Anyone who pans for gold hopes to be rewarded by the glitter of colors in the fine material collected in the bottom of the pan. Although the exercise and outdoor activity experienced in prospecting are rewarding, there are few thrills comparable to finding gold. Even an assay report showing an appreciable content of gold in a sample obtained from a lode deposit is exciting. Regardless of whether you are a new prospector or a pro, the gold pan is still the most indispensable companion you can have. It is one of the first tools used in locating gold and is one of the last used, even in commercial mining to check the value of ore being processed. The Gold Pan is used wherever gold occurs in approximately 75% of all the countries in the world. Until the last twenty years the most popular pan to evolve was the steel pan. These pans came with and without ridges and typically rusted easily. Probably the most efficient pan for the novice and expert today is one molded from tough, space age plastic. It is far superior to the steel pan for several reasons. Firstly, it is rust and corrosive proof. Secondly, it can be textured with a fine “tooth” surface to hold the gold better. Third, it is about one quarter the weight of a steel pan, and fourth the green color can be made a permanent black so that even the tiniest flakes of gold can easily be seen. The common sizes of pans today are the 8 to 12 inch pan, used primarily for sampling, or clean up. The 14 inch pan is the most popular, multi size use. The 16 to 18 inch pan is used by the more experienced panners. The larger pan load requires greater stamina and technique. An accomplished experienced gold panner can process about one cubic yard of material in an 8 hour day. But with the development of the hand sluice, the dredge, and the rocker, even the novice today can process about a cubic yard per hour.
How to Pan for Gold
1): Fill the gold pan about half full of gravel, then submerge it deep enough in water (stream or tub) so it is just under the surface of the water. Next give the pan several vigorous shakes back and forth and from side to side, but not too hard as to wash material out of the pan, you want to shake the gravel so the heavy gold sinks to the bottom of the pan and the less dense rocks and minerals float to the top of the pile in your pan.
2): Change from the shaking motion to a gentle circular movement, so the remaining material starts turning in a circle. This process will cause most of the dirt and clay to dissolve and wash out of the pan. If roots and moss surface, work them over your pan with your fingers to dissolve any lumps. Pick out the larger rocks, pebbles, and debris after making sure that they are washed clean of any mud or sand. You want to try and recover as much gold as possible but you will lose some in the process so don’t be to gentle in the operation. Do this until you have the larger rocks and pebbles washed out of the pan.
3): Now wash away the lighter sand and gravel. Hold the pan just under the water and tilt it slightly away from you. Begin to swirl the water from side to side, with a slight forward tossing motion. Take care, but with sufficient force to move the surface and the lighter gravel out over the edge of the pan. Leveling the pan out from time to time and shaking it back and forth will cause the light material to come to the surface and the gold to settle to the bottom. Keep working the pan until you are down to black sand and color(gold).
4): Now you will want to start carefully working the black sand. Now is the time to slow down and be careful. Leaving just a little water in the gold pan, lift the pan out of the water and use your tweezers to pick out any nuggets and large flakes and place these in your poke. You can use a magnet to separate the magnetite (black sand) from the gold. Continue panning the con down until it is about a third gold. As you pan you will notice that the gold will form in a tail behind the black sand. At this time you can clean up the gold with your tweezers and eye dropper. Keep panning until you are out of gold or out of black sand in the bottom of the pan.
Learning How to Pan for Gold
The easiest way to learn how to pan for gold, is to watch someone else do it first. You can’t appreciate how vigorously you have to shake the pan at the beginning until you see a master gold panner in operation. Many of the commercial gold panning tours in Alaska will teach you how to pan for gold, and will get you into the color in about an hour. If you want to learn prior to coming up to Alaska, you should consider joining a local gold prospecting club. You will get the chance to practice and also see what other people are using. If you don’t ave the time or desire to join a club the next best thing is to buy a video or book. I normally buy this type of specialized material from Amazon gold panning.
Gold Panning Kits
Many prospecting stores sell a gold panning kit. These kits normally consist of a gold pan, book and/or video, and a bag of sand with gold ore. The store will place a number of gold flakes and small nuggets in the bag of sand/gravel so that you will know the amount of gold you should be recovering. With these gold panning kits it is recommended that you pan the pay-dirt over a small tub or child’s play pool so you can recover the sand and gold you missed while you learn. It isn’t a bad way to go but not nearly as exciting as learning on a stream in the great outdoors.