The most basic piece of gold prospecting equipment is the gold pan. Size, color, shape, and what it's made of is really a matter of personal preference. Plastic is light weight, so your arms won't get as tired compared to using a steel pan. Remember, you are adding water, dirt, and gravel to your pan, so it can get heavy quickly. You might want to have a couple different sizes of gold pans on hand (10 inch, 12 inch, and 14 inch are the most popular).
Plastic pans generally come in green, black, and blue. The color doesn't effect performance, but green is the most common. Color is a matter of personal preference. Some swear gold flakes show up better against a black pan, others say they like green or blue because the magnetic black sand that usually accompanies gold blends into a black pan, whereas they want it to stand out for easy removal.
Practice makes perfect in just about everything and it is no different when it comes to gold panning. Luckily you can practice in your kitchen or laundry sink so that when you head outdoors, you'll pretty much know how to pan for gold and already have your technique down.
Gold panning kits are the most economical way to purchase pans and accessories (snuffer bottle, vials, tweezers, diggers, how-to books, etc.) all in one convenient box.
Gold is heavier than most gravel found in streams, so that's why it can be collected in a gold pan when the right techniques are used. Gold can be found in many forms— nuggets, wire, tiny lumps called "pickers" or flat flecks and feather-shaped crystals. Assuming you already own a gold pan(s) and know where to find gold, all you need is an optimistic attitude and lots of practice to get good at hand panning.
First, look for a "gold trap" — a place along the stream where the current slows down enough for gold to settle. Gold can settle on the downstream sides of boulders and logs or in bends or curves in the stream. Many panners time their outings to coincide with winter snow melt or following a big storm. The thought is that Mother Nature may have loosened the gold lodged in high places and now it's flowing downstream and getting stuck in spots where you can reach it. Continued at bottom of page below products...
If using a new pan that still has some "shine" to it, remove that shine to stop fine gold from potentially floating out of your pan. The shiny surface is a releasing agent (mostly oil) from the manufacturer. A good liquid dish detergent, water, some dirt or sand, or a scouring sponge is all you need to "season" your pan. Just scrub the insides of your pan until water no longer beads up, and you are ready to go!
1. Fill pan about half full of gravel, small rocks, and sand collected from the stream bed
2. Put the pan under the water's surface, break up large lumps of clay or dirt, and remove stones
3. Continue to hold the pan level under the water with your hands on opposite sides, and tilt the pan forward, away from your body, and down slightly. Rotate and shake it side to side to let gravel and sand dribble out the front. Pick out the rocks.
4. Repeat step 3 several times until most of the material is removed, leaving less than a cup of fine-grained dark material overlain with a thin layer of light material at the bottom of your pan.
5. Rotate the pan in a circular motion. Notice how the water separates lighter material from heavier.
6. Stop rotating and hopefully you'll see a flash in the dark material remaining in the bottom of your pan! Use tweezers to retrieve the gold and place in a vial for safe-keeping.
Keep in mind that all the shiny stuff in your pan may not be gold. Pyrite, known as "fool's gold," and mica are both brassy in color. If any gold-colored flecks float on the water, it's a sure sign it's NOT real gold. Don't get discouraged. Keep practicing, and sooner or later that flash in your pan will be the real deal!
Tip from Yukon Dick... keep a little bottle of dish washing detergent with ya while yer panning. When you get down to the last steps where yer working with the “concentrate”, drop just a tiny tad in the water -- it’ll break up the surface tension and make it easier to work the gold out!
Watch a demonstration of the Trinity Gold Pan below.
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