For some years, the implantation of small pieces of gold has been used as an unauthorised remedy for osteoarthritis and pain. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether gold ions are released from gold implants. Pieces of pure gold were placed in the connective tissue of skin, bone and brains of anaesthetised animals. Ten days to several months later the animals were anaesthetised and killed by transcardial perfusion. Tissue blocks containing the gold pieces were cut, and the sections were silver-enhanced by autometallography. It was found that gold ions are released from the implanted gold and diffuse out into the surrounding tissue. The gold-containing cells in connective tissues were macrophages, mast cells and fibroblasts. In the brain, gold accumulated in astrocytes and neurons. Proton-induced X-ray emission spectroscopy analysis of the tissue surrounding gold implants confirmed that gold ions are liberated. The findings suggest that the gold implant technique, on a local scale, mimics systemic treatment with a gold-containing drug.