Panning for gold is the easiest way to prospect for gold so this article on how to pan for gold will come in handy for those venturing out with gold in their eyes and excitement in their hearts for gold.
All it takes is a few simple tools, a panning dish and lots of patience and a sharp eye.
The best gold pan is a black hard wearing plastic pan around 10 to 14 inches in diameter with ripples in it. If you cannot get that, any plastic pan will do. Preferably a dark color as then gold will show up easier in the pan. A small digging tool, such as a garden trowel, some muslin, small transparent containers to put your gold will give you a good start to panning for gold.
When you arrive at the gold panning area, if you are not with an instructor and are on your own you will want to seek the best place to pan for gold. The best thing is to look around for a spot where the water is at least six inches deep and flowing steady enough to keep the muddy water clouding your view of the pan. It is a good idea to pick a spot where you can sit down comfortably also.
First of all fill the pan three quarters with gravel then submerge it just under the surface of the flowing water. Shake the pan vigorously back and forth a few times but don't wash the material out of the pan. You must want to loosen up the material in the pan.
Then change the movement from a shaking to a gentle circular movement, swirling the material around in the pan. It is a good ideas to practice this at home with some sand or dirt from the garden before you go out prospecting. Then when you do go out you will be a practiced ‘old hand’ at it. As the material revolves in the pan most of the dirt and clay will start to separate and dissolve. Roots and moss and large pieces of rock or gravel can be picked out of the pan gently shaking off any surplus over the pan. You can also rub them between your fingers to dissolve any lumps.
Keep doing this over and over again until you get the smaller rocks coming to the surface and the heavier concentrate to settle in the bottom of the pan.
Now hold the pan just under the surface of the water and tilt it away from you. Start to swirl the water, gently, from side to side with a slight forward tossing motions. Take care not to be too rough. The object of the game is to dislodge the lighter material from the concentrate and have it spill out over the edge of the pan.
Continue doing the above a few times until you have just a small concentrate left in the bottom of the pan. If you pan has ridges all the better as heavier material will become lodged in the crevasses of the pan.
Eventually you will have around a couple of cups of what is called black 'concentrate'. You can check the concentrate for small nuggets and specks of gold now. These can be picked out by hand and put safely to one side.
Now sink the pan under the flowing water again and repeat the above. Do this very gently and keep a sharp look out as this is where you are likely to find any gold. Be careful here not to wash out any gold. They can be very minute specks. Sometimes people use a very strong magnet which they run along under the pan to isolate any potential gold. The pan has to be plastic for this rather than metal of course.
If you are using a steel pan you will need to ensure you remove all oil from the pan before you use it. Otherwise the oil, being very sticky, will mix with the concentrate and make it very hard to separate the gold from the concentrate. The quickest way of ensuring all the oil is removed is by 'burning' the pan over a camp fire. One must be cautious doing this of course and it cannot be done on a day of total fire ban. Check with your local authorities if it is ok to do this first. When the pan is heated and the oil is removed immediately dunk it in cold water, This will temper the steel and give it a blue hue and make it harder as well as making it easier to spot gold.
Many gold panning prospectors have a small bottle of detergent nearby and use a few drops to break the surface tension of the water. This speeds up the separation process very well.
Also a panning sieve is a useful item to have. The sieve sits on top of the gold pan and can screen larger material such as pebbles etc, and this makes the panning process a little easier. There are many sieves available with different mesh sizes from 1 quarter of an inch to a 100 mesh size screen.
As in many things, practice makes perfect and practicing so that one is proficient in panning will save a lot of time when the day comes to start panning and will go a long way to ensuring that you find the gold you’re looking for and the above tips will help the new person get an idea how to pan for gold.