Most prospectors know that gold is heavy. In fact, it is almost always the heaviest element that you can recover within a river with a specific gravity of 19.3. It is considerably higher than the sand, rocks, gravel, quartz, lead, iron, and other elements commonly found in a river.
So why in the world would gold float?
Well, it has to do with the surface tension on the top of the water, and the small sizes of gold particles. Surface tension is a natural phenomenon, but it’s not a good thing for the gold prospector.
This isn’t a problem with large gold nuggets or even smaller “pickers,” but tiny specks of gold dust can actually float right on top of the water.
Of course this results in losses. Instead of getting trapped behind the riffles, the gold goes right out of the gold pan and back into the river.
The Solution for Floating Gold in your Gold Pan
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is quite simple.
What you need is some sort of surfactant that will break up the surface tension of the water. The best and cheapest options are two things that you probably already have in your house: jet dry or dishwashing soap.
By adding just a few drops to the water in your gold pan, those tiny particles of gold will be much less likely to float on the top of the water.
Don’t get too carried away with it. You only need a few drops. If the water is sudsy it can cause more problems than it helps. Just a couple drops of jet dry is all that you really need.
Do You Add it Every Time you Pan for Gold?
This is most important during the final cleanup when you are most likely to have gold in your pan. You could add it to your pan every time if you want, but most prospectors only add a surfactant when the likelihood of losses is the highest.
In places where gold is always fine textured such as the glacial gold deposits it may be more important.
This handy tip will help you add more gold to your collection.
Also Read: The 4 Best Gold Panning Kits on the Market