The stimulus to Gold Dust was a concert where Amos performed with the Metropole Orchestra as part of a "Week of the Metropole" series. The concert, performed at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam on October 8, 2010, was the first orchestral concert of Amos's career, and set the stage for recording the tracks that would comprise Gold Dust.
The project commemorates the 20th anniversary of the release of her debut solo album Little Earthquakes, as well as the music released since then. The collection has autobiographical leanings, with Amos opting for songs that represent a personal narrative instead of including a string of singles. Of the songs included in the project, Amos said, "[they are] a collection of new studio recordings of where they are now and who they have become".Gold Dust mostly consists of songs culled from the 2010 Metropole Orchestra concert. While the original set list from the concert focused heavily on Amos's then-recent holiday album, Midwinter Graces, the focus for Gold Dust shifts with four of the album's 14 tracks from the Little Earthquakes era. In addition, three songs which were not performed during the concert were reworked for orchestra and added to extend the span of the collection over Amos's music catalogue.