Hydraulic and Gravitational Methods For Gold Panning
The tools used and the ways humans have prospected for placer gold over the centuries have changed immensely. The tools that have been most effective in recovering gold have always used at least one of two primary functions: hydraulics and gravity.
Gravitational gold prospecting, such as gold panning, belongs to the group of gold recovery devices used explicitly by hand. This technology came to North America during the mid 1800's and likely coming from Mexico, where a wooden conical shaped bowl had been used to retrieve gold from the rivers and streams there for hundreds of years. Gold pans are still in use much of today, though they are highly evolved from their ancestors in both design and material. In contrast, today’s gold pans are made of light durable plastics instead of heavy metals or wood that made panning a laborious chore in the 1800's.
While gold pans were the main prospecting tool of the 49ers during the California Gold Rush, other technological improvements came along with the introductions of the sluice and rocker box. The sluice box predates the rocker box and was much simpler in design. A simple trough made of wood with riffles, laden with carpet, blanket material and/or moss was used to get the finer gold. Prospectors would burn the moss or material and pan out the ashes left behind to retrieve the gold.
Example of a "Sluice Box" used for collecting fine gold
The rocker box was designed with a hopper for loading and classifying material to smaller diameters. The collected material would be washed with water across an incline of carpet or moss, designed with riffles and moved by a rocking motion provided by hand. This allowed a prospector to process larger amounts of river gravels down to a manageable amount without large rocks accompanying the rest of the smaller materials. This made it so that one or two people could pan out more concentrated material resulting in more gold per day.
Example of a "Rocker Box" also used for collecting gold
These technologies are still in use today, but their utility is diminishing. Sluice and rocker boxes are now made of metal or high impact ABS plastics and they are not always welcome on many rivers and streams due to an increasing number of environmental laws prohibiting their use. Additionally, the weights of some of these items make it difficult to walk in with your gear and family in tow.
Luckily, the Gold Rush Nugget Bucket is so light, weighing in at 7-pounds, that even an eight year old can carry one. The Gold Rush Nugget Bucket uses classification, hydraulic, gravity and fluid bed technology to capture even the finest flour gold particles without burning a thing! From testing for hotspots and pay-streaks to actually using it as a hobby production gold collection device, this will be your favorite way to go gold prospecting. In Bill's next post, he'll show you how he uses the Gold Rush Nugget Bucket as a production device on a Canadian flour gold pay-streak. Stay tuned prospectors!