Different Types of Gold – The Field Guide

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Written By Monica

Imagine yourself as a rugged adventurer, setting off on a thrilling quest filled with mystery, suspense, and the allure of gleaming riches. This pulse-pounding journey isn’t some far-fetched tale—it’s the real-life world of gold prospecting, where fortune favors the tenacious and the resourceful. To succeed in this high-stakes game, you’ll need to arm yourself with knowledge, grit, and determination to uncover the glittering treasures that lie hidden beneath the Earth’s surface.

Whether you’re a seasoned gold hunter or a greenhorn eager to stake your claim, this field guide will serve as your treasure map, unveiling the secrets and techniques needed to unlock the bountiful riches hidden within the Earth. So, lace up your boots, grab your gear, and let’s embark on an unforgettable adventure as we explore the many faces of gold that are just waiting for you to find!

Gold Classification: Breaking it Down with Mesh Size

When we talk about gold classification at Bering Sea Paydirt, we’re all about mesh size. It’s like a grading system for the shiny stuff, but let’s make it crystal clear for you, fellow gold seekers. Mesh size refers to the number of openings per linear inch in a screen or classifier. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we’ll show you how we break it down into easy-to-understand categories. Remember, these aren’t universal definitions, but they work for us.

mesh sizes for gold

Flour Gold: The Sands of Fortune

what is flour gold

Flour gold, also known as gold dust or fine gold, is like the pixie dust of the gold prospecting world. These minute particles, often no larger than grains of sand, can be elusive and challenging to extract. Much like a dash of seasoning that gives your favorite steak its mouthwatering flavor, flour gold adds a touch of excitement to the gold prospector’s quest.

These ultra-fine particles are comparable in size to a pinch of table salt or a grain of sand. With their minuscule size, they are often found in the most unexpected places, like the cracks and crevices of riverbeds and streams or mixed within the very sand on the beaches of Nome, Alaska. It’s often found in deposits where the water slows down and allows the gold to settle. The swirling currents act like nature’s own centrifuge, depositing the heavier gold particles while sweeping away lighter sediment.

This is the elusive, tiny gold that slips through your fingers like whispers of wealth. It’s anything 30 mesh and smaller, meaning it can pass through a screen with 30 openings per linear inch. It’s the smallest and most challenging to catch, but well worth the effort.

To capture flour gold, you’ll need a steady hand and the right equipment. Gold panning is the most common method, but sluice boxes and spiral concentrators can also help collect this gold dust. Remember, patience and persistence are key when seeking out flour gold, as it’s often the small, unassuming discoveries that accumulate to create a fortune. 

For some of the best places to find placer gold, don’t miss our great guide to 9 of the Best Spots to Pan for Gold on the American River!

This is the majority of gold you see the gold dredges on Bering Sea Gold recovering.

Coarse Gold: The Gritty Nuggets of Glory

natural coarse gold

Coarse gold is like biting into a hearty, satisfying meal, rewarding your persistence and hard work in the field.

Their irregular shapes and textures are a testament to the rugged journey they’ve undergone, shaped by the powerful forces of nature. The weight of coarse gold adds a palpable sense of satisfaction as you hold these treasures in your hand, feeling the heft of their metallic substance.

They’re large enough to be stopped by an 8-mesh screen, but small enough to pass through a 30-mesh one, making them more noticeable than their flour gold counterparts.

It’s often discovered in riverbeds, along the banks of streams, or in ancient channels where rivers once flowed. The presence of coarse gold serves as a tantalizing sign that even larger, more valuable deposits, such as gold nuggets, may be waiting just beneath the surface.

The weight of these gritty nuggets in the palm of your hand are great indicators that there is more gold to be found.

If you’re curious on how much that gold you found could be worth, read this article, you just might be surprised!

Gold Pickers: The Pebbles of Promise

gold pickers vs gold nuggets

Imagine yourself panning the waters of a flowing river, the sun glinting off the surface as you patiently pan through sediment. Suddenly, you spot a tiny golden pebble nestled among the gravel in your gold pan. You’ve just discovered a gold picker, the next step up in size and significance from coarse gold.

Gold pickers are like subtle hints of success, offering a tantalizing taste of the riches that may lie ahead. These small nuggets are large enough to be picked up with your fingers or a pair of tweezers, making them an exciting find for both novice and experienced prospectors.

They’re comparable in size to a plump grain of rice or a corn kernel and can be found in various locations. Panning in rivers and streams often leads to the discovery of these treasures, as the flowing water deposits them among the gravel and sediment. Gold pickers can also be found within other placer deposits, nestled in the nooks and crannies where they patiently await discovery.

Pickers are typically between 8 mesh and 1 gram, making them easy to find among the other materials in your pan.

Recovering gold pickers may not require the same level of precision as flour gold, but it still demands a sharp eye and perseverance. A seasoned prospector understands that the presence of gold pickers may hint at larger deposits nearby.

Gold Nuggets: The Crown Jewels of Prospecting

real gold nuggets

Picture the excitement of standing knee-deep in a river, meticulously panning through sediment, when a brilliant glint catches your eye. As you gently wash away the remaining dirt, a gleaming gold nugget emerges. Gold nuggets are the crown jewels of prospecting. They’re what every gold prospector dreams of finding, next to the motherlode. 

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These dazzling prizes can vary greatly in size, from a hefty marble to a golf ball, or even larger in rare cases. There’s nothing like holding the weight of a gold nugget that you’ve just found after countless hours of prospecting. Gold nuggets are a testament to the power of nature, formed by geological processes over eons, and waiting patiently to be discovered.

Weighing in at 1 gram and above, nuggets are the big kahunas of the gold world.

Gold nuggets can be found in placer deposits, ancient river channels, and even in quartz veins, where they have been locked away for countless ages. Finding one makes all the hours of searching and gold panning worth it.

Gold Alloys: Unveiling Nature’s Golden Combinations

Gold is a naturally occurring element, often found in its pure form. However, sometimes it can be found combined with other elements, creating gold alloys. These alloys exhibit unique properties and appearances that can pique the interest of prospectors and collectors alike.

Electrum: A Golden Marriage of Gold and Silver

gold and silver alloy

Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, with trace amounts of other metals such as copper. Its color ranges from pale yellow to greenish-yellow, depending on the proportions of gold and silver present. Historically, electrum has been used for coinage and jewelry, valued for its beauty and durability. This alloy can be found in both placer and hard rock deposits, often in regions where gold and silver deposits coexist.

Gold-Copper Alloys: A Warm-Hued Union

gold and copper mix

Gold-copper alloys form when gold combines with copper, resulting in a warm, reddish hue. The higher the copper content, the deeper the reddish color. This alloy is known for its durability and resistance to wear, making it popular for use in jewelry and coinage. Gold-copper alloys can be found in various geological settings, including porphyry copper deposits and epithermal gold deposits, where gold and copper mineralization occurs together.

Other Gold Alloys

There are many other gold alloys, including combinations with platinum, palladium, or other metals. Each alloy exhibits distinct properties and appearances, adding variety and intrigue to the world of gold prospecting.

We have a great article that explains for about gold alloys and gold purity if you want to learn more.

Gold alloys present an exciting opportunity for prospectors to expand their knowledge and understanding of the diverse forms that gold can take. The unique properties and appearances of these alloys make them a valuable addition to any collection, showcasing the versatility and beauty of gold in its many forms.

Gold Specimens: Earth’s Rugged Masterpieces

gold mixed with quartz

Gold specimens combine the allure of gold with the fascinating complexity of geological formations. They’re an impressive fusion of gold and other minerals.

Gold specimens come in various shapes, sizes, and compositions, often featuring gold interwoven with minerals like quartz, iron, pyrite, or even rare ones like rhodochrosite and fluorite. These exceptional finds are typically unearthed in hard rock deposits, such as quartz veins or other mineralized zones within or near bedrock, where gold has been locked away alongside other minerals for millennia.

These one-of-a-kind pieces are highly sought after by collectors and prospectors alike, adding a touch of rugged charm to any collection.

Intricate Gold Forms: Wire, Leaf, and Sponge Gold

wire gold in quartz

As you delve into the world of gold prospecting, you’ll come across a fascinating array of gold types, each with its unique characteristics. Three captivating forms of gold—wire gold, leaf gold, and sponge gold—share similarities in their formation processes and environments but exhibit distinct features that set them apart.

Wire Gold: Delicate Golden Threads

what is wired gold

Wire gold is a crystalline form of gold, characterized by its thin, wiry strands or curly filaments. It forms when gold atoms align in a specific pattern, creating these unique wire-like structures. Wire gold can be found intertwined within the matrix of quartz or other minerals, highlighting the intricate artistry of nature’s design.

Leaf Gold: Nature’s Golden Sheets

real natural gold leaf

Leaf gold, on the other hand, is characterized by its thin, flat appearance, reminiscent of delicate sheets of gold leaf used in art and decoration. It forms when gold atoms align in a lattice structure, creating a thin and flat morphology. Leaf gold is usually embedded within the matrix of quartz or other host minerals.

Sponge Gold: Porous Golden Textures

what is gold sponge

Sponge gold is distinguished by its irregular, porous texture, evocative of the structure of a natural sea sponge. It forms when gold precipitates from a gold-bearing solution, with the gold atoms aligning in an irregular pattern, creating a sponge-like texture with numerous tiny cavities and crevices.

All three forms—wire gold, leaf gold, and sponge gold—can be found in hard rock deposits, often within or adjacent to quartz veins or other mineral-rich zones, as well as in placer deposits where they have been concentrated by natural processes. Despite their similarities in formation and location, the specific conditions leading to each type of gold formation can vary, resulting in their unique morphologies and textures.

The rarity and eye-catching appearance make them a desirable find for both collectors and gold enthusiasts, providing an intriguing conversation piece that showcases nature’s ability to create captivating forms.

Gold Crystals: Unearthing Nature’s Geometric Wonders

are there gold crystals

Gold crystals, nature’s geometric masterpieces, stand apart from typical gold specimens. These eye-catching formations boast well-defined shapes like cubes, octahedrons, or dodecahedrons, emerging under specific conditions in hydrothermal settings where gold-rich fluids circulate within the Earth’s crust. Gold atoms crystallize as the fluids cool or react with nearby rocks, aligning in regular patterns to create distinct shapes.

Unearthing gold crystals is an exhilarating feat for gold prospectors. These rare formations can be found in hard rock and placer deposits alike. Within hard rock deposits, gold crystals reside in quartz veins or mineral-rich zones, while placer deposits see gold crystals concentrated alongside other gold forms, thanks to natural processes like river action or glaciation.

Coveted by collectors for their unique shapes, mesmerizing beauty, and rarity, gold crystals offer a fascinating insight into the intricate world of mineralogy and geology. Each crystal represents the powerful forces and conditions shaping gold deep within the Earth.

With the ability to distinguish between various forms of gold, from the elusive gold dust to the impressive gold nuggets, you’re ready to face the elements and uncover these hidden gems.

So, fellow gold-seekers, it’s time to embrace the thrill of the hunt. Armed with knowledge about gold dust, flakes, pickers, and nuggets, gather your gold pans, metal detectors and sluices and step into the great outdoors. Happy hunting, and may your pans be heavy!

For tips and tricks from the experts to find all these types of gold, don’t miss our Ultimate Gold Prospecting Guide!

Real Gold by Emily Riedel from Bering Sea Gold

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