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By Dave McCracken

Gold is extremely valuable and probably the most sought after of all the valuable metals found on earth.

Dave Mack


All things of the physical universe which can be sensed by man are made up of one or more chemical elements. An “element” is a basic simple substance which cannot be further broken down by chemical means. Elements are the basic building blocks of the material universe in which we live. Scientists have discovered over 100 basic elements, and have laid them out in order according to their atomic structures on the “periodic table of elements”.

Gold is one of the 92 naturally occurring elements found on earth. There is no known natural substance that can destroy gold. It can be dissolved by chemical means, but even then it remains as gold-only in a more widely dispersed state.

For eons, man has dwelled upon where gold might originally have come from-that is, its native source. Scientists have recently discovered that gold can be artificially produced by the atomic bombardment of lead, which is another basic element. However, the process is very expensive, more so than the monetary value of the resulting gold. So gold is not artificially produced on a commercial scale. However, this discovery has brought on the theory that the gold being found on our earth might originally have been manufactured in the nuclear furnaces of stars which have long since vanished, our planet being part of the remaining debris.

The scientific symbol for gold is Au. It is number 79 on the periodic table of elements. Gold is not magnetic, but it is an excellent conductor of electricity. Its melting point is 1945° F. Gold is not corroded or tarnished by moisture, or oxidized (rust) by the effects of oxygen and water, or affected by ordinary acids, as most other metals are. Deposits of gold that have lain inside a mountain or under a streambed or even on the ocean’s bottom will remain there and be rather unaffected until moved by the natural forces of the earth-or taken by man.

Gold is a very soft metal, being 2. 3 on a hardness scale of 10, which is one of the factors giving gold its tremendous malleability-meaning that it can be pounded, twisted, rolled and/or squeezed into all kinds of different shapes without breaking apart. In fact, the yellow metal can be pounded so thin that it is translucent, and yet still remain intact as a solid sheet of gold. It has been said that such sheets of gold can be produced so thin that it would take a quarter of a million of them stacked one on top of the other to make a pile just one inch tall! Thin sheets of gold such as these have the distinctive quality of allowing sunlight to pass through, yet they will reflect off a large portion of the sun’s infrared rays (heat). For this reason, thin layers of gold are now being used in the window glass found in many of today’s modern skyscrapers to help save on the tremendous costs of energy necessary to keep the interior of such buildings cool during the hot summer months. Similar films of gold have also been used in the face shields of helmets used by astronauts to reflect off much of the increased bombardment of infrared rays which occurs out in space.

Watch what happens to gold when it is pounded by a hammer in the following video sequence. This is the reason why most gold found at the bottom of a waterway is pounded flat and smooth:

Gold is extremely ductile-meaning that it can be drawn out into wire or threadlike forms without becoming brittle and breaking. It is said that gold can be drawn out so thin that a single ounce could be made to stretch a continuous length of 35 miles. That would make the thread very thin indeed, but that is exactly what is needed in today’s electronics industry, where entire circuits are being placed in chips the size of a pinhead. Because of its high electrical conductivity, its extraordinary resistance to deterioration and its ductile qualities, gold is in great demand by the electronics industry. So it is not uncommon to find gold being used in the circuits of many of today’s common everyday electronic devices-like TV’s and calculators, not to mention in some of the more sophisticated electronics of today’s world.

Gold is also commonly used by dentists and is widely used to make jewelry.

Gold’s use in the making of coins has greatly increased within the past few years.

Gold has another distinctive quality, which is perhaps most important to the prospector (other than its value) and that is its weight. Gold is extremely dense, one of the heaviest of all metals. The specific gravity of gold is 19.6, meaning that it weighs 19.6 times more than an equal volume or mass of pure water. Iridium (one of the platinum group metals) is one of few metals that have a higher specific gravity than gold, being 22.6. Gold is around 8 times heavier than the quartz rock which it is commonly associated with when gold is found in hardrock form. A single cubic foot of gold will weigh approximately 1187 pounds. It is this quality of gold, having a superior weight factor over the other materials usually found along with it, that is used in most gold recovery methods. For example, watch in the following video segment how fast gold penetrates down through the lighter materials which commonly make up a streambed:

Gold is not the most valuable metal, but it is extremely valuable and probably the most sought after of all the valuable metals found on earth. At today’s market exchange value, that same cubic foot of pure gold would be worth in the neighborhood of 10 million dollars. A cubic inch of pure gold would be worth about 7 thousand dollars. So gold is valuable, very valuable indeed; and it does not take very much of it to accumulate a considerable amount of wealth.

There is one other distinctive quality of gold worthy of mention. In its natural form, gold is a very rich and beautiful substance to look at. In fact, this is so true that there is a saying among experienced miners, and those individuals who handle a great deal of the yellow metal, that it is not a good idea to look at any substantial amount of raw gold for very long at any given period of time. This is because it has a tendency to bring on a condition referred to as “gold fever.” This is true!

“Gold Fever” affects different people in different ways. While it might make one person want to buy the gold at almost any price, it could just as easily make another want to steal it-at any price. However, the “fever” tends to always make a person want to have the gold for him or herself, and more of it if possible, with the means of getting it depending upon the character of the individual. This condition, (gold fever) is something to take note of for anyone who is planning to get involved with mining or dealing with gold. This is nothing to laugh off, for it has been the cause of a great many deaths, failures, wars, enslavements, and loss of friendships. It has altered the course of a significant amount of history- much of it being worse for the others involved. It is true that for many, gold is the thing that dreams are made of. Therefore, gold has a tendency to strike below the social behavior in a person and bring out some of the stronger passions which lie underneath. It is well to keep this strongly in mind during the stage in which you are considering whom to take on as a partner (or as employees) in a gold mining venture of any size.

One common characteristic of a person who has been touched just mildly with a case of gold fever is that he or she tends to throw good business sense to the wind and dive in head over heels, much as a young child might do if he found a tub full of his favorite candy or ice cream. It is this very same factor that the con-man stirs up and plays off of. And if you think that there aren’t a few experienced ones in the gold mining field-think again. The majority of failures in gold mining ventures are the result of this same loss of good judgment which sometimes occurs when dealing with the valuable metal.

Perhaps the most successful precaution against being struck to any harmful degree with the “fever” is in honestly taking on the viewpoint that “anything worthwhile is worth lots of time and effort.” It is the persons who intend to get rich quickly without much energy output on their part who most often fail in the business of gold mining. If, upon examining your own intentions, you discover that you are interested in getting rich quickly, without having to work for it, it is almost a certainty that you have caught at least a touch of the fever. On the other hand, if you are interested in going out into God’s country to see if you can find some of the yellow metal as an adventure, and/or perhaps to see if it can be done as a viable business enterprise, you are probably on the right track and you are more likely to succeed. And who knows, maybe you will strike a big one; it happens! Just remember that the finding and recovering of gold is similar to any other business venture. It takes a fair amount of time and work to get consistently good at it. Take it on as such and you will have less trouble-and fewer losses.


When considering the source of gold on this planet alone, it is necessary to study the earth and take a look at some of its more recent geological history.

Scientists believe that the earth is an extremely solid mass, which grows more and more dense towards its center. It is believed that the gold which is found on the earth’s surface and in its outer crust was once deep down inside the earth’s molten mass and was carried up to the surface by the effects of volcanic activity.

In hardrock form, gold is generally found associated with quartz in the form of veins which protrude through the general mountainous rock–referred to as “country rock” by geologists. In the early days of gold mining, it was generally believed that these quartz/gold veins were once pushed up out of the lower bowels of the earth as volcanic magma. Upon this principal, it was thought that a vein should become richer as it was followed deeper into the earth. However, this was not always the case.

More recently, it has been discovered that most quartz veins were not formed during the same time period as the country rock that surrounds them, but later. The cooling of the earth’s outer crust (country rock) apparently caused many cracks and fissures from which the gasses and superheated steam could escape out of the earth’s molten interior. These water vapors also carried minerals with them through these avenues of escape, with one of the predominant minerals being silica–which forms quartz. The water vapors carried other minerals upward too, of which gold, silver, iron and platinum are just a few. Silica has distinctive characteristics of its own, one of which is that it tends to trap heavier elements when they are passed over and through it in a dissolved form. So while the water vapors pushed the heavier minerals upward towards the earth’s surface through cracks and fissures, they often combined with silica and formed vein-like structures.

Formation of mineral lodes.

Generally, gold is associated with quartz. However, quartz is not always associated with gold, because there are countless quartz veins that have no gold-or at least not enough gold in evidence to make the mining of the vein profitable. Veins which contain valuable minerals are referred to as “lodes.”

“Ore” has been defined as any deposit of rock from which a valuable metal or mineral can be profitably extracted.

When a valuable lode is found, in order to mine it, the ore is usually blasted out of the vein and is crushed down into a very fine powder from which the gold, silver and/or other valuable minerals can be extracted by any number of chemical or mechanical procedures. This entire process is called “lode mining” or “hardrock mining”.

Millions of years passed after the rich mineral lodes were formed, during which time a large amount of weathering was caused by heat and cold, animals and vegetation, rain and wind, snow and ice, glaciers and their resulting runoffs, earthquakes, and ocean tidal changes as great as 800 feet in elevation for each tide. That was due to the moon revolving closer to the earth during an earlier period. So, after the rich veins were formed, a tremendous amount of disturbance and erosion took place which washed many of the exposed rich mineral lodes out of the mountainous rock and into the stream and river systems which flowed during that time period.

The steady heavy flow of water over a streambed creates a continuous movement of the streambed materials, causing a natural sorting of the various minerals by their different sizes, shapes and weights. Gold, being extremely heavy in comparison to most of the other materials that end up in a streambed, tends to be deposited in common locations where heavier materials can become trapped because of their greater weight. Deposits of gold and other valuable minerals which have been washed away from their original lodes and redeposited by water in streambeds are called
“placer deposits” (pronounced like “plaster”–without the t).

Finding and recovering placer gold deposits requires an understanding of where heavy sediments will collect while being transported by the forces of water during large flood events.

Gold directly from a lode is crystalline in structure, and is usually referred to as “rough gold” because of the coarseness of its surface. Once washed from its original lode and swept away by the forces of nature, gold tends to become pounded flat and rubbed smooth.

Gold directly out of a lode is crystalline in structure. Gold tends to
get pounded smooth as it is being washed further from its original lode.

An experienced prospector can sometimes get a pretty good idea of how far a piece of gold has traveled from its lode by the degree of roughness on its outer surface.


In its native state out of a lode, gold is almost never 100-percent pure, but has a percentage of other metals along with it. These other metals contained with gold, whether of value or not, are called “impurities.” The impurities with gold most often consist of silver, copper and a little bit of iron, platinum and cadmium in differing amounts. The proportions of these other minerals change from lode to lode, which gives the gold coming from one location different colors, qualities and value from the gold extracted from another location.

When someone finds gold, either in placer or lode form, it is not uncommon to have the gold tested (“assayed”) to find out what percentage of impurities are present and exactly what they are. The actual gold content in native gold just out of a lode or placer deposit changes from location to location. But a reasonably safe average (at least in California) would be to say that 80% is gold and 15% is silver and/or copper.

Gold which contains 20% or more of silver is called “electrum.”

Pieces of placer gold, and those pieces which have eroded from a lode, are found in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, ranging from large pieces (“nuggets”) as great as 200 pounds in weight (very rare) to “flakes,” and smaller “grains,” and even smaller “dust,” down to pieces so microscopic in size that it would take perhaps 8 million particles combined in order to accumulate enough gold to value one dollar.

The following video segment demonstrates different types and sizes of natural gold which either originated from different lodes, or traveled greater distances from the same lode down along a waterway:

The system commonly used to classify the size-differences of gold is normally accomplished with the use of mesh screen. “Mesh” signifies the number of openings contained along a lineal inch of screen or wire cloth. For example, a screen labeled “10-mesh” would contain 10 openings per lineal inch, or 100 openings per square inch. “Twenty-mesh” would have 20 openings per lineal inch, or 400 openings per square inch, and so on.

Those pieces of gold which will pass through 10-mesh (1/16″ sized openings), yet will not pass through 20-mesh (1/32″ sized openings), are classified as “10-20 mesh.” Gold passing through 20-mesh which will not pass through 40-mesh (1/64″ sized openings) is classified as “20-40 mesh,” and so on.

Gold is often classified and labeled according to its size.

Various sized pieces of gold are labeled as to their different mesh sizes. “Coarse gold” or “nuggets” are agreed to be any pieces of gold which will not pass through a 10-mesh screen. Medium-sized pieces of gold, flakes and so forth, are of the 10-20 mesh range, of which it would take an average of 2,200 separate pieces (“colors”) to make up a troy ounce. “Fine gold” is of the 20-40 mesh size, of which it would take an average of 12,000 separate colors to make a troy ounce. “Flour gold” or “dust” includes all pieces which are smaller than 40-mesh, including the microscopic-sized particles.

Because gold is so malleable, as it is pounded, rubbed, and pushed along by the forces of nature, the gold will tend to hold together, while some impurities will be pounded out and washed free. So generally, pieces of gold become more pure as they are pounded and worked by the different forces of nature-especially in a streambed where it can be heavily pounded by rocks, boulders and such, along with the steady flow of water to help wash away the impurities. This pounding also has the effect of breaking the gold down into smaller pieces, from which more impurities can be washed free. And so it is generally found that smaller pieces of gold are of richer gold content than the larger pieces originating from the same source. For example, the fine and flour gold recovered out of many gold-bearing streams in the Western U.S. will be found to have a gold content greater than 90%.

Nuggets recovered out of the very same deposits can be found to have a gold content of less than 80%. At first glance, this might seem to indicate that fine gold has a greater value than the coarse gold, and this is true as far as the actual gold value is concerned. However, larger pieces of gold have “jewelry specimen value,” due to their own unique and natural characteristics. So they can bring in a greater monetary return than their actual gold value. Fine gold is usually sold to a refiner, who then melts it down and refines it into pure bullion form, to eventually be sold on the world gold market.


There are two ways of labeling the gold content of raw and unprocessed gold which are commonly being used in the field today. The “fineness” or “percentage system” is used most often among miners and refiners. This system breaks down the purity into thousandths in order to label the “fineness” (purity) of the gold sample. For example, a specimen that contains 90% gold and 10% impurities would be labeled .900 fine; 88% gold content would be labeled .880 fine; 75% gold content would be indicated as .750 fine, and so on. In this system, “.999 fine” is used to indicate pure gold. The fineness system is often used among assayers to indicate the gold content in the samples which they test.

The other system sometimes used to indicate the gold content in your samples or specimens is the “carat system.” This method is most commonly used within the jewelry business, and is based upon a 24-point system with 100% gold content being 24 carats, 50% gold being 12 carats, 75% gold being 18 carats, and so on.


There are also two separate measuring systems commonly being used to weigh gold. The most commonly used is the “troy system” which is as follows:

24 grains = 1 pennyweight

20 pennyweight = 1 troy ounce

12 troy ounces = 1 troy pound

Scales having these measuring increments are usually available wherever gold mining equipment is sold. This troy system is most-commonly used by miners in the field and when gold is sold on the open market.

A troy pound is equal to .3732 kilograms, whereas a standard pound (avoirdupois) is equal to .4536 kilograms. So you see that they are not the same, a standard pound weighing considerably more than a troy pound. Also, please take note that there are only 12 troy ounces to a troy pound, as opposed to the 16 ounces it takes to make up an avoirdupois pound. The result is that a troy ounce weighs slightly more than a standard ounce.

The other system of measuring gold is by grams. Most triple beam balance scales measure in terms of grams instead of troy increments. So it is not uncommon to find a gram scale being used to measure gold. In this case the conversion scale is as follows:


1 troy pound = 373.248 grams

1 troy ounce = 31.104 grams

1 pennyweight = 1.555 grams

1 grain = 65 milligrams


It is not unusual for a beginner to wonder about the difference between gold and the other materials found inside of a streambed or lode deposit. Sometimes a beginner will puzzle over shiny rocks; and quite often, iron pyrites (fool’s gold) or mica are mistaken for the real thing. In fact, this is so much the case that there is a story of an entire shipload of iron pyrites having been shipped over to England from America during the 1500’s, the yellow stuff having been mistaken for gold. So you can understand where it gets the term “fools gold.”

One of the best ways to get beyond your own uncertainty of what natural gold looks and feels like is to get your hands on some of the real thing. Once you have experienced real gold, you are much less likely to make mistakes. Here is a link where you can buy a sample of natural gold.

Gold is a brassy yellow metal. Once you have seen a bit of it in its natural form a few times, you will no longer have much difficulty in distinguishing the real thing from the other materials that are commonly associated along with it. Gold seldom looks anything like rock. It usually looks like metal; gold metal. The following important video segment demonstrates what placer gold looks like in its natural form:

If you are just starting and have not yet had the opportunity to see much gold in its natural form, there are three easy tests which will validate your discoveries one way or the other:

Glitter Test: Gold does not glitter. It shines. Sometimes it is bright; sometimes it is dull; but very seldom does it glitter. The thing about fool’s gold (pyrites or mica), is that because of its crystalline structure, it tends to mostly be of glittery appearance. Take the sample and turn it in your hand in the sunlight. If it is gold, the metal will continue to shine regularly as the specimen is turned. A piece of fool’s gold will usually glitter as the different sides of its crystal-like structure reflect light differently.

Hardness Test: Gold is soft metal, like lead, and will dent or bend when a small amount of force is applied to it. Pyrites, mica and shiny rocks are generally hard and brittle. Just a little amount of pounding will shatter them. Gold almost never shatters! The following important video segment demonstrates this very important point:

Old-timers used to put specimens in their mouths and bite down to test if they were gold. This is another way of testing the larger-sized specimens. However, keep in mind that a larger-sized piece of gold is worth a great deal and the resulting tooth marks could lessen its value. If you find a true piece of gold big enough for you to bite on, I can assure you that you will have very little doubt that it is the real thing, simply because of its rich nature and its weight. But if you are still uncertain of your find, you might try using the sharp edge if a knife and gently press in on the specimen in a place which is less visible. If it is gold, an indentation can easily be made into the metal with the blade of your knife. You will not dent its surface if it is a rock or iron pyrites.

Acid Test: Nitric acid will not affect gold (other than to clean it); whereas, it will dissolve many of the other metals found within a streambed. Nitric acid can be purchased from some drug stores or prescription counters, and can sometimes be found where gold mining equipment is sold. If you question whether your specimen is some metal other than gold, you could try immersing it in a solution of nitric acid. If your specimen is gold, it will remain rather unaffected. If it is most any other kind of metal, it will dissolve in the acid. Nitric acid will not affect iron pyrites or mica (fool’s gold), but they are brittle and neither will pass the hardness test.

CAUTION: Nitric acid can be dangerous to work with, and certain precautions must be taken to prevent harm to yourself and/or your equipment when working with it. These, and mixing instructions, are covered in Chapter 7 of Gold Mining in the 21st Century.

The following video segment shows the negative affect that nitric acid has upon gold. But watch what the acid will do to nearly any base metal like lead:


Platinum is an industrial metal, one of a family of six separate metals: platinum, palladium, iridium, osmium, rhodium, and ruthenium. These metals are frequently naturally alloyed among each other so that they are seldom found separately. Platinum is a valuable metal, its value ranging in the same neighborhood (or higher) as that of gold. It also has a high specific gravity, sometimes even heavier than gold, depending upon how much iridium is present.

Sometimes, platinum will be present in placer gold deposits, and so will become trapped in the same recovery systems which are used to recover gold. Sometimes platinum will be present in enough quantity that it can be worth a great deal of money for you to know what it looks like, so you do not discard it along with the waste materials.

Platinum is usually a dull silvery-colored metal, much like steel-only different, in that it is non-magnetic and is not affected by nitric acid like steel is. Platinum does not rust. Platinum usually comes in the form of large and small flakes, just like gold, and sometimes in the form of nuggets.

To help you understand what platinum looks like, the following video segment demonstrates some of the platinum that I have recovered in my own suction dredge operations:

Platinum does not have as great an affinity for mercury (quick-silver) as do some other shiny metals. However, it can be made to have affinity for mercury by the use of certain involved chemical processes, or by putting a negative electrical charge into the mercury.

Russia has been the world’s number one producer of the platinum metals for the last hundred years or so.

If at first you have difficulty in telling the difference between platinum and lead, remember that platinum usually takes on a dull shiny color, whereas lead does not shine at all-unless it is polished or covered with a coat of mercury. Lead (and mercury) are also easily dissolved by nitric acid, whereas platinum remains unaffected. Most other shiny, silvery-colored metals which will be found in the recovery system will be magnetic. Platinum is not.


Most silver mining is done by the hardrock method of extracting ore from a lode and processing out the silver by chemical and mechanical procedures. The silver recovered out of most placer deposits is still alloyed with the gold and the black sands being taken out of the deposit.

Native silver has a specific gravity of about 10 or 11, so it is heavy. It will be trapped in most gold recovery systems if present as itself in a placer deposit-which is uncommon. Generally, silver in its native form does not look like shiny silver-like in silverware. It looks more like a silver-colored rock which is uncommonly heavy. Sometimes, native silver is so tarnished that it cannot be distinguished by color at all.






As the earth cooled into a planet, the high specific gravity of gold placed it in the earth’s mantle. Specific gravity is the mass of gold compared to the mass of the same volume of water, or 19.3 times heavier than water. The mantle is the inner layer of molten rock, below the continents and ocean floors. The continents have been moving around over the earth’s mantle for geological ages. At the end of the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago, the molten material began to boil and churn in circular currents. As the continents were moved about by the tectonic forces generated by the movement of the molten mantle, there were places where this molten material was pushed up to the surface. With it came the heavy metals, including gold, which was deposited very often in veins in faulted rock or as replacements of other minerals. The minerals that are usually associated with gold are quartz and the heavy metals. Over the course of geologic time, these veins of gold-bearing rock were exposed to weathering and the gold was eroded and transported by moving water.

Gold exists more or less evenly dispersed, with exceptions, in the crystallized rocks of the continents and major islands. Some of the notable exceptions of interest to students of the ancient world are abundant deposits in present day Hungary, Germany, the Ural Mountains of Russia, northern Spain, northern India, Ceylon, Senegal, the area around the Second Cataract of the Nile, the western coast of Africa and the shores of the Arabian Sea. Important places without native gold include the Tigris/Euphrates Valley, Cyprus and Mesopotamia.

Gold does not form chemical compounds easily, and therefore it is usually found almost pure in nature. The other heavy metals quickly decompose into compounds that are then dissolved away as they are exposed to weathering. The most common impurities in native gold are trace amounts of silver, copper, zinc, and lead. Native gold is gold as it is found, before any refining. Gold is often found as a by-product of the mining of these other heavy metals.

The earth is being constantly worn down by weathering forces such as rain, wind, freezing, thawing and plant roots. For millions of years these agents of change have been mining gold and depositing it into alluvial deposits. An alluvial gold deposit is a concentration of gold that is put in place by the natural action of the flow of water, where the heavy gold settles out of the moving water, while lighter material like quartz is washed farther downstream. Because gold does not decompose like silver when exposed to the elements, alluvial gold deposits have accumulated for millions of years.


Cro-Magnon burial sites in southern Europe show that the first gold miners were probably these earliest Homo Sapiens. Gold nuggets were used as adornment and possibly had mythical significance. The gold from millions of years of alluvial deposition was waiting to be found. These early people could pick up a nugget, appreciate its beauty, with the color of the sun, and feel its weight. Would you throw it back in the water? The sun was one of the mystical entities of these cultures, worshiped for its gifts of warmth and life. A golden nugget could offer the finder the color and warmth of the sun, and, by association, its powers.

Gold is found as dust, flakes, nuggets, crystals and often branching crystal formations that resemble the structure of ferns. Ancient peoples that found these fern-like crystals of gold held to a universal belief that gold grew as a plant in the rock. These early miners believed that gold deposits should be left with some gold still there to act as the seed that would allow the gold to replenish itself. This belief was held as late as the sixteenth century.

MYTHOLOGY and the GOLDEN AGEPlato, in the fifth century B.C., explained away the rarity of gold in his time as a punishment by Zeus for man’s evil ways. The first age of man, before the flood, was an age of innocence and happiness where truth and right prevailed. In Greek mythology, this was the Golden Age. The forests had not been robbed of trees and the stones of the earth had not been piled up to build fortifications against other men. The change from the harsh existence of hunter-gatherer to farmer provided a predictable food supply. Men were free of seasonal famine. But men were not satisfied with what the surface of the earth offered and began to dig into the bowels of the earth for metals. Mischievous iron, and more mischievous gold, were produced. War sprang up. Cadmus is a character in Greek mythology who is identified also as a real king of Phoenicia. He sowed the dragon’s teeth, which brought forth a crop of armed men. However, he also brought to Greece the alphabet from Phoenicia. From this learning supposedly sprang Greek civilization and with it the deterioration of the Golden Age of innocence.


Known deposits of gold were widespread in antiquity. Ancient Egyptian production was so extensive that it approached a monopoly for several thousand years. Up to the first millennium B.C. virtually all gold production was under the control of the Pharaoh. During the early third millennium B.C., Egyptian merchants were exploring the east coast of Africa and the Arabian coasts. The now lost city of Punt was a trading center that offered gold and rare spices to the Egyptians. It is believed to be in what is now Somalia. The Egyptians established a gold mining colony in Mashonaland, inland from the mouth of the Zambezi River. Five treasure ships left Punt for Kosseir to bring the gold, myrrh and other treasures to Queen Hatshepsut. After 2000 B.C., the Twelfth Dynasty rulers pushed the frontiers south into Nibia and beyond the Second Cataract of the Nile. The vast gold deposits around the area were agressively explored and exploited. The gold fields in the mountains between the Nile and the Red Sea, near the area of the First Cataract on the Nile were also exploited by the Egyptians. The ancient historian Diodorus Siculs wrote an extensive manuscript describing these mines which have survived to modern times.


The beginning of civilization developed with the beginning of agricultural settlements, which created a reliable food supply. Trade soon developed between settlements, but food could not be transported over long distances without loss to spoilage. Gold could be transported and soon became an acceptable medium of exchange. It had been a demand-commodity for centuries and was always in short supply. Small quantities of gold could be traded for supplies and for trade goods at the end of the trade route; yet, it did not require extra beasts of burden to transport a lot of wealth in gold.

What was the source of the gold used in the earliest barter systems? History tells us that gold was the first recycled commodity in civilization. Gold from West Africa, Asia and Europe found its way to Egypt and was buried with the Pharaohs. Gold from looted tombs was quickly melted down and mixed with other gold. By the fifth century B. C., the gold that was in the treasuries of the political powers was a melting pot of gold from all over the known world. A good example of this was the third millennium city of Ur, in Mesopotamia. The Ur culture stretched along the lower Euphrates Valley, about 2600 B.C., and consisted of many small city-states. The Tigris and Euphrates Valley had no native gold, yet a surprising amount of archaeological gold has been found there. It is believed that all this gold came from trade with other cultures such as the Samarians, Egyptians and peoples of central Asia. There was a lot of gold available from the Ural-Altai region of central Asia where alluvial gold had been worked since prehistoric times. Gold came by caravan from Arabia, west of present day Bahrein, from upper Yemen and from near Aden. Another source known to the ancient cultures was in the region of Midia, below the Gulf of ‘Aquaba. From Macedonia, gold came from the mines on the flanks of Mount Bermius.

Another city-state was Alaca-Huyuk in central Turkey that supported a culture which buried gold with its kings. In 1935 a tell, or mound, was opened. It was a 2500 B.C. undisturbed royal necropolis. The tombs produced a fabulous treasure of finely worked gold from this Bronze Age culture. The city was at the center of three trade routes: to Mesopotamia, to the Black Sea, and to the Aegean Sea. Gold from all over the civilized world passed through this crossroads city-state, where the gold was mixed and smelted into the common melting pot of recycled gold.

At Pylos, in Mycenae, gold was a rare commodity reserved for the ruling class. It was used to settle taxes and as a donation to the temples. It was also used to buy off potential raiders. Yet, within the kingdom, only tiny amounts of native gold were known to be produced. Gold in these cultures was a trade commodity, where even gold-poor kingdoms acquired enough gold through trade to support its use as a medium of exchange for the ruling classes.


The use of standardized metal weights under government control was first introduced into Western Civilization at Sardis, capitol of the Lydian Empire, in what is now Turkey. By 700 B.C. Sardis was the center of trade in the area with trade routes stretching to Persia, Egypt, Greece, Assyria, and beyond. The Lydian culture stretched from the River Hylas to the Aegean Sea. Archaeological evidence shows that the first true coins in Western civilization were issued in Sardis about 640 B.C. by King Ardys. Small round ingots of electrum, found in alluvial deposits in the streams of nearby mountains, were minted with an incised square for the reverse and his totem animal, the fore part of a lion, for the obverse. This is confirmed in the writings of a fifth century B.C. Greek historian who credited the Lydians with striking the first electrum and gold coins.

Electrum coins were outlawed by King Croesus (560-546 B.C.) and gold or silver coins were issued. Pure metal coins were necessary to encourage trade relations with Greece, where electrum was not found native in the alluvial deposits. The Greeks would not accept electrum coins in trade. The early source of the gold for coinage was gold mined from the alluvial deposits in Lydia and Greece. Thasos was a rich land south of Thrace that had prolific gold mines and a controlling interest in mainland silver mines during the sixth century B.C. In Greece, the right to issue coins was reserved for political authorities and heads of state.

In 546 B.C. the Persians overran Lydia and adopted the use of coinage without changing the Lydian style or technology. However, they did bring a wealth of gold taken from Egypt. At their peak, they looted 40,000 pounds of gold a year from Egypt. This was mostly Ethiopian gold now melted into the Asian melting pot. The Persians also had their own gold supply. The Arabian shore of the Red Sea offered alluvial deposits so rich that the Greek historian Diodurus wrote that the alluvial mud positively glittered. Gold mines used to provide new gold to early mints were in operation at Phoenicia, Syria, Phrygia and Lampsacus. The river Oxus, known today as Amu Darya, which emptied into the Caspian Sea, was legendary to the Greeks for its alluvial gold. Meanwhile, Lampsacus, at the Dardanelles, issued electrum coinage in the fifth century B.C. and changed to gold in the fourth century B.C. to encourage trade with the Greeks.

A primary Greek deposit of alluvial gold was the river Pactolus which drained the Anatolian Highlands. Today the exact location of the river is uncertain and the gold strata are no longer being eroded. It was the gold from these sources that King Croesus used to issue the first true coinage backed by his crown. Because Greece as a whole had inadequate gold resources to support an extensive gold coinage, silver, for the first time, became the medium of exchange and the gold to silver ratio was set at 1:13. A noted exception to the silver coinage was the issue by Athens of gold coins from 407 to 404 B.C. to pay for the Peloponnesian War.

Philip I of Macedonia issued a prolific gold coinage after the conquest of northern Greece in 348 B.C. Philip II provided the Greeks with their first practical gold coinage from the gold mines at Thrace, Macedonia. So much gold became available that the ratio of gold to silver changed to 1:10. . Inflation had been introduced into civilization. Modern hindsight might well call this the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse (after Death, War, Famine, and Pestilence). Alexander the Great increased the gold coin supply from bullion taken from the Persian treasuries. Gold was again being recycled and not all coinage was produced from gold mined for coinage.


The growth of Rome began at a time when the world supply of gold was mounting to a very great volume and was widely disseminated. Like Greece, the Romans began their rise to power with very little gold in their natural resources.

The first Roman gold came from the river Po in the western Alps and from southern Piedmont. Rome was slow to acquire vast amounts of gold and even forbade burial of gold with the deceased after 450 B.C. The Second Punic War gave Rome the prize that changed its gold position. The acquisition of Spain brought stupendous amounts of gold to Rome. Gold came from the mines and alluvial deposits in the Aduar Basin, the Malaga district, the Plains of Granada and the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Gold is still found in these places today. Rome also got, from the treasuries of Syracuse, 2700 pounds of gold.

Roman conquest brought gold to the Imperial treasury from the far reaches of the Empire. Gold was recycled to produce many of the gold coins issued during the time of the Roman Empire. Roman Imperial gold coins circulated far beyond the frontiers on a vast scale, making it the first world coinage. The coins most circulated were those of Augustus. The gold for these coins was mined, and the coins minted, on a large scale, at Lugdunum in Gaul and at Calagurris in northern Spain. There has been prolific gold mining at these sites since antiquity. Caesar provided another source of gold with the conquest of Britain. The geographer Strabo wrote that gold was one of the commodities exported to Rome after Caesar’s triumph in Britain. The Romans extracted gold from mines at Wales, Devon and Cornwall.

The price of mining gold took a leap when the Romans developed hydraulic mining in the Spanish mines. Rivers were re-channeled and destroyed. Strabo wrote that this method produced more gold than the deep mines. Some of the Roman mines in Spain were 650 feet deep. Slaves in the mines never saw the light of day. The mines were worked until they collapsed on their inhabitants.

Roman Egypt issued the first coinage in that ancient land. The first systematic mining and use of gold occurred in the Nile Valley, yet the Pharaohs did not issue a coinage apart from a very few and minor issues. After the death of Alexander the Great the Ptolemies became the ruling class in the land of the Pharaohs. They promptly issued a prolific coinage of heavy gold coins.

As the influence of Rome expanded to include most of the known world, their sources of gold and their hunger for it expanded as well. Gold was taken from the Rhine River, from mines at Vercellae and from Transylvania. It was brought in trade from the Atlantic coast of central Africa, and from the sources of the Egyptians. Gold from all over the world flowed into Rome. The wealth of gold reached a point where massive statues of pure gold were displayed. The wife of Emperor Claudius, Agrippina, in A.D. 49, wore a tunic of plaited gold thread. She poisoned her husband five years later so that her son, Nero, could become emperor. Then Nero had her murdered five years later.

All this Roman gold was scattered over Europe and Asia when the barbarian invaders sacked Rome. This sacking ended the systematic accumulation of gold on a large scale in Europe until after the Dark Ages.


In a relatively short period of time, from 640 B.C. to the end of the Roman Empire, civilization saw the intense evolution in the use and value of gold and its use in coinage. The demand for it caused the development of mining techniques that vastly increased the availability. War and conquest produced a melting pot that recycled gold from all world sources into a common pot. Gold went from a possession of royalty to a medium of exchange available to the average citizens of the Roman Empire. The power of Rome was based in large part on the use of gold to extend its influence and culture across the known world. Gold, which is too soft to be used for weapons and tools, cannot help produce a food crop or heal the sick. It offered no practical benefit to ancient society beyond its possession, but had become the ultimate possession and measure of wealth of civilization.



By Lawrence Wandell

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Gold is said to be so rare that the world pours more steel in an hour than it has poured gold since time began.

Gold is one of the world’s most precious metals.

All of the gold in the world could be compressed into an 18-yard cube, which is about 1/10 the mass of the Washington Monument.

It is recorded that only 88,000 tons of gold have been taken from the earth since recorded history, leaving far more yet to be discovered.

A one-ounce gold nugget is more rare to find than a five-carat diamond.

The amount of gold nuggets being found in the world is less than one percent.

Even though gold is rare, it is far easier to find than winning a major state lottery.

Because of its rarity, a gold nugget can be worth three to four times the value of the gold it contains.

An authentic gold nugget has long been considered a gemstone because of its rarity and beauty.

Gold is so heavy that one cubic foot of it weighs half a ton.

Gold is six to seven times heavier than other materials that equal its size.

The largest gold nugget found in the U.S. weighed 195 pounds; it came from California.

Gold can be hammered so thin that sunlight can shine through it.

A single ounce of gold can be drawn into a wire 60 miles long.

Gold can be hammered into sheets so thin that a pile of them an inch high would contain more than 200,000 separate sheets.

In every cubic mile of sea water there is 25 tons of gold! That’s a total of about 10 billion tons of gold in the oceans; however, there’s no known way to economically recover it.

Gold is considered one of the most important metals in jewelry making.

Gold is so soft it is seldom used in its pure form.

Jewelry that is marked 10K is made of 10 parts gold, and 14 parts other metals.

The hardness of pure gold (on moh’s scale) is 2-1/2 to 3; the melting point is 2,063 degrees Fahrenheit, specific gravity is 19.32, and tensile strength is 19,000psi.

Gold can be transmitted from platinum by nuclear reaction. But, because of the rarity of platinum, it is far too costly.

The United States government banned private ownership of gold, which lasted 41 years; then lifted it on December 31, 1974.

Gold reached a previous all-time high price of $800 per ounce in 1980.

South Africa is the largest producing gold country in the world today. (that may now be China)

An ounce of gold is based on troy weight–20 pennyweights or 480 grains. A pound of gold is 12 ounces, while most other non-precious metals are based on the standard avoirdupois scale of 16 ounces to the pound, and approximately 32 grams to the ounce.

Gold is chemically liquified and injected into the muscles of thousands of rheumatoid arthritis victims in the U.S., and it is said that the treatment is successful in seven out of ten cases.

Gold is used in window glass and astronaut helmets to reflect infrared rays while allowing sunlight to pass through, and at the same time keeping it cool.

Gold is inactive chemically and is not affected by air, heat, moisture and ordinary solvents.

The largest gold mine in the U.S. is the Homestake Mining Company in Lead, South Dakota.

One of the best ways to get beyond your own uncertainty of what natural gold looks and feels like is to get your hands on some of the real thing. Once you have experienced real gold, you are much less likely to make mistakes.


By Al Schulz


Prior to American discoveries, Europe enjoyed the distinction of being the world’s largest producer and hoarder of gold. First it came from the areas of the Mediterranean and then from Africa. The 16th century brought Spanish explorers to search for gold in Central and South America. The looting of Aztec and Inca temples from Mexico to Peru followed, and more gold than the world had ever seen flowed back to Spain. South America had supplied most of the world’s gold until the early 1800’s.

In 1513 the Caribbean island of Cuba became a Spanish stronghold in the Americas when gold was discovered. Mining continued for 20 years before supplies dwindled, sending gold seekers to other islands and eventually South America. Estimates range between 600-800 thousand ounces of gold recovered before fortune seekers moved on.

America’s movement towards independence in the 1770’s brought England’s European rivals into the picture. Since we suffered from a shortage of gold, France, and Spain to a lesser degree, loaned the Colonies over $20 million in gold and silver. This eventually saved the independence movement, since our Continental dollars were not backed by gold. Our own first major gold discovery would not come until almost three decades later (1799) in North Carolina.

Georgia gold was first discovered on Cherokee Indian territory in 1828, an area which later became known as Dahlonega (Indian name for “yellow money”). The federal government established a mint in the area in 1838 which produced gold coinage in excess of $6,000,000 until 1861. That year, with the advent of the Civil War, the mint at Dahlonega closed down its operations as Georgia withdrew from the Union.

Even presidents find gold! Thomas Jefferson, third chief executive of these United States (1801-1809), reported finding a four pound rock-bound specimen that contained an ounce of gold. This was in his native Virginia, one of the first gold producing colonies.

The California gold rush of 1849 was quickly followed by rushes to Australia in 1851, South Africa in 1886 and Alaska and Canada in the 1890’s. In less than half a century the world’s supply of gold had more than doubled.

The first year of the California gold rush was not without its problems. Diseases ran rampant in many mining camps. Lack of sanitary facilities brought outbreaks of cholera and dysentery in the more crowded gold fields.

A lack of fresh fruits and vegetables caused an ailment called scurvy in which there is a lack of vitamin C. The results were bleeding gums, loose and lost teeth, exhaustion and diarrhea.

When physicians were called in to treat miners they often succumbed to “gold fever” and wound up ignoring their own health.

Crime, surprisingly, was minimal. Theft was made virtually obsolete in the face of so much wealth just lying around in local rivers and streams. That changed, however, once the “pickings” got leaner and claims were disputed.

By the end of the first year of the 1849 California gold rush it is estimated that close to 100,000 individuals seeking their fortunes had made it to area diggings. They came from foreign lands as well. In fact 25% of all 49’ers were not Americans. They hailed from as far away as China, Australia, England and France.

1850 marked the year that the Foreign Miners Tax was evoked. Talk about discrimination–this tax of $20 a month was primarily aimed at Chinese and Mexican workers, but affected all foreign gold seekers as well.

Due mostly to the protests of Irish, English and German miners, the fee was lowered to $4 monthly in early 1853.

Many of the people who came from other lands during the gold rush to California did not necessarily come of their own free will! Australia emptied many of her overcrowded prisons and shipped criminals to America’s gold fields. Louis Napoleon, president of France, held a lottery in 1850 that would send the poor to California to seek their fortunes. This too was just a way of unloading undesirables, political enemies, prostitutes, etc., while lining his own pockets with the lottery proceeds.

Sam Brannan will go down in the annals of history as an extraordinarily astute businessman. During the first year of the California gold rush, instead of heading to the newly discovered gold sites, he stayed behind to open several general stores. These were located in and around the area of Sutter’s mill and fort. They were stocked with all the provisions needed by miners in the field such as picks, shovels, pans, and food.

It is said that Brannan bought up every available pan to be had in San Francisco at 20 cents each and later sold them for anywhere from $10 to $15 each. The store

at the fort is estimated to have grossed nearly $40,000 during the first four months. Most of his accepted payment was in gold and he amassed a fortune without ever putting a pan in water.

Just ten short years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, California had extracted more than half a billion dollars worth of gold. This was 35 times the amount the United States paid Mexico for the California Territories.

At the start of the California gold rush there was no fixed price for the yellow metal. It was a supply and demand situation, with a fluctuating value between a low of $6 per ounce to a high of $18 per ounce. The price finally stabilized in 1854 at $16 per ounce with the opening of a branch of the United States Mint in San Francisco.

Much has been written about all the silver that had been mined at Virginia City’s Comstock Lode, but it was gold that started that rush. In twenty years of mining, the major ore was silver (57%), but gold was second by only a small margin (43%).

Placer deposits provided the earliest recoverable gold (nuggets in streams and rivers). Then men had to tunnel into the earth to extract lode deposits. Today it is deep (2,000 ft.) drillings in sedimentary limestone rock and epithermal deposits in ancient reefs that provide the gold. The earlier discoveries of sculptured and well defined nuggets are becoming harder to find with each passing decade, especially in higher weight categories. A one-ounce, high character nugget today is harder to find than a comparable five-carat diamond.

Alaska first heard the cry of “gold” in 1896. The region was the Klondike in Canada’s Yukon Territory. It immediately shifted thousands of workers from productive salmon fishing and fur trapping and lured them to the gold fields. The bureau of Geological and Geophysical Survey estimates that Alaskan miners and prospectors are recovering around 150,000 ounces of placer gold annually.

Goldfield, Nevada — the ghost town that wouldn’t die! Being rebuilt and recreated as a major tourist attraction, it had been in a state of arrested decay until recently. This meant that no further erosion of existing facilities would take place. Now, however, renovations and reconstruction are progressing at a record pace.

Most recently, the attraction that has brought more visitors as well as gold seekers to the area is the report of a single discovery of a 1 1/4 ounce nugget in the area of the Goldfield Hotel on Columbia Street. In the early 1900’s, $90,000,000 in mineral wealth was unearthed in Goldfield, which is situated on Hwy. 95 between Reno and Las Vegas.

Is a large single gold nugget find still possible? Judge for yourself! Jack Bray of Feysville, Australia unearthed a 267-ounce nugget dubbed the “Golden Aussie” in August of 1980. He sold his “monster” for $250,000. In 1983 at a large placer mining operation in Sierra Pelada, Brazil, a prospector unearthed a 137-pound nugget that fetched one million dollars on the open market. Latest U.S. finds: Carl Brunner, a 35-ounce “rock” found in the Wrangell mountains of Alaska. It assayed out at 75% gold in 1989. Also in 1989 at a mining operation in Montana a 27-ounce nugget, .900 fine in purity, was discovered by Arthur Fulmer… Yes, they are still out there! And let’s not forget the recent huge nugget find in California. A gigantic 60-pound chunk of gold was discovered near Jamestown by workers at the Sonora Mining Corp. The 60 pounder was nearly three feet in length and six inches thick. This big nugget has touched off a new rush to the area, just 200 miles from Sutter’s Mill, the site of the strike that started the 1849 California gold rush.

Australia has had some giant nugget finds. There is, of course, the largest nugget ever found in that country, the “Welcome Stranger.” Discovered in 1869, it weighed an incredible 2,284 ounces. The “Golden Eagle,” unearthed in 1931, weighed in at 1,235 ounces. More recently was the “Golden Aussie” mentioned above.

Australia was the first to apply names to its larger nugget finds. Most notably the Welcome Stranger, Hand of Faith, Little Hero and Poseidon come to mind. Several of these nuggets appeared, until recently, on Australia’s gold coins.

If you want to see one of these spectacular nuggets up close, the 62 pound “Hand of Faith” nugget resides in the lobby of the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, purchased several years ago for one million dollars.