The dynamic restructuring of metal nanoparticle surfaces is known to greatly influence their catalytic, electronic transport, and chemical binding functionalities. Here we show for the first time that non-equilibrium atomic-scale lattice defects can be detected in nanoparticles by purely optical means. These fluctuating states determine interface electronic transport for molecular electronics but because such rearrangements are low energy, measuring their rapid dynamics on single nanostructures by X-rays, electron beams, or tunnelling microscopies, is invasive and damaging. We utilise nano-optics at the sub-5nm scale to reveal rapid (on the millisecond timescale) evolution of defect morphologies on facets of gold nanoparticles on a mirror. Besides dynamic structural information, this highlights fundamental questions about defining bulk plasma frequencies for metals probed at the nanoscale.