So, does fool's gold contain real gold? And does that make it worth investing in? Here's what to know about these two materials.

There’s a reason we humans have long valued gold. This precious metal is beautiful, scarce, and everlasting—which is why we’ve been using it as a form of currency and wealth for thousands of years.

But when it comes to this glittering metal, it’s hard to overlook the fact that gold shares aesthetic similarities with a common counterpart: fool’s gold.

What’s the difference between fool’s gold and true gold, and how can you tell when you have the real deal? Here’s what you should know about these two lookalikes.

What Is Fool’s Gold?

Though gold has a classic yellow color and a brilliant, shining luster, it’s not the only metal with those traits. A number of metals, from chalcopyrite to biotite, give off the appearance of gold.

One metal in particular, pyrite, has earned the name “fool’s gold” for its striking similarity to gold. Pyrite looks so similar, in fact, that many well-educated people have historically been tricked into thinking they’d found the real thing.

Unfortunately, in spite of its beautiful appearance, fool’s gold has long been thought to hold little value, an opinion that is still common today. Though this metal is not as valuable as gold itself, scientists believe it may be possible to extract real gold from pyrite with the right tools. For the average finder without access to those resources, however, fool’s gold is nothing more than a pretty trinket!

How to Tell If You Have Fool’s Gold

If you’ve stumbled across a pretty metal that you think might be real gold, there are a few easy ways to tell whether you have the real thing.

First, look for any areas with tarnishing. Pyrite does tarnish, while gold remains bright and pristine over time.

Next, check the color. Pyrite tends to have a brass-like appearance, while gold has a rich, yellow hue, sometimes with whitish coloring if alloyed with silver. You should also look for any striations, which are signs of pyrite.

The shape is an important distinction as well. Pyrite is angular in nature, with an almost crystalline appearance. Gold tends to be more rounded.

If you remain unsure, it’s a good idea to bring your potential gold to an expert for further testing. Most people who handle gold on a regular basis can recognize the precious metal at a glance. Even if they remain unsure, they’ll have access to further non-destructive tests, like determining the metal’s specific gravity, to reach a verdict.

Aside from authentication, gold buyers and investors can also help you decide what to do with your metal if it turns out to be real. Since the value of gold depends on the free market, it can be a great investment—making your gold piece a good place to start! For more information on investing in gold, visit

Find Out if You’ve Struck Gold

If you’ve gotten your hands on a glittering golden metal, it’s a good idea to double-check before you start daydreaming about how much you’ll make from the sale. You might just be sitting on a pretty—but ultimately worthless—piece of common rock! Knowing the difference between fool’s gold and gold can help, so make sure to take a close look before you bring your metal to a local shop.

Looking for more tips to help you make the most of your investments? Check out our other posts for additional finance insights.

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