Professionals generally obtain gold through mining or sluicing, while amateurs often pan for gold or try to find nuggets mixed with the gravel in creek beds. However, it is also possible to find veins of gold mixed with solid rock formations, usually quartz. Once you find one of these veins and collect specimens, the gold can be extracted from the quartz matrix. However, many people enjoy making jewelry of the gold-streaked quartz just as it occurs naturally.
Research potential gold-laden sites and decide on one to visit. A simple online search will give you some leads as to where you’re most likely to find gold.
Visit the site you picked in step 1, bringing your hammer, chisel, water bottle, toothbrush and optional metal detector with you.
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Look around for solid stretches of rock. These might be directly under your feet, or they may be in nearby hills or cliffs. If your prospecting site is near a gold-rich river or stream, keep in mind that gold is heavy and may have eroded out of the banks or any nearby high places.
Look for quartz in the rock veins you’ve found. It is a very heavy and strong crystalline-looking mineral that usually occurs in white, though it may also be clear, pink or gray.
Set your metal detector to find gold and slowly wave it back and forth over the veins of quartz. While this step is optional, it can help you determine where the most gold is and also provide encouragement that gold is actually there.
Visually examine the quartz looking for gold. If the quartz is muddy, you may wish to pour some of your water over it and use the toothbrush to clean off the mud so you’ll have a clearer view.
Use your hammer and chisel to remove the gold-laden quartz from the surrounding rock.
Keep your eyes peeled for loose quartz that has already eroded out of the surrounding rock, as these pieces may also contain gold.
Before collecting rocks, and especially before using your hammer and chisel, find out what the local laws are regarding prospecting and collecting.