Over the last decade, much work has been dedicated to improving the performance of gadolinium-based magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents by tethering them to biocompatible gold nanoparticles. The enhancement in performance (measured in terms of ‘relaxivity’) stems from the restriction in motion experienced by the gadolinium chelates on being attached to the gold nanoparticle surface. More recently, the unique properties of gold nanoparticles have been exploited to create very promising tools for multimodal imaging and MRI-guided therapies. This review addresses the progress made in the design of gadolinium-functionalised gold nanoparticles for use in MRI, multimodal imaging and theranostics. It also seeks to connect the chemical properties of these assemblies with potential application in the clinic.