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A loadstone is an undesirable gem to have on your person. It is extremely heavy and normally generated cursed, meaning you cannot drop it or place it into a container. You can get rid of it if you lift its curse somehow, e. g. by scroll, spell, holy water, or dipping it into a fountain. Prayer can work under certain circumstances; having a cursed loadstone counts as a minor trouble. You also can have it stolen by a nymph. The spell of stone to flesh will dispose of it. You can wield a loadstone, but you cannot uncurse it with a scroll of enchant weapon.
Loadstones autocurse when they are dropped or leave your main inventory in any other way.
Loadstones also are one of the most easily picked-up items in NetHack. Any setting of the pickup_burden variable will be ignored if the character attempts to pick up a loadstone, and other inventory restrictions may be ignored as well—in case a character's knapsack has already reached the 52-item limit, the loadstone's inventory letter will be a pound sign (#)!
To test if a gray stone is a loadstone, kick it before you pick it up. Take off any items that add to your strength or kicking capabilities: remove gauntlets of power and kicking boots first, and make sure you are not polymorphed into a creature that has a bonus to kicking, such as a sasquatch. Loadstones are heavy enough that they cannot be kicked under normal circumstances (unenhanced strength, not on ice, no equipment or polyself to boost strength).
If for any reason you cannot (or do not want to) prevent yourself from having kicking bonuses, you can compare kicking ranges. A loadstone should travel much less far than a harmless gray stone or any object of similar weight, e. g. a rock. Be careful though; some bonuses add a small random amount to the distance. Do not kick fragile objects.
Loadstones are normally generated cursed, so an unknown gray stone on the floor is a loadstone if a pet will only "reluctantly" move over it. This method still works on stones stuck next to undiggable walls. A loadstone generated inside a container will have a significant weight, and you usually get a pickup_burden warning when indirectly lifting a loadstone.
If you need to read a scroll of remove curse for other reasons anyway, you might want to deliberately pick up a known loadstone and #name or formally identify it. You will then recognize any future ones. Beware amnesia (attacks), as you may forget the identification for the loadstone and pick one up, lulled in a false sense of security.
The name loadstone is a pun on the word lodestone, a naturally magnetic mineral.