Beware Fake Nuggets

 (The real deal.)

Finding your first gold nugget is one of the real "highs" for small-scale gold miners. I still remember my first nugget which I found on my aunt's property just outside Nevada City, California over 35 years ago. However, there are those good souls who aren't miners and who choose to buy placer nuggets for any number of specimens to add to their mineral collections, as additions to jewelry pieces, or simply as objects of beauty to have and to hold, to name but a few. But buying gold nuggets has its inherent dangers as you're about to find out in this post.

The "Natural" Nugget Hustle

I've talked quite a bit over the past eight plus years about mining and gold scams, particularly as they relate to mining claims. I've exposed a number of hustlers and scammers in this regard and have taken much heat for doing so. Some of this heat included angry and vituperative e-mails, the posting of mimic websites with the words "bedrock dreams" as part of their URLs, and I've also been threatened with lawsuits for defamation of character. Oh...did I mention cease and desist orders from attorneys as well? The scumbags I lit up in the past by naming names are still out there, still lying, cheating, and stealing and you know who you are. I may not be able to name you publicly any longer but rest assured I have a line on your dirty games and that I'll act on any chance I get to sucker punch your scummy asses. There it is.

But, as always, I digress a bit. We're talking about gold nuggets and the dangers in purchasing those same coarse chunks of yellow metal for whatever reason motivates you. Be wary, be smart, and do your research. Why? Because there a numerous scammers out there nowadays hustling "natural" gold nuggets (placer and otherwise) that are only as natural and pure as the base metal underlying their 24 karat gold plating. Some of these fakes are very realistic and would fool anyone not well-versed in gold and gold mining. In fact, some of these nugget impostors are so damn good even a veteran miner might get taken in by them, although in my heart of hearts I choose to think otherwise. My hat's off to for providing the basis for this post since they were one of the first websites to bring this scam to the forefront. By the way, I've done business with this company a number of times over the years and they're as honest as the day is long when it comes to buying and selling natural gold and mining gear of all sorts and types. If for some reason you were looking to buy REAL gold nuggets this is the place to go.

That said, let's take a look at some of these fakes in terms of how they're made, how they're sold, and how they can be detected by an experienced and discerning eye.

Copper Fakes

By far and above the most common form of fake gold nuggets are those using copper as their core. Scammers (and anyone else for that matter) can buy natural copper nuggets fairly easily and they can also mold and cast copper to suit the needs of their dirty, low-down thievery. The path of least resistance here is to buy natural copper nuggets and then electroplate them in a 24-K gold wash or coating. Voila! Instant gold nuggets on the cheap. For the scammers anyway. For the unwary buyer it's time to pay premium money for something that cost the scammer very little. What's not to like here if you're a thieving skunk? Some scammers will also mold and cast their own "gold" nuggets using copper and then electroplate them, but doing this takes more time and is rarer in the scamming world. It still happens, however. The problem with fake gold nuggets using natural copper nuggets as their core is they are extremely difficult to spot and the buyer usually doesn't realize he or she has been had until the fakes have been paid for and delivered. Once in hand, the fakes start raising questions because they don't just feel right (weight-wise) or look right unless you're a star-struck newbie or greenhorn who just fell off the turnip truck when it comes to gold.

(Copper nugget fakes. Look pretty damn good don't they? [Image courtesy]).

Lead Fakes 
Fakes using lead as their core are usually molded and cast by scammers and coated with a 24-K gold wash. These sorts of fake nuggets are easier to spot, even in the enhanced photos the scammers use to sell them online because they simply look unnatural or "off." Their shape and form can be weird-looking to the experienced eye and quite often the same mold is used for casting them so you get lots of "twins" or duplicates. As you know, Ma Nature doesn't work this way when it comes to creating gold nuggets so that's a dead giveaway. You can also cut a piece off of them using clippers or strong scissors and quickly find out all that glitters is not gold. Gold is expensive as you know and paying top dollar for "nuggets" made from re-cast lead fishing weights is gonna make you feel REALLY bad, push come to shove. Then when your anger accelerates you'll be looking to do great physical harm to the lying SOB who sold you a dog turd masquerading as a real gold nugget. By then, however, he or she is just another nameless and faceless internet thief. Sorry about that.

 (A pair of lead fake "twins." Note the phony "shine" to the gold coating. [Image courtesy]).

"Pseudo" Nugget Fakes

Most of you know by now that nice nuggets can command top dollar over and above their melt value. The greater the size of the nugget or the more unique it is in terms of its shape or composition (i.e., crystalline, matrix material still attached, etc.) the more dollar value that nugget has to mineral collectors, certain jewelers, and others. The more sophisticated fake nugget scammers out there tend to use this approach to get you to pay top dollar for their "creations." Unlike the copper and gold fakes already discussed these little beauties have a core of real gold but they're not NOT natural nuggets. The scammers make these "psuedos" by molding and casting what they consider good representations of natural gold nuggets. They then sell them as the real thing. If there's a "nice" aspect to this scam it's that you are getting real gold, albeit 10 or 14 karat. The sting you'll feel, however, is knowing you paid wayyyyyyyyyyy in excess of the actual gold content of your fake natural nugget. That and the huge let down you'll feel when you find out that beautiful natural nugget is no such thing.

( A quartet of "pseudos." Real gold, but not natural nuggets. [Image courtesy]).

Iron Pyrite Fakes

Great God in heaven!! Really? Yep. There are some very dense and under-educated folks out there who get scammed by buying chunks of iron pyrite as "real" gold. Good old iron pyrite...the classic "fool's gold." And you sure as hell are a fool if you pay top dollar for pyrite thinking it's the real deal. I'm sorry, but the absolute level of ignorance involved here is beyond's downright disturbing. Then folks wonder why I'm always harping about doing your research up front, educating yourself in all things gold, and getting some field experience under your belt. It may sound cruel on my part but I have ABSOLUTELY no sympathy for anyone who is idiotic enough to shell out boo-coo amounts of their hard-earned dollars for total, unadulterated crap. If you're that naive or stupid you deserve what you get...which is essentially nothing in this sort of scam. Put your G'damn thinking cap on and act like logic really is part of your brain matter. Sheesh...(Note: If you're a mineral collector and knowing what you're buying is a pyrite specimen and not gold, all is well in this regard.)

(Iron pyrite or "fool's gold.")

Fake nugget scammers invariably weave their sticky webs online. Why? Well, common sense dictates that if a scammer were to work out of a brick and mortar storefront sooner or later an irate customer is gonna swing open the door, shotgun at the ready, and wave that fake nugget they purchased high in the air before discharging both barrels. Enough said there. Unfortunately, eBay gets a bad rap on the fake nugget scam thing. It's really not eBay's fault that scammers prowl their online sales corridors to work their dirty deeds. eBay does its best to try and root out thieves, hustlers, and scammers but that task is nigh impossible given the shadows scammers hide in and how they're able to manipulate the "system." However, I wouldn't buy a mining claim off of eBay nor would I buy "nuggets" on eBay. Do reputable and honest sellers operate there? Sure, and there are plenty of them. And eBay itself is on the up and up. I just won't take the risk there when it comes to all things gold-mining. Nor should you if you're smart.

What's the message here folks? Wake up, use your brain, do your research up front, study and learn. That way you won't get taken in one of these shitty scams, including the fake nugget thing. My recommendation? Find your own nuggets.

It's much more satisfying...

(c) Jim Rocha 2016

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, I could be, and probably am wrong, but the only real reason I can think of to buy gold nuggets is to lie about finding them yourself. If you are buying them as an investment, gold bars are better, unless it is a huge,rare and provable nugget.
    This falls right in with buying big animal mounts. If you didn't shoot it, why do you want it? Restaurants or bars are an exception where they are just decoration. I have know several liars over the years that have bought "their trophies".....pretty sad really....
    I guess I have a hard time feeling sorry for folks that do that and then find out they have been cheated. To the guy that buys gold nuggets, just because he wants a gold nugget and gets cheated, well, that's different. I hate a liar and a crook above all else!
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I hope 2017 brings all kinds of "gold" to you, both real and special in other ways.

  2. Yes, I suspect some folks want to brag about nuggets they didn't find but a lot of folks (like you say) just like having them for their beauty. Either way, getting scammed is not fun if you allow it to happen.

  3. Come on J.R. I've had fun throwing a couple of copper nuggets in the sluice box when out with friends. The one thing you need to remember is tell them quick if you want to keep them as friends! May your sluice be full of REAL nuggets in 2017!

  4. I've pulled similar tricks with fake nuggets with friends in the field...but that's a big difference than trying to sell them!

  5. I had a brass brazing rod that dripped into pea size nuggets......thought about dropping those in my friend's sluice. I think he would have broken my snout as well as lost a friend, so I didn't try it. I dirty joke to be sure!!
    Right up there with fake lottery tickets!

  6. Gary...I had that exact thing done to me back when I was greener than hell...fell for it too!

  7. Jim, nice article. I "really" liked it because I just wound up being "backwards" scammed! I bought a beautiful big cluster of pyrite crystals that was formed in and around several different materials. I wanted to show how different materials interact as deposits so I could show others. I KNEW it was just pyrite! But... I found almost 1.5 grams of real gold in some of the crevices in the pyrite clusters! VERY fine grains, ut lots of them! My "backwards" scam! I just know the seller didn't do this on purpose, because I only paid less than $5 shipping included. At over $50 worth of real gold for less than $5, I don't think I will "chase" amyone. BUT, I will WATCH to see when he sells more! LOL Keep on keeping on

  8. Paul, it's nice to know there can be a plus side to this thing. Good job!


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