In the ancient language of Sanskrit it was called Jval. Deep in the red clay mine pits of Peru they called it Oro. Mankind has always had a thing for shiny metals... The colors of polished gold, silver and copper are indeed quite beautiful. Imagine yourself gazing into the first hand held mirror of polished gold, thousands of years ago, and seeing a magical reflection of yourself.
Among all the metals on earth there is only one that stays Forever shiny and never grows old. Gold... The mellow yellow color of it intrigues us, amazes us, and leaves us wanting more. The word "gold" is actually derived from the old English word for yellow, "geolu". One of the best questions I've ever been asked about gold came from a student in the forth grade, she asked..." Hey mister, why is gold yellow?'" I explained it as best I could. "Gold is yellow because of its cubic close packed atomic structure, which has the quality of reflecting red light at 800 angstroms." She listened to the impromptu physics lesson, with eyes wide and simply said,"Wow, it sure is pretty."
Gold comes from deep within the earth. It is deposited in the earth's crust in mineralized hydrothermal veins. Silica, known as quartz, is the primary host rock for gold. As metallic laden silicate waters push toward the surface in the roots of volcanoes and deep faults, gold and other metals precipitate into deposits. This is an on going event of mother nature... even as you read this, gold deposits are being formed on the sea floor, in volcanic vents off the coast of New Zealand.
And now we come to the more brutal aspect of gold... mining it. Tunneling into solid rock and digging gravels isn't exactly a glamorous lifestyle. Getting the paydirt in the pan can indeed be a task at hand.
Of course there are those lucky days, where the sharp eyed child picks up the half ounce nugget and shows it to Mom because it's a pretty rock. In 1848 William Gulnac picked up one of those pretty rocks while taking a walk up Woods Creek. William found a 75 pound chunk of gold still in its original matrix of quartz. That's the way it was in California's goldrush. The first men into the hills found small fortunes for their day. Their claims paid well, and miners took out hundreds and thousands of dollars, often in a day or week. (It is worth noting here that the cost of a loaf of bread was only a nickel, and these men were earning twenty years wages in the span of one year.)
Never in history has so much gold been found in one place as the California goldrush. Ah yes, the fever... grab a pick and shovel and follow me. Just over that mountain is a river of gold. The hills echo with the sound of it, "Gold! Gold! Gold! ... easy to find, heavy to hold."
First locate a gold bearing streambed. You're looking for quartz gravels, and a grade steep enough to dash them upon the rocks and liberate their gold. Just downstream from waterfalls is great. Ok, grab that shovel and dig in the bank of the stream. Dig all the way down to solid bedrock and find some crevices. Phew, that's hard work... drink some more water and let's keep going. Get the pan and trowel, and dig a good sample from that crevice and into the pan it goes. Swirl that pan and let's see if we've got some color. Five flakes, two pickers and a clinker, ... great! Now, get the hammer and chisel, and let's get to the bottom of that crevice, that's where those nuggets are. Swing another panload, ...awesome, three more clinkers! Hey, hand me that 14 inch Craftsman screwdriver I threw in the bucket, so I can get some more out from the bottom. Ouch, I hit my hand with the hammer. Ok, here pan this out. Hey! ...two more clinkers and one nice nugget! Hey, you know what? What? ... Life is good, and it's getting better all the time. Hand me an ice cold 7UP out of the box there, will ya?
Finding gold is fun... and having a great day with friends, enjoying the water and the sunshine, is life at its best. Buy your kid a shiny new shovel, and head for the hills. Listen carefully, and you will hear an echo from yonder streams...
... Gold ! Gold ! Gold !