Wondering if gold has magnetic properties like other metals, such as Iron, Cobalt, and Nickel? While gold is in every way a metal, pure gold is not magnetic. In fact, Iron, Cobalt, and Nickel are the only metals that have magnetic properties. However, gold can become temporarily magnetic (just like annealed iron and steel) when it is placed in the presence of a strong magnetic field. The effect is similar to what you see when tiny paper clips are made magnetic by placing them beside a permanent magnet.
Gold Alloys Are Magnetic
Pure gold on its own does not magnetize or stick to a magnet. But when about 20% of it is replaced with a metal like iron, it may stick to a magnet or exhibit other magnetic properties. Gold used in jewelry may also be magnetic depending on the alloys used, i.e, the metals combined with gold in the material. This includes 18k gold, 14k gold, 10k gold, and even white gold.
There are different alloys of gold. The most common metals that are alloyed with gold are zinc, copper, nickel, iron, cadmium, aluminum, silver, platinum, and palladium. These metals confer different amounts of magnetic strength to pure gold. Depending on the atmospheric temperature, the magnetism of gold alloys may be higher. Temperature is known to affect magnetism by either strengthening or weakening a magnet’s attractive force.
How Do Magnets Work?
The feature that makes magnets magnetic lies in the behavior of their electrons. The molecules in permanent magnets are arranged in such a way that so that their electrons spin in the same direction. All magnets have both north and south poles. The north pole of a magnet will attract the south pole of another magnet. But the same poles repel each other.
In other words, the arrangement and movement of electrons within the magnet material create a magnetic force that flows from the north-seeking pole and the south-seeking pole. It is this magnetic force that creates a magnetic field around a magnet.
How Magnets Attract Other Materials
When you place a magnetic substance, such as iron or some grades of steel, it will stick to the body of the magnet. And when it spends enough time in a strong magnetic field, the material itself exhibits temporarily magnetism, known as paramagnetism. This allows it to attract or magnetize other materials.
It is also important to note that magnets are able to attract other materials because those materials possess similar properties that make the magnets magnetic. For example, magnets will never attract paper, plastics, or wood. This is because these materials do not have free electrons that can spin when a magnetic field is nearby.
Put in another way, magnets attract materials that have unpaired electrons that spin in the same direction. Keep in mind that these unpaired electrons are essentially the components that make a metal magnetic. This is why it will attract materials that have similar quality.
But Gold Has Unpaired Electron?
Gold is the most electronegative of all metals. It indeed has unpaired electrons in its valence shell. However, these electrons are shared among atoms and hence, do not allow for magnetism to occur. A single atom of gold has only one electron in its outermost shell, meaning that it will always have one unpaired electron. But together in the metal, all the atoms in a pure gold material share these unpaired electrons. So in essence, metallic gold has no unpaired electrons. This is why it does not exhibit classical magnetism. You may also refer to this property of gold as diamagnetism — the unpaired electrons of gold create a field that weakly repels a magnet.
Metals That Are Magnetic
A number of metals, unlike gold, are actually magnetic. Magnetic metals include iron, nickel, cobalt, and rare-earth metals, stainless steel. These metals can be attracted to permanent magnets. Note that almost all magnetic materials are metals. Zinc is only magnetic when you put it in a very strong magnetic field. It becomes slightly magnetic until you remove the magnetic field.
Metals That Are Not Magnetic
In this category, we have popular examples like gold, aluminum, silver, and copper. The crystal structure of aluminum makes it non-magnetic. The non-magnetic property of silver makes it easy to identify fake silver. Gold, as discussed earlier, is diamagnetic, as it only shows a very weak repulsion towards magnets. Copper interacts with magnets, a property that makes it useful for conducting and generating electricity.
Gold, in its pure form, is not magnetic. It is known as a diamagnetic material because it has a weak repulsive force toward magnets. But when gold is alloyed with metals like zinc, copper, nickel, iron, cadmium, aluminum, silver, platinum, and palladium, it may display magnetic properties. Aside from gold, other non-magnetic metals include aluminum, copper, and silver.
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