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When choosing the best gold stocks, investors need to know the stock's production growth, cash costs, sensitivity to gold prices and price-to-net-asset value. These metrics are the most important factors, according to Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money."


The NASDAQ symbol for gold is GC. Gold was the monetary standard in the United States until 1971 when President Nixon closed the "gold window" and ended the practice. California and Oregon continue to operate on a gold standard.


The prices of gold and silver can be tracked via the commodities market charts on business specialty websites such as CNN Money. Precious metals, such as gold, silver and platinum, are not traded on the stock market but are traded as exchange-traded funds on the commodities market. However, gold and


Individuals can purchase gold bars, coins or bullion from major gold brokers who sell gold in their branches, online or over the phone. Forbes recommends buying gold from a well-established dealer, such as The Tulving Company.


It is best to buy gold when the price per ounce is the lowest. In January and February 2015, gold prices per ounce ranged from $1,000 to $1,200. The average price per ounce in January 2005 was $420.


Simple tests that can be performed at home to identify real gold include checking for markings and magnetic attraction, testing for heaviness and observing nitric acid reactions. Additionally, scratching gold against pottery and examining for signs of gold plating is another method to identify gold.


Determine if gold is real by looking for a hallmark purity stamp, checking for magnetic attraction or performing a nitric acid test. Real gold is not attracted to a magnet and does not react when tested with nitric acid. Additionally, real gold is heavy and will sink when dropped into a jug of water


The stock symbol for an ounce of gold is "XAU." The price of the commodity reflects the price of 1 ounce of the precious metal in U.S. dollars when traded.


Stocks are typically bought through brokerage houses, both online and in-person, according to the Wall Street Journal. Stocks can also be bought directly through the company.


Some top stocks to buy for 2015 include Rogers Communications (RCI), FirstMerit Corp. (FMER), Kellogg (K), Merge Healthcare (MRGE) and American Vanguard (AME), according to Forbes. Other good stocks include Coach (COH) and Diplomat Pharmacy (DPLO).