So how pure is natural gold?

How pure is natural gold? You know, gold right out of the ground… 

Well, I think it is safe to say that every piece of gold you have ever seen, or ever will see, has been melted at some point, whether when it was created in the bowels of the earth or before it got here. That requires a temperature of over 2200 degrees F, or 1200 degrees C! That's pretty hot! 


That's one reason every piece of natural gold is different in appearance...kind of like two are alike. 

 When gold is refined commercially, it goes through the melting (smelting) process multiple times. The first melt of raw gold usually results in a Doré (doray) bar...a block of gold, but still containing impurities, like lead, nickel, silver, etc. Doré bars enable miners to more easily transfer and handle the gold.

Refiners serve as a vital link between gold miners and commercial users.
For those of us who recreationally pan for gold because we love the thrill of discovery and that Eureka! moment, we don’t concern ourselves too much with the purity of the gold we recover.

But how pure is the gold we find in shipments of gold paydirt? Well, it varies quite a bit, and you can’t always tell by the color. According to Peridot at (See the Triangular chart above)

Yellow gold is made by mixing pure goldwith silvercopper, and zinc. It is the purest color, the most hypo-allergenic, and requires the least maintenance of all the gold colors.

White gold is made of goldand platinum (or palladium). White gold can also be made of goldpalladium, nickel and zinc. White gold is more durable and scratch-resistant than yellow gold. It is also more affordable than both yellow gold and platinum.

Rose gold (or pink gold)  is alloyed with goldcopper, and silver. Rose gold is more affordable than the other gold colors because it uses the inexpensive copper for its rose color. Due to its copper content, rose gold is more durable than yellow or white gold.

Green gold (or Electrum) is mixed with goldsilver, and sometimes copper. Silver is what gives the gold alloy the green nuance. 

Jewelers have testing kits which utilize chemicals to determine the purity levels of gold. But there are also sophisticated electronic devices that identify several different metals within a piece of gold without negatively affecting the sample.

By the way, some of these expensive electronic devices can only identify the metals they have been pre-configured to identify. I.e., if a device is only set to only identify gold and not copper, it could return a reading of 100% gold even though the sample contained 20% gold and 80% copper.

So before making any important decisions based on an electronic scan, make sure you understand how your device is configured and what the results truly indicate.

How pure is the gold you recover from gold paydirt?
Well, first of all, it’s for sure that it's not 100% pure – that level of purity does not naturally occur in  nature. But some of the gold found in paydirt shipments can be as high as 93%, but significantly lower purity levels are not uncommon.

Too, the purity of gold can vary widely within the same geological region
Therefore, not all California, Alaska, Canadian, or Australian gold will be of the same purity

But remember, most of us who pan for gold recreationally do so the for the thrill of discovery. That's why it's called "Gold fever"...and it’s nice to have something of value, certainly yielding more tangible rewards than a round of golf or some other form of recreation. 

Purity of the gold can be a deciding factor if you need to sell to a refiner, but to me, it’s the color in the pan that gets the heart pumping and puts a smile on my face. whether it's Yellow, Red, White, or Green! 

That's why iPan4Gold! 

What’s in your pan?

1 comment

  • You have explained this so well I now understand much more about what I am finding. The best part is it’s shiny and yellow gold can be different colors but still gold. I know I will never get rich or even own my own gold or silver mine but when I get a chance to find a flake or even a speck it makes me feel better. Deep in Texas is hard to find any shiny but I do check out the sands of the gulf and rio grande. Thank you

    Jeff Gray on

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