Gold nanoparticles with a diameter comprised between 4 and 6 nm are stabilized in nanosized pits of well defined depth in highly oriented pyrolytic graphite (HOPG). These pits are produced by creation of artificial defects, followed by etching under a controlled oxygen atmosphere. At low Au coverage, clusters are found on the edges of the hexagonal pits maximizing the contact to dangling bonds on graphite multisteps. Larger coverage results in Au beads of surprisingly well defined shape and with a constant bead density per unit length. Most remarkable is the stability of these nanostructures under ambient conditions. Temperatures as high as 650 K do not alter the morphology of the gold clusters. Higher temperatures do not lead to a change of the cluster morphology but to catalytically driven etching of the HOPG substrate.