Tools of the Trade-Prospecting

Prospecting has been a time-honored American tradition since gold was found in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill.


Shortly after, prospectors headed west to seek fortune in the hills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, armed with simple tools to help them find the valuable yellow metal. Back then, an ounce of gold would go for $20. Now, an ounce of gold is valued over $1,200!


In honor of this tradition, Provident Metals has announced the release of the Provident Prospector Silver Round 1oz. Colt .45 Privy. This coin features the image of a rugged prospector en route with a mule at his side and a pan and pick ax in his hands. It is with these very tools that the 49ers excavated fortunes from the mountains and rivers.


Just a Man and a Pan


The iconic prospector pan was used to find fine particles of gold that could easily be overlooked. Prospector’s would mix sediment and water into the pan, then methodically swirl the sediments around and around to separate heavier metals, such as gold, from sand, dirt, and clay. Before a handful of sediment ever reached the pan though, prospectors used more sophisticated strategies to find gold.


The Sluice Box Endures


A sluice box is a simple concept-use the weight of gold and the flow of water to separate particles for you. Prospectors would place sluice boxes in running creeks and deposit shovelfuls of dirt into them, allowing the flowing water to push unwanted dirt and rock downstream. Gold’s density made the yellow metal drop to the bottom of the sluice box to be found later. Amateur prospectors still use the sluice box today.


The Rocker Box Reflects Prospector Ingenuity


With a rocker box, prospectors used the same concept of water and gravity to sort gold from sediment. However, unlike the sluice box, the rocker was placed on land and water was dumped by hand into the box. Once the box was full of sediment and water, prospectors rocked the box using a wooden handle to sift gold particles away from the useless stuff.   


For more reads about prospecting and mining, check out these other posts:


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