 58% to 60% of the current spot price for gold. And generally speaking even selling 24k gold to a refiner or buyer will only fetch 90% of the current spot price. (Remember the spot price of one troy ounce of gold is based on “refined” 999.999% finess, pure gold.

Collectible Gold nuggets and flakes on the other hand have no problem selling, and often fetch around 20% to 60%, or 80%, or 100% or more over over spot gold price. Raw, Natural Gold Nuggets are like sparkling diamonds, the bigger they are the more rare they are. The more the will sell for. And buyer’s often snatch this up in minutes without a second glance! Dimensions, size, weight, uniqueness, luster, history of origin, and appeal to the eye are the biggest factors that drive and demand these prices. 

These percentages and prices can fluctuate in seconds, depending upon the aesthetics, shape and/or appeal of the gold flakes or nugget. The Gold Market is very fickle at ALL levels and prices follow trends.

All of that said, people will do what people will do. Selling and buying raw natural gold is no different from anything else. The seller sets the prices, but it’s the buyer who sets the market! So it some down to “what the market will bear”. Just remember size, dimensions, luster, appeal, history of origin, purity, and personal choice will in the end determine the price you will pay for raw natural gold in specimen, or collectible form. My best advice is but from a Seller whom you can talk to, you trust, and who is knowledgeable about the basics of gold and value. And, MORE AND MORE…..I am seeing “Gold Nuggets” listed for sale online for hefty, hefty sums of money. BEWARE! Always investigate and ask questions prior to purchase unless it’s a seller you know and trust. – Some of these nuggets sadly are NOT natural, raw gold! If you read the fine print, or sometimes even just examine them closely you will miss that they are “Man Made”……..that’s NOT a raw, natural piece of gold!!!!!!

And, also remember ALL gold nugget and flake images are at least somewhat enlarged. It’s handy to have the pieces pictured next to a common size item like a nickel of dime, or better yet, for nuggets, to see them alongside a ruler so you have, in either case, some relational sense of size.

At Merchant Creek Mining Company I get lots of questions like I have given some basic information for above. However, I am always happy to answer any questions and be of assistance to you if I can, even if you don’t by from Merchant Creek Mining Company.

But, I will tell you this. As far as Merchant Creek Mining Company goes. Yes, most of our sales are conducted with some form of physical presence. I’ll answer questions, I’ll be upfront with you on all aspects of the sale, and it’s a look one another in the eye, shake hands, and do the deal kind of sale. Your gold will be what I say it is, and as a Customer you will walk away with value! Feel free to contact me at any time.

For information on buying gold bullion or coin you can see my articles here, and here.

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