Gold Ore

Gold is and has been one of the most popular metals worldwide. If you’ve never seen a nugget in person then you’ll never understand the allure of gold. There really is something about the metal when seen in person that affects your mental state. You want to hold it, roll it in between your fingers, and analyze the size, shape, and overall appearance.

I know this sounds crazy but if you get the chance to hold a 1-4 ounce nugget in your hand then you’ll understand.

The other crazy thing about gold is panning for it or using a metal detector to find potential nuggets and digging them out of the ground. I’d compare it to fishing. Pretty boring when nothing is biting the line but it’s fun being outside and around friends. Now, when you get a ping on the detector, a bite on the line, or a yellow glimmer in the bottom of your pan then life gets interesting.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a flake or a nugget you get the same dopamine response, happier than a pig in sh*!.


gold ore with quartz


How To Identify Gold Ore

There are a handful of ways to identify Gold ore and I am by no means an expert. I’ve spent time in North Georgia panning in creek beds and running a sluice, which is a ton of fun. When it comes to Gold ore you’ll want to buy a couple of books on Amazon to enhance your knowledge. You need to get good at spotting the gold-bearing rock because that’s the precursor to finding gold ore. If you can’t spot the ore in which Gold is found then you’re going to be wasting a ton of time wondering if you’re in the right spot.

Here’s a professional gold miner tip “No one and I mean no one is going to tell you where the gold is”. They might say it’s in the area or somewhere on their land but they don’t hold your hand and walk you over to the nuggets so you can pick them up and put them in your pocket.

The best gold miners are the ones doing a ton of research before they head out into the woods.


Streak Test

You can use your fingernail to make an indent to see if there’s a yellow streak. Gold is soft and easily scratched with a fingernail, but other minerals are more rigid and hard.

Using a streak plate, scrape your specimen over the plate, applying firm pressure. The streak should be a yellowish-gray color. If the streak isn’t yellow-gray, the specimen could be Calaverite.


Gold Scratch Test

This test requires a piece of gold that’s cut open. Your specimen is either fake gold or Pyrite if there is a black streak. However, other less invasive and harmless ways exist to test potential gold ore specimens.


Acid Test

You can buy these acid test kits for pretty cheap and they’re easy to use. Take the streak plate you used above and put a drop of acid on the streak. If the streak disappears then you know what karat it is. If the streak stays then move to the next acid droplet.


Density Test

Determining the specimen’s density is one of the first steps in recovering gold from gold ore. Knowing the density of the ore makes the process more effective. The density of gold ore varies from one type to the next. Typically, impure gold is around 16 to 18 times heavier than its associated host rock, which has a density of 2.5. The differences in density make it easier to separate gold from other materials like silt and clay.



Checking the weight of a specimen allows one to learn how much gold is contained within a gold ore specimen. Its wet weight is a specimen’s weight measured while suspended in water.


Magnet Test

The magnet test can identify gold and other associated metals, including iron or placer gold. Pure gold is non-magnetic, but the magnet test can still help identify a specimen and gold alloys.


placer gold nuggets


Types of Rocks That Contain Gold

Several host rocks contain gold and you should familiarize yourself with these rocks. You need to get good at identifying visually because you won’t always have testing equipment with you.

Quartz: The gold in Quartz is nearly universally native, meaning it’s in a metallic form contained within the crystalline Quartz. It is considered to be the richest of the gold ores around.

Granite: Granite is a complex stone that comes in various colors. Interestingly, it’s a coarse-grained, Quartz-rich igneous rock. Auriferous Granite often contains gold-bearing Quartz veins, which miners seek out because of their higher gold content.

Slate: Gold can become deposited in Slate’s thin cracks and faults over time.

Basalt: This igneous stone often includes other minerals, including Quartz and Amethyst, along with other forms of silica, like Agate. It’s less of an indication of the presence of gold and more of a stone that can bear it in the right conditions.

Schist: Schist is often comprised of granular minerals like Feldspar and Quartz; while an enormous variety of stones can be included, not all contain gold.


Where To Find Gold Ore

Below are a few places in the US worth checking.


  1. Nevada’s desert
  2. California’s American River
  3. Alaskan Yukon River
  4. Old Colorado mining hot spots
  5. Lynx Creek in Arizona
  6. Dahlonega, Georgia


panning for gold nuggets


How Is Gold Ore Formed?

How gold ore is formed depends on the type. Take a look below to better understand which type of Gold deposit you’ll be looking for.


Lode Deposits – Lodes can be deposits of ore that fill fissures in rock formations or a vein of ore embedded between rock layers. Lodes form through mineralization, a process where gold dissolves in hydrothermal fluids. The groundwater flows into the fissures or layers of pre-existing rocks where the gold re-solidifies to create deposits.


Placer Deposits – These secondary deposits come from pre-existing lode or intrusion-related deposits. Placer deposits erode from the primary deposits forming via gravity separation and the alluvial process.


Intrusion-Related Deposits – These are similar to lode deposits, but instead of hydrothermal fluids, magma pushes up into the fissures and cracks of rock formations before solidifying into mineral deposits.


quartz and gold seams


Gold Processing Steps

One of the safest ways to process gold at home is crushing the rocks.

You’ll want a set of thick work gloves, earplugs, and safety goggles.


  1. Toss your rocks into an old metal container you won’t mind damaging. Toss a couple of stones inside to create a single layer. Adding too many rocks at once can make this difficult.
  2. Use a sledgehammer to bust the rocks into smaller pieces. Pebble-sized specimens are best.
  3. Using a metal rod, grind the rocks into a powder. It’s similar to working a mortar and pestle. Press, drag, and grind the rocks until the rocks are slightly larger than the holes in a mining pan.
  4. Toss your powder in a mining pan. Gold is heavy, so it naturally sinks to the bottom of the pan while submerged in water.
  5. Submerge the pan into a container of water. Make sure it’s on a level surface. Grasp the sides of the mining pan and push it down into the water.
  6. Shake your container gently until the gold is exposed at the bottom of your pan. Particles that aren’t gold will float away and mix into the water.
  7. Check your pan periodically. Pull the pan out of the water to check the pieces, pick out any gold, and toss them into a separate container. Continue shaking the pan in water until you have all your gold.
Jerred Morris
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