I found this to be a very specific question, with inadequate documentation elsewhere on the Web, and so I’m writing my own observations on it here. First of all, the reader should know what a certifiicate is, as opposed to just, ‘a public key’. A public key goes together Mathematically with a private key, so that either will decrypt what the other enrcypted, but in such a way that, if the public is made aware of the public key alone, they are unable to derive the private key.
This does not just get used for encryption, but also to sign documents or other electronic assets. In fact, if the RSA algorithm is being used for encryption, it may already be somewhat out-of-date, because many Web sites that have an ‘httpS://’ URL, use TLS by now, instead of SSL, the latter being insecure by today’s knowledge. However, while Diffie-Hellman key exchange is suitable for encryption, creating a shared secret between the server and client, that in turn can be used as a strong, symmetrical key for a connection, the actual verification of Web-sites still uses RSA. But, that’s a bit of an aside comment, because we’re not interested in this posting, in certifying Web-sites with an X.509 certificate. This posting is about ‘GnuPG’, which is an alternative to ‘X.509′.
A certificate is what one obtains, when a public key belonging to one person, together with certain mandatory information, is signed, using the private key of another, so that the public key of the other person can be used to validate that signature. This is important because, if there were only a public and private key, the recipient of a (signed) document would have no way of knowing, whether a public key he’s been given, actually belongs to the correct author. He’d just know, that it’s the public key associated with an arbitrary private key, where the two are supposedly already matched as they should be.
Conversely, if a person wanted to encrypt a document being sent to another, then he’d have no way of knowing, that he’s encrypting it using the correct public key. The person who has the corresponding private key, might not be the intended recipient.
Because of the signature of the public key with another person’s key-pair, that person’s attestation to the fact that it belongs to its rightful owner, can add trust in the public key, for the recipient of a signed document, or the sender of a document to be encrypted, the latter so that only the holder of the correct private key will be able to decrypt it.
So, it can happen to users of GnuPG, that they’ve been using GUIs such as ‘Kleopatra’ or ‘KGPG’, that these GUIs have not displayed any messages, but that they’d like to verify the signatures of their public keys, belonging to other people anyway. And from the command-line, there is a way to do that…
(Updated 5/24/2020, 8h35 … )