Gold Facts

Gold Facts

Gold Prospecting - Gold Facts

Gold Facts

Luckily for gold prospectors all over the world, gold has some characteristics that allow it to separate itself away from other materials, we will look at these characteristics on this page. Before delving into these characteristics, i will first go through some weird and quirky facts about gold –


  • more molten steel is poured in an hour by industry than all of the gold that has ever been found
  • gold is 72nd on the list of The Abundance of Elements in the Earths crust. For example,the most abundant element in Earths crust is oxygen, then silicon, then aluminium, then iron – gold is 72nd on this list.
  • it is estimated that 80% of the gold on planet Earth is still in the ground
  • 1 ounce of gold can be beaten & stretched into a thread over 5 miles long. It can also be hammered into a sheet so thin that light can pass through  – gold is the most malleable metal known to man.
  • golds electricity and heat conducting properties make it ideal for high end electronics
  • pure gold reflects heat almost completely, this is why you will see it on the sun visors of astronauts
  • gold is chemically inert, for that reason it never rusts or erodes and is essentially immortal. This inertness should also mean that jewellery made from a high carat gold will not irritate your skin, if it does, bring it back to where you got it and ask some questions :)
  • Between A.D. 307 and 324, the price of one pound of gold in Rome rose from 100,000 denarii (a Roman coin) to 300,000 denarii. By the middle of the fourth century, a pound of gold was worth 2,120,000,000 denarii—an early example of runaway inflation, which was partly responsible for the collapse of the Roman Empire. Worryingly, we may have this same issue arising now ourselves, more here – Why Prospect for Gold?
  • Carat weight can be 10, 12, 14, 18, 22, or 24. The higher the number, the greater the purity. To be called “solid gold,” gold must have a minimum weight of 10 carats. “Pure gold” must have a carat weight of 24. Pure gold is so soft that it can be molded by hand.
  • gold has a density of 19.32, this puts it among the most dense elements in the universe. Elements that are heavier than gold generally tend to be radioactive, apart from platinum.

The most important fact above for us gold prospectors is golds density or specific gravity, it is almost 20 times more dense than water, the only things close in density will be platinum, magnetic black sands and the odd precious stone. It would be ideal if it were 20 times less dense than everything else in the river as this would allow it to float on the waters surface, delivering it straight into our waiting scoops, however, there’s a flip side to that gold coin, if gold was to float on the rivers surface it would –

  • be nowhere near as scarce
  •  as a result be completely worthless.

Gold’s rarity and difficulty in finding is the single reason why it is so expensive. For that reason it has been used as currency all over the world for the past 5000 years. Imagine if sand were instead used as currency – you could simply walk down to the nearest beach, grab a handful and have a tradable commodity, but that would never work. A viable commodity always needs to be something that is difficult to find, takes hard work and knowledge to extract and lasts a long time. Gold fulfils all of those criteria – the golden statues crafted by the Ancient Egyptians are still as pristine now as they were the day when the gifted metalworker created them, if left untouched, they will remain this way for billions of years and probably until the end of the universe!!!

Gold Prospecting density tester

Gold density tester

Nature gives away nothing for free, there’s always a price to pay. Gold is dense, scarce,very tough and almost immune to the passage of time (all the gold on planet earth has been created in the heart of a dying star and is billions of years old, yet it still retains its beautiful yellow gleam), if we want some of this magical stuff, its gonna make us work for it :).

With golds density being so high and liquefaction (read more about liquefaction here) occurring throughout the riverbed, especially during floods, the gold eventually finds its way down to the lower levels of the riverbed. It will be found in the river gravels of the current river and may also be found in the river gravels of previous rivers that may have run a long time ago, but no longer do.

So yes, you guessed it, if you want to find gold, you have to dig, then dig some more and a little bit more, and eventually, if you are in a gold bearing location you WILL find gold, all it takes its a little sweat, a little persistence and a lot of knowledge.


In the above examples i am talking about alluvial gold – gold which has been broken free from its source (a gold bearing quartz vein) by the relentless forces of mother nature and eventually found its way into a river system. Alluvial gold is usually found in small grains ranging from a similar size to the average salt grain, right down to sizes almost imperceptible to the human eye. Prospecting for alluvial gold is referred to as “Placer Mining”, with Placer coming from the Spanish “to please”, this term is used because placer mining is a lot easier than the other methods of gold prospecting.


Other types of gold deposits are – lode deposits, residual deposits, bench deposits, streambed deposits, ancient riverbeds and flood layers.

Now that you understand the physical characteristics of gold, ie. its density compared to the other materials in the river gravels, we can now visualize what will be happening inside the river system and where the gold will deposit itself, this will make it easier for a prospector to recover more gold for less work.

Now its time to see how gold is distributed throughout and gravels and as a result, where to find gold in a river.