What does natural Gold look like?
Everyone knows or thinks they know what Gold looks like. But natural Gold that you find when you are panning Gold seems a little different from what you recognize from jewellery and coins. Some minerals are easily mistaken for Gold. If you want to go Gold panning, it is good to be able to distinguish between real Gold and “fools gold“.
Most of the Gold produced today comes from various Gold mines. The Gold from the ore bodies in the mines, for the most part, has such small amounts of Gold per ton of ore that it can be challenging to see the Gold with the naked eye. It depends entirely on the amount of gold/ton of ore. So determining how much, if any, Gold a stone contains can be delicate. Most gold-bearing minerals do not have Gold on the surface that glows and shines.
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Is it Gold I’ve Found?
We occasionally find stones that shine like Gold and the first thought is that now I have found my treasure. But most of the shiny rocks you see are not Gold, unfortunately. There are plenty of stones that shine, so it may not be so strange that it sometimes goes wrong. An experienced gold digger is also making that mistake now and then. Sometimes you can find pure Gold on and in quartz, and then it can be easier to see the Gold as it is better visible against the light quartz. It is not too common and such pieces are very popular with collectors.
Gold nuggets when panning
Gold nuggets that you can find in streams when you pan usually have a unique shape. The Gold is soft, and it is shaped and cut, on its journey in the water. So you typically say that a gold nugget usually has the same shape as chewed chewing gum. If you find a nugget large enough to study in a loupe, you will see that it has round shapes after years of tumbling in the water.
Sometimes you can find flakes of Gold that do not have the rounded shape. This so-called, alluvial Gold, has not travelled as far in the water. This may mean that there is a lead with Gold not far away. Then it’s a good idea to search further upstream.
The minerals that are mostly mistaken for Gold are Pyrite, mica and silica. They can show a seductive resemblance to Gold’s shiny golden-yellow gloss, especially if they are exposed in the sunlight.
Natural Gold or Fools Gold
The colour of natural Gold is the same in all light and does not depend on sunlight for its colour. Other minerals do not have the same gold shine unless you keep them in the sunshine. So shading the pan when you have found an exciting grain can be a good idea. Then you can see if the grain still has a golden shine. If it goes out when you shade the pan, it is most likely not Gold. Study how the grains move in the pan. Gold is so heavy that it will sink faster than other minerals. Lighter minerals will whirl around in a completely different way. Pyrite has a similar colour to Gold, especially when it is in the pan. But the colour of pyrite is more brass than Gold. Maybe hard to see if you have nothing to compare with.
Recognize What natural Gold looks like
Pyrite breaks if you press it with a knife tip, for example, while the Gold with its softness will flatten out. The gold hardness is 2.5 – 3 on a 10-degree scale. If you can take a grain and pull it against porcelain, then Gold will give a golden yellow line. Pyrite, on the other hand, provides a dark, almost dark green streak. There is a saying among gold prospectors that says “when you have gold in the pan you will recognize it“.