The octadentate hydroxypyridinone chelator 3,4,3-LI(1,2-HOPO) is a promising therapeutic agent because of its high affinity for f-block elements and noncytotoxicity at medical dosages. The interaction between 3,4,3-LI(1,2-HOPO) and other biomedically relevant metals such as gold, however, has not been explored. Gold nanoparticles functionalized with chelators have demonstrated great potential in theranostics, yet thus far, no protocol that combines 3,4,3-LI(1,2-HOPO) and colloidal gold has been developed. Here, we characterize the solution thermodynamic properties of the complexes formed between 3,4,3-LI(1,2-HOPO) and Au3+ ions and demonstrate how under specific pH conditions the chelator promotes the growth of gold nanoparticles, acting as both reducing and stabilizing agent. 3,4,3-LI(1,2-HOPO) ligands on the nanoparticle surface remain active and selective toward f-block elements, as evidenced by gold nanoparticle selective aggregation. Finally, a new colorimetric assay capable of reaching the detection levels necessary for the quantification of lanthanides in waste from industrial processes is developed based on the inhibition of particle growth by lanthanides.