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Star Dust – Where Does Gold Ultimately Come From?

Star Dust – Where Does Gold Ultimately Come From?

Where does gold come from? Any prospector knows you can find it, in varying quantities, in just about any stream or river in the United States. Hard rock miners know it can also be found in quartz veins, typically running Southwest-Northeast in many mountains and valleys across the country. But how many of these gold hounds know where the gold originally came from? Probably not as many as you would think…including myself…until recently.


Most people think gold simply comes from the ground. Little do they know the trip it has made in its lifetime. In an article by Science Daily, I learned that gold along with the rest of “the planet’s accessible reserves of precious metals are the result of a bombardment of meteorites more than 200 million years after Earth was formed.” Come to find out, gold is really just star dust.

“The eye of man has always been drawn upwards to the sky as he ponders his origin. Billions are spent every year by the World’s scientists to attempt to conquer the unknown. We are innately drawn towards things that are just out of reach. Space exploration, meteorites, gold. Each is rare, hard to obtain, and tempts its seekers with visions of riches, while at the same time, the unworldly quarry can out-fox a man to the point of shear madness. The desire to have what we are not supposed to is overwhelming it can lead to our self destruction. Whether the glimmer comes from a distant star or the flash of a nugget in a stream bed, if we can see it, and there is value to be obtained, we will ruthlessly aspire to have it. Such is the nature of man. Such is the nature of the prospector.


Gold Vein Formation

Enough of the philosophy. So, gold got here during the early creation of the earth by way of some really stellar events…so how the heck does it get from space into your pan? Well, when those asteroids hit the earth,they were likely some cataclysmic events. Large explosions that each had the ability to change the earths overall composition early during its formation. Each event depositing a variety of different precious resources all across what would become the framework of our planet. According to an article in Discover Magazine online, The majority of these elements (gold, platinum, nickel, etc.)… “were pulled into Earth’s iron-rich core while its surface was still an ocean of molten magma.” The gold can eventually forced to the surface during certain major geologic events through “vents” in subsurface rocks along with quartz and other companion materials. This “lode gold” (which is the origin of the term “mother lode”) can be found concentrated in some quartz veins in pockets or veins…note…I did not say ALL veins.


Finding gold in hard rock is much different than finding gold in a stream bed even though the gold likely originated from the same place…the mother lode. Companion rocks erode and decay over years. Gold doesn’t. As the gold is released from the other material, the gold will eventually find its way down. Down where? To the lowest possible point it can. Until it can’t go any lower and, since it is virtually indestructible, it will do this forever. As giant mountains erode around it, it will move down hill. Mammoth glaciers will carry it across continents and massive floods will move it downstream. All the while the gold will work its way lower and lower. Gold is one of the heaviest naturally occurring elements…about twice as heavy as lead. To gold, gravity is a constant and powerful force. Properly understood and employed, this force can be used with great benefit to find and process it. Apparently subsequent meteor events (since the time the core of the earth was formed and became stable) are the sole reason we can find the amount of gold we do today. Some people may know this whole process can take millions upon millions of years. But, how many people know that this process started billions of years ago? And, how many know that gold is extra terrestrial? Now you do!

Below is a diagram of where gold tends to accumulate in a stream bed.

picture of where gold gets trapped in a stream

Why does all of this matter? Because, it is important for the prospector and miner to understand that the forces at work on our beloved gold are far more powerful than we are. They are far more powerful than any piece of equipment we can create to find it. These are not only the laws of nature, they are the laws of outer space and physics. Wind, water, earth, fire, gravity, interplanetary collisions, and most importantly time. With so many powerful forces at work for so long, it would not make an inkling of sense if our treasure were to be any easier to find. Using the right techniques and tools is paramount to success.

Here is where I am going with this: Gold acts how it does. There is little you can do to change that. In a stream it acts much like it does in a sluice box. In both scenarios there are certain factors at play: Water Flow, Slope, and some sort of gold catching device (which may be moss, riffles, expanded metal, combination, etc.) Imagine large boulders to be much like the riffles in a sluice box. Gold will accumulate on the down side of these naturally occurring riffles where the water slows and an eddy is created. Additionally, when you do a sluice box clean up or pan concentrates, the gold is underneath all of the other material…it is at the bottom of the pan or deep within the miner’s moss. The naturally occurring gold will also work its way down until it reaches a place to settle. Once it does, it will dig in its heels and stay. The good news is that, since all gold pretty much acts the same,it typically likes to accumulate with other gold. Using the laws of physics gold seekers can maximize their recovery and find more gold. So, once you are on the gold you want to look around that spot for more…think: “Dig deeper. Find the low spot. Where does gold accumulate?” Answer those questions and you will find the honey hole!

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  • Josh Turpin