Homemade Gold Panning

By Kristi Waterworth
gold, a valuable occupation, a challenging hobby
batée 02 image by thierry planche from Fotolia.com

A tranquil spring day spent along a wild, blue stream can only be made better if there's gold. In many of the streams and rivers in the world, gold can still be found with just a few simple tools and a eye for things that sparkle in the mud. Panning for gold is so simple, even a child can do it: it's a great activity for the whole family.

Choose a spot in the river where the water is not too deep and the stream moves swiftly, but not so fast that it washes away everything in your pan. The water should be clear near the top so you can see what into your pan.

Put a classifier or sieve in your pan, scoop soil and gravel from the bank of the stream, and place it in the classifier. Submerge the classifier and pan in the water and give it a shake, rotating it several times, until the finer particles fall through the mesh.

Remove the classifier and look carefully through its contents. Look for any gold chunks in the classifier (it is very unlikely to find large pieces of gold), discard the contents and put the classifier away.

Place your pan just below the surface of the water, so you can see inside it while still controlling what happens to the contents of your pan. Any gold will settle to the bottom during the panning process because it is so much heavier than mud and silt.

Tilt the pan to a 45 degree angle with the ridges pointing down into the stream. Dunk it in the water several times to get rid of smaller sand and pebbles and to wash away the silt. Break up any clumps with your hands, as they may hold little bits of gold.

Grasp the gold pan with both hands under the water, shifting it in a right-left motion until some of the heavier materials come out, and so you can see inside the pan. Some people prefer a circular motion, or a combination of both motions.

Continue this process until nothing but dark sand and gold are on the bottom. The dark sand is actually iron oxide. The gold is heavier than the iron oxide; wash as much of this out as you can without losing any gold.

Remove the gold one of two ways. One way is to pan down until only the gold remains, which requires practice and risks losing some gold. This method takes some skill, but saves time in the gold harvesting. Pour the contents of your pan through a funnel and into a small jar. The other way to clean your gold is to pick the bits of gold out using a pair of tweezers or a squeeze bottle.