On the 2004 2-disc special edition release of Rumours, two demos of "Gold Dust Woman" are included, one of which features vocal melody and lyrics in its coda which would later be developed into the stand-alone single "If You Ever Did Believe" in 1997. Nicks recorded this with close friend Sheryl Crow as part of the early sessions for her 2001 Trouble in Shangri-La album, but the track was chosen as the theme song for the 1998 Warner Bros.Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock vehicle Practical Magic. To date, "If You Ever Did Believe" has only been available on the film soundtrack album.
The take chosen for release on the 1977 Rumours album was reportedly recorded at 4 a.m., after a long night of attempts in the studio. Just before and during that final take, Stevie Nicks had wrapped her head (though not mouth) with a black scarf, veiling her senses and tapping genuine memories and emotions. Many unusual instruments were used in the recording, including an electric harpsichord with a jet phaser, which was marked with tape so Mick Fleetwood could play the right notes. To accentuate Stevie's vocals, Mick broke sheets of glass. "He was wearing goggles and coveralls — it was pretty funny. He just went mad, bashing glass with this big hammer. He tried to do it on cue, but it was difficult. Eventually, we said, ‘Just break the glass,’ and we fit it all in."
Slant critic Barry Walsh described the song as finding Nicks "at her folky (not flaky) best with one of her most poignant character studies".
When asked about the song in an interview with Courtney Love for Spin in October 1997, Nicks said:
You know what, Courtney? I don't really know what "Gold Dust Woman" is about. I know there was cocaine there and that I fancied it gold dust, somehow. I'm going to have to go back to my journals and see if I can pull something out about "Gold Dust Woman". Because I don't really know. It's weird that I'm not quite sure. It can't be all about cocaine.