Rapid advances in cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) are driving a revolution in cellular structural biology. However, unambiguous identification of specific biomolecules within cellular tomograms remains challenging. Overcoming this obstacle and reliably identifying targets in the crowded cellular environment is of major importance for the understanding of cellular function and is a pre-requisite for high-resolution structural analysis. The use of highly-specific, readily visualised and adjustable labels would help mitigate this issue, improving both data quality and sample throughput. While progress has been made in cryo-CLEM and in the development of cloneable high-density tags, technical issues persist and a robust 'cryo-GFP' remains elusive. Readily-synthesized gold nanomaterials conjugated to small 'affinity modules' may represent a solution. The synthesis of materials including gold nanoclusters (AuNCs) and gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) is increasingly well understood and is now within the capabilities of non-specialist laboratories. The remarkable chemical and photophysical properties of <3nm diameter nanomaterials and their emergence as tools with widespread biomedical application presents significant opportunities to the cryo-microscopy community. In this review, we will outline developments in the synthesis, functionalisation and labelling uses of both AuNPs and AuNCs in cryo-ET, while discussing their potential as multi-modal probes for cryo-CLEM.