Although panning is the oldest method of mining for gold, it’s still popular among gold-hunting hobbyists because the materials are inexpensive, the process is easy to learn, and after all these centuries it’s still an effective way to find gold.
For those who don’t live near an area rich with placer deposits, like Colorado or Alaska, you can buy a kit that comes with everything you need to practice panning for gold – including actual gold! These kits come with a bag of “pay dirt,” which is a lot of gangue guaranteed to have some gold in it. But how much gold? That’s what we wanted to know.
To find out, we used the Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” Panning Kit. While we probably could have tossed the pay dirt into our induction furnace to burn away everything but the gold, we wanted the genuine experience. To pan for gold, you add some pay dirt to the pan, then fill it with water. Gently rocking the pan back and forth causes the water to swirl and kick up the lighter particles of dirt. Since gold is the heaviest thing in the pan, it stays near the bottom while the dirt sloshes out of the pan.
We have to admit, it’s exhilarating when you finally catch a glimpse of that unmistakable glitter! Pictured above is our actual haul from the kit. Unfortunately, its laughably small – no lot is too big for us to refine, but there is such a thing as a lot that’s too small! If you’re looking for a fun experience, get a kit for yourself. If you’re looking to get rich, try investing in bullion instead.