How Can You Tell the Difference between Mica Flakes, Pyrite Flakes, and Gold Flakes?
Whether you’re gold panning or shopping at a garage sale or digging through your attic, when you see gold flakes it’s an exciting moment, especially if they turn out to be real gold. But how can you be sure it’s gold and not mica or pyrite (also known as Fool’s Gold)? Here are some things you can try:
- Take tweezers and bend one. Gold will bend, but pyrite and mica usually will not. If the flakes shatter or break, they aren’t gold. Gold will simply bead up. Note that if you don’t bend it far enough, mica might spring back since it does have SOME flexibility.
- If you poke pyrite or mica flakes with a pin, they will usually break apart into even smaller flakes, whereas gold will dent and spread like soft lead.
- Rub the flakes between your fingers. If they disintegrate, they aren’t gold.
- If you’re gold panning, pyrite and mica are much lighter than gold and will usually float out in the panning process. Be more excited about gold flakes that stay at the bottom of the pan!
- Gold flakes will still look like gold in the shade whereas pyrite and mica won’t.
- If you scratch a larger piece of pyrite, it will produce a sulfur smell.
- Gold is a metal, pyrite and mica are not, so see what your metal detector has to say! However, keep in mind that the detector won’t always detect flakes because they’re so small.
- Gold shines, but pyrite and mica (due to their crystalline structure) tend to be more glittery in appearance. In the sunlight, gold nuggets or flakes will continue to shine as the specimen is turned to different angles and remain the same color. Pyrite and mica will glitter as the different sides of their crystal-like structure reflect light differently. They will also change color when tilted in a different direction due to its color coming from reflected light.
Of course if you want to be SURE the flakes are gold, have a professional like Gemologist Sam look at them!