What is placer gold and how much is it worth?

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Written By Monica

We often get asked what is placer gold? Isn’t gold just gold?

Placer gold is a naturally occurring gold that is not attached to any rock or other type of mineral. It’s the kind of gold that prospectors and small-scale miners usually hunt for, and you’ll see it on popular tv shows and movies as “gold dust” or “gold nuggets.”

Placer Gold vs. Lode Gold: The only 2 natural gold deposits

Placer gold deposits are the children of lode gold deposits.

Lode gold is a gold deposit that is still locked in rock. To get the gold out of a lode gold deposit you need to break up the material and chemically extract the gold. It is often not very concentrated.

As such, lode gold mining is typically done by large mining companies with deep pockets and lots of expensive equipment.

But when the earth’s forces move gold-bearing material, such as quartz, to the surface, natural erosion wears off smaller pieces of gold.

This is placer gold.

different placer gold deposits

As seen in the September/October 2020 Gold Prospectors Magazine

That gold is free from the rock now to travel down rivers and streams and concentrate in certain areas.

Prospectors can recover that placer gold (in the form of dust or nuggets) using pans, metal detectors, highbankers, dredges, sluices, and all the common tools used to hunt gold today.

Learn to pan gold at home!

Buy real gold paydirt and gold-by-the-gram straight from the Bering Sea.

We know where it’s from, because we sucked it up the nozzle ourselves.

Real Gold Pay Dirt from Bering Sea Gold

Placer Gold vs. Alluvial Gold

Alluvial deposits are a type of placer gold deposit that’s been transported by water and deposited in a new location.

Since most beginner prospectors hunt for gold in streams and rivers you’ll sometimes hear folks us the terms “placer gold” and “alluvial gold” interchangeably.

These natural concentrations of placer gold can form in different ways and in different places. Here’s a list of types of placer deposits from Chris Ralph’s video about the Geology of placer deposits:

  • Residual deposits
  • Hillside (eluvial) deposits
  • Water sorted (alluvial) deposits
  • River bench deposits
  • Ancient river deposits
  • Beach deposits
  • Wind formed (desert eolian) deposits

How do you find placer gold?

You find placer gold where it’s already been found. You also find it with a lot of patience, the right equipment, and a good understanding of where placer gold concentrates.

When it comes to actually finding placer gold, the most common method is to use a gold pan, metal detector or sluice box. Metal detectors and gold pans are used to locate the presence of gold in a specific area, while sluices are used to separate the gold from the sediment.

How pure is placer gold?

Placer gold is typically 70-90% pure, with copper, silver, and other impurities making up the rest.

24k “pure” 99.99% gold is not found in nature. It’s the result of smelting and refining processes.

Read our natural gold purity guide for more information. It might surprise you just how “impure” your placer gold is!


What is placer gold worth?

Placer gold is valued based on the purity of the gold and the spot price of gold at the time of sale.

However, not all buyers will pay spot price. Any buyer who is in the business of buying and selling gold will purchase for some % under spot price, and sell it for some % over.

So while placer gold might be “worth” a certain amount on a certain day, you probably won’t get exactly that number when selling. But if you’re going to a reputable buyer, you should get close to spot!

Where do you sell placer gold?

You can sell placer gold to a private buyer, a gold refiner, or even a pawn shop. In our experience you will get the best deal from national refiners with good reputations.

Now that you know what placer gold is, it’s time to get out there and find some of your own!

Head over to our How to Find Gold: The Ultimate Gold Prospecting Guide. It’s over 10,000 words of great tips, tricks and advice on how to find gold from real prospectors who know what they’re talking about. It’s basically a free book!

We’re always updating it with more helpful information so you can keep learning from the top gold prospectors.

Real Gold by Emily Riedel from Bering Sea Gold

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