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Monday, November 29, 2010

How Gold was recovered in the past

Gold was the first metal discovered by man as it is found in nature as a pure metal that is commonly found in the beds of streams as gold nuggets.  The earliest gold miners before the dawn of history limited their production to whatever gold nuggets they were able to find.

A flat stone like those used in early gold recovery
It didn't take the early miners long to discover that there was much finer gold particles in the sands of the streams as well as nuggets.  It didn't take nearly miners very long to discover they could recover this gold hidden in the sand that because of its weight would remain behind while the lighter sand particles could be washed away by running water.

A goldpan used during the California Goldrush

Man being the ingenious creature he is used a flat stone set at a slight angle to wash the sands leaving the particles of gold behind as the water took the lighter particles of sand.  Gold is 19 times heavier then water while most of the sand had a density of about three times of water.  This was an early demonstration of what is now called gravity separation, a method still in use.

Jason seizing the Golden Fleece
We are all familiar with the Greek Myth of “Jason and the Golden Fleece.  The dwellers living around the Black Sea used to put sheepskins in the bed of streams coming down from the mountains to catch any gold washed down from those same mountains.  This ancient mining method is still made use of in the bottoms of high-bankers and sluice boxes to catch gold particles.  However today they use indoor/outdoor carpet or old conveyor belts to entrap the gold.

In many countries they made use of a shallow wooden box to separate gold from sand, a practice still in use in some countries.  This was their form of a gold pan, and even today the use of square gold pans has made a big comeback.  They are touted to be the latest thing in gold recovery, but in reality they have been in use for centuries. 

The modern goldpan is a recent discovery that was first used by the 49ers during the California Goldrush.  The original goldpans were something knocked together by some nameless tinsmith that were used by the miners to pan for gold along the gold-bearing streams.


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