Sol-gel silica films containing gold ions were prepared with and without citric acid (capping agent). Heat treatment of these films in hydrogen atmosphere (reducing agent) leads to the formation of gold nanoparticles. The experimental optical spectra of the gold nanoparticles prepared with citric acid revealed a surface plasmon resonance band located at 585 nm. Transmission electronic microscopy (TEM) and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) measurements revealed the formation of prolate gold nanoparticles (6.4 nm of average diameter) and aggregates dispersed in silica matrix. On the other hand, gold nanoparticles in sol-gel silica films prepared without citric acid exhibited a splitting in surface plasmon resonance band for the prolate gold nanoparticles with an average size <12 nm. On further annealing the samples in oxygen atmosphere, the gold nanoparticles prepared with citric acid exhibited high stability in contrast to the samples prepared without citric acid. This stability probably depends on the formation of a microporous structure of silica produced by the citric acid. The optical properties of the metallic nanoparticles were modeled using Gans theory.