How easy is it to tell gold from other desert rocks?

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When im panning out my samples back at the hotel, im always wondering if somehow i might be tossing out little pieces of gold.

Im assuming from the pictures that i have found here, that it isnt always bright and shiny and shimmering.

do its colors vary? if so... how much?

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Only very rarely is gold in your pan hard to identify.

Nothing else looks so metallic.


fair enough. i find alot of Mica, and occasionally some gold flakes...

does gold ever bond with Iron?

I heard some of the local prospectors talking about 'rusty gold'

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GOLD FROM DRYWASHING looks like any other desert rock or clod. only when you wet it and clean it up, does it look like gold.

In a pan, it will tend to stay inside of the pan, provided you master the technique, and use the riffles inside the pan as a catchall, which also catches the black sands, titanium, bismuth, lead, some silver, and depending on the locale, platinum, chrome ore, gemstones such as garnets, ruby, sapphires, and topaz, which all tend to be heavy.

high purity gold looks the color of gold leaf; 14 k gold (.670 purity), looks a little less gold and more brassy, and purity below .600 looks decidedly more silvery and less yellow. The giveaway with gold is the weight of the object.

though, surface tension of the water (use of soap helps) may float some gold, but this tends to be flour sized, rather than sand (sharp sand like that used in stucco) sized.

If you're unsure of your prowess with a gold pan, or have kids that knock things over, fork over another $400 for a desert fox to get the gold out of the concentrates. Concentrates are what drywashing, sluicing, and dredging are all about- process the most material possible to gather up the heavy particles, then meticulously work that volume of heavy particles. Depending how you work you drywasher, and in the area you choose to work it, you can count on filling a 5-gallon bucket with 2 1/2 to 3 gallons of heavy particles. if you are into gold, it will be in that bucket, though your take will likely be a spoonful of actual gold out of that volume.

Not all gold looks like gold, some types look black or dark brown from natural coatings of tellurium or copper. again, the key is to clean it up, perhaps using HCL or nitric acid; though such nuggets are vastly more valuable in the coated state in many instances. If using nitric acid, don't store it in your garage with your tools or nearby, as the fumes escaping out of the bottle (no matter how tightly capped) will corrode or rust anything metal in the garage.

Find a book by C W Ammen that will explain more techniques of cleaning or refining gold or other metals

Likewise, if you see a nugget while processing or working the concentrator, or while digging, don't take any chances of losing it- pick it up and put it in a vial or film can with a tight lid. gold has a way of disappearing after placement into a bucket. Especially true when dredging or sluicing, because the wetting action allows you to see the gold as soon as the water is shut off, or the box is gently flushed with some clean water.

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assuming you are not processing large quanities of concentrates your pan will do the job...and assuming you have practiced using your pan by dropping several #9 shot in your practice dirt, and assuming you can pan that down to black sand and not lose any shot then what is left will be the heavies including the fine and nugget when you give that a little twirl with a bit of water the yellow tail behind, and slightly mixed with the black sand, will be gold and possibly other heavy metals. Get a 10x magnifier and look at the gold then the mica you will see the difference very quickly...a green gravity trap pan makes this process almost fool proof.

Good Luck


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  • Admin

Hello Zippo,

It's pretty easy to ID gold or nuggets once you get the eye for it. I will post a picture of some recent nugget additions that haven't been cleaned. Most of the time the nuggets are dirty, covered in dirt, clay or caliche. Nuggets can become Red stained if they are lying in or around a lot of iron mineralization (ie. red soil). Nuggets can also range from their nature color from a light white color to a deep brase looking color. The color can vary depending on the impurities.

Talk with you soon,

Rob Allison

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