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What Is Gold Panning?

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What Is Gold Panning?

What Is Gold Panning

Gold panning is a form of traditional mining that separates gold from other material through the process of classification.

Gold Panning is the method of mechanically or physically sorting out the constituents of a substance. For example, panning for gold separates by density by putting a lot of energy into the pan of unclassified materials. As a result, the heavies will sink to the pan's bottom, while the lights will rise to the top.

How Does Gold Panning Work?

When you fill the gold pan with material and submerge it in water, you can start classifying by vigorously oscillating the pan. The heavy items will sink to the pan's bottom, while the lighter items will float to the surface or be swept away by the river's current.

The goal is to break up and separate all the material within the pan. Break up compressed material or clay with your hands within the pan and agitate and stratify.

Stratify – also known as stratification – is the method of grouping anything into specific sectors. Stratification is used in gold panning through separation of density. Lights rise to the top, while heavies fall to the bottom of the pan.

What Is Panned Gold Worth?

The price of your panned gold depends on several factors, including purity, shine, brightness, and origin. The price of your gold will also vary depending on whether it is a picker, nugget, or placer / flake gold. Nuggets are usually more expensive than picker or flake gold, and gold nuggets with quartz veins are exceptionally rare and go for a premium.

Determining the Value of Your Panned Gold

Depending on the location you were gold panning it will have different levels of purity. Purity is a factor in the price of your gold. Evaluate your gold in grams or ounces and google the current spot price of gold and multiply your grams or ounces with the corresponding price.

For example, on 2021-04-10 the price of gold is $1,744.20 USD per ounce or $56.08 USD per gram. Take your grams or ounces and multiply it by that current spot price. This will give you a rough idea of how much you can get for your gold. However, the price will drop if purity is also considered in the purchase of your gold.

Example #2:

“After my gold panning trip my final take home for the day was 1.21 grams of gold. I found lots of fine gold and a couple pickers. The river I got the gold from is known for its high purity placer gold. I multiply the 1.21 gram x $56.08 USD/gram = $67.85 USD worth of gold.”

Purity of gold: Expressed in karats or fineness (parts per thousand).

100% Gold = 1000 Fineness = 24 Karats

91.6% Gold = 916 Fineness = 22 Karats

75% Gold = 750 Fineness = 18 Karats

41.7% Gold = 417.7 Fineness = 10 Karats

37.5% = 375 Fineness = 9 Karats

33.3% = 333.3 Fineness = 8 Karats

Places to Sell Your Panned Gold

  • Local Gold Buyers
  • Online Gold Buyers
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Kijiji
  • eBay

Gold Price Factors

  • Purity
  • Shine
  • Size
  • Brightness
  • Origin

When selling your gold advertise it as a valuable antique as it was found in nature. People will pay spot price to receive a natural nugget, picker, or placer / flake gold without considering purity.

I personally recommend Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, and eBay as you can sell above spot price and still get buyers.

What Does Gold Look Like in a Pan?

The smaller the gold, the more difficult it is to tell whether it is genuine gold. When yellow sand, pyrite (fools gold), and other similar coloured minerals are combined with gold, it becomes much more difficult.

In a pan, gold appears brassy yellow and shiny. It has a gleam to it in the light and is very heavy. You can usually tell if it's gold by looking at how it moves in a pan compared to lighter, less dense materials.

gold in a pan

Learning how real gold behaves in a pan is the easiest way to tell whether it's real gold. You'll know when you see gold once you've had a decent sense of how it looks and behaves.

However, look out for fool’s gold also known as pyrite which is more crystalline and lighter. Put a little bit of water in the pan and tap all the gold / pyrite into a corner. Begin swirling the water around the pan and pull the lighter material away. The gold should stay due to the density and weight of it. Any fool’s gold will be pulled away.

Can I Pan for Gold in Any River?

While you can technically pan in any river, you should always consider whether it is private property, a claim or lease, a protected park, reserve, or First Nations ground.

Every river on the planet has some gold in it. Some of these rivers, however, produce so little gold that it is not worth the effort to mine them.

Within the Ultimate Gold Panning Guide, we will discuss how to find gold and how you can use Google Earth to find better deposits.

Going out and finding gold in areas that no one else has found is one of the most enjoyable aspects of gold panning and prospecting. That normally entails going to areas that aren't well-known for gold and looking for deposits.

We'll go into how to locate gold later in this ultimate gold panning guide, but generally speaking, places with mountains and tectonic activity have better gold. For example, during the gold rush, the Yukon and British Columbia were known for their high-quality gold placer mining and hydraulic mining.

Types of Gold Pans

The circular plastic gold pan is preferred by most gold prospectors due to the numerous advantages it offers over other alternatives. However, gold pans come in a variety of materials, shapes, sizes, and colors.

In this segment, you'll learn about the advantages and disadvantages of various types of gold pan styles as well as their properties.

The main means of a gold pan is to trap gold and heavy materials during agitation which allows them to easily remove it at the end of the process usually with a snuffer bottle.

The size of gold pans is normally measured in inches or centimeters to determine their dimension. The most popular gold pan size today is between 14 and 17 inches in diameter. The angle of a gold pan is typically between 30 and 45 degrees. The height of a gold pan is usually in the region of about 3 to 4 inches.

Gold Pan Features

  • Riffles (thick and fine grooves on the side of a pan)
  • Gold trap (Shallow groove in the bottom of the pan around the circumference)

Gold Pan Materials

  • Plastic
  • Steel
  • Alloys
  • Wood (batea)

The batea, which means "gold pan" in Spanish, is a wooden gold pan. This gold pan is commonly made of wood and has a diameter of 20 inches, which is larger than the normal gold pan.

Plastic gold pans are popular because they are lightweight, robust, and resistant to rust, acid, and corrosion. Plastic is also easier to shape, allowing riffles to be easily shaped on the pan's side.

Gold Pan Common Colors

  • Black
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Red

Green is the most common gold pan color, with black coming in a near second.

The color of a gold pan comes down to personal preference. The purpose of the color of the gold pan is to allow you to see the gold through a large contrast difference.

The History of Gold Panning

Gold panning and other metal excavations from rivers, streams, and mountaintops using gold pans and sluices were first recorded in ancient Rome and the Mayan Indian Civilization approx. 753 BC to 476 AD.

The first pan that would most likely be used is known as the "Batea," which means "gold pan" in Spanish. The pan, which was carved of solid wood and had a diameter of over 20 inches, was used to pan gold, diamonds, rubies, and gemstones. The Batea is very big and heavy.

In the early days of prospecting instead of calling it the gold pan it was most known as the gold dish.

Many gold prospectors used heavy-duty steel gold pans until the advent of plastic in the 1900’s.

With the invention of plastic, the gold pan can now be made light weight, resistant, and mass produced with injection molding. Therefore, allowing more features like riffles and gold traps.

Recreational gold panning, gold prospecting, and gold mining is becoming increasingly popular as more people become aware of these opportunities within their communities.

Gold Panning Terminology

Adit - At one end of a mine, a horizontal or nearly horizontal underground passage leads to the surface. [An entrance to a mine]

Alluvium Gold - is a type of gold that is used to describe gold that has been panned from river or stream beds. Quick moving water deposited clay, silt, sand, and gravel, creating these deposits or benches.

Assay – Is the process of examining a mineral, ore, and/or alloy to determine the amount of gold, silver, or other metals that might be present within the sample.

Claim-jumperIs someone who usually illegally enters a claim without prior permission from the claim owner. With the goal of working and taking gold from somebody else’s claim.

Cons / Concentrates – A mixture of highly concentrated black sand and gold that was reduced during the panning or sluicing process.

Excavation – Excavation, or digging from the soil, or underground mining of tunnels and shafts are typical in placer mining. Excavation can be performed by hand or with driven equipment.

Fool’s goldPyrite is another name for this mineral. The nickname "fools gold" comes from the fact that pyrite is practically worthless but fools people due to its resemblance to gold.

Flake or Fleck – A very small piece of gold that requires you to wet a finger to pick it up with waters high cohesive properties.

Gold Rush - Was a period of time where people discovered rich concentrations of gold that caused a frenzy of new prospectors.

Lode – Is a vein of metal ore in the earth. If crystalized gold is found it is known as a lode deposit. It is typically found in hotter environments.

Malleable – Is a metal's physical property that defines how easily it can be pressed, hammered, or rolled into sheets without breaking. Gold is prized for its remarkable malleability, which also adds to its appeal.

Mercury – Is a glinting silver metal that is one of a kind because it is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature.

Gold & Mercury Interaction: As gold is combined with mercury, gold particles break free and form a bond with the mercury known as amalgam, and the process is referred to as amalgamation.

Mercury was used by old-school prospectors to isolate gold in their gold pans. The mercury would then be boiled away, leaving only pure gold behind. Mercury, on the other hand, has disastrous health and environmental effects, which is why it is no longer widely used.

Please do not use mercury when gold panning.

Nugget A larger piece of gold that is guaranteed to make a clank noise when it drops in the pan.You will be more than excited when you find your first gold nugget.

Paydirt - Is ground that contains gold or other precious minerals in higher than average concentrations.

Prospect Is the process of looking for mineral deposits by digging and excavating.

Pickers – Anything you don’t have to get your finger wet to pick up. But it is not impressive enough to call it a gold nugget.

QuartzIs a crystalline mineral made up of silicon and oxygen atoms that is hard and brittle.

Quartz Gold – Is a spectacular discovery that is usually found underground by hard rock miners in a few locations around the world.

Dredge – Is an excavation process where material that is under water is extracted from sand, gravel, and dirt using suction and/or mechanical methods.

Photography Credits: Brent M.

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