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Who Finds The Most Gold - Beach Hunters Or Prospectors?

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There’s a lot of posts on this forum of prospectors complaining that gold is getting harder to find.. It’s not just that their favourite patches have run dry but also that the size of nuggets found is getting smaller.. This has made me wonder if beach hunters are catching up in the amount of gold recovered each year? If their posts are anything to go by, the amount of gold jewellery found on popular beaches is pretty mind boggling..

I realise that the purity of gold in its natural form is higher but often when it’s made into jewellery it becomes more valuable, especially when a piece of jewellery also has gemstones in it (like diamonds, rubies or sapphires).. So I guess this question is twofold: which of these two groups recovers the most gold by weight? And which group can make the most profit from their finds? 

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I don't prospect as much as most, mainly a winter activity for me. But I can tell you I've done better at beaches finding jewelry than I have prospecting for nuggets. About 6 years ago I recovered over 200 gold rings in one season. On average they were 10k and weighed about 4 grams each. That's 800 grams at 42% gold. That same year I bet I found less than 5 grams of gold prospecting.

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Interesting question.  I've thought a bit about how to figure it out, but it's tough.  For one thing, I'm pretty sure way more gold goes into jewelry manufacturing each year than native gold found by detecting (or other small scale recovery methods).  But, most of the jewelry isn't lost so it's not even findable.

I know this -- I've found more gold jewelry by accident (because I'm specifically coin hunting and focus on those dTID's) than I've recovered while trying to find native gold!  :biggrin:


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The 4 posts sums it up. I had success with both but as a prospector my answer would be bias but in the case of rings they are marketable but nuggets are hard to part with.

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As everyone else has already stated, location, location, location is what really matters.

Some people will be able to find more rings where they live near good beaches and high population, where as prospectors must have a great patch to dig it out of the ground.

So that is about all that I can say about the question, as I don't live near a good beach, and I only hunt when I can here in Illinois. We don't have a big population where I am at as the county is only about 50-60 thousand people maximum, and that includes dogs and cats.

We do have some gold to find here and I have found some of it, but I have never a gold ring yet.

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Good question. 

Some of the hardcore guys hunting the Placerville to Grass Valley corridor told me they were in the $50 to $100 melt value range, per day, on average.   That was when gold was hovering at $2k per ounce several months ago.  And these guys are hardcore.  So ... probably not going to be replicated easily , nor worth long drives to "fish for $50" if you're not in a local scene where good spots are known to be.

But if their claims are even remotely true (even if you could say only $25 on average, after taking out fish-stories), it seems like better prospects than angling for gold rings.  But that depends on where you're hunting.  Some southern CA & Hawaii beach guys (where there's lots of warm-water swimming) have higher gold ring ratios than cold water beach guys.   And also depends on if it's beach hunters that *strictly* wait for mother nature's storms to erode.   Then, sure, gold ring ratios rise.   But those time frames might only come a few weeks in an entire year.

But if the question is just about dudes that ply the sand boxes and dry sand beaches, then I'd say that nugget hunters will average more, in-the-end, assuming they're hard-core nugget guys in right-spots.

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This is a little off topic, but is about gold on the beach.  Back in the 80's, I was in charge of MK's construction of Nome's Community Center.  While there, I remember several college students setting up a pump and sluice rig on the beach next to their tents and sluicing gold from the beach sand.  They made enough money from the gold flakes, to go back to college the next year.  I still have a couple of their little vials of gold sold there to tourists.

My concrete supplier got his sand and gravel from the beach east of Nome and ran all of it over a large sluice to catch the gold.  His profit was in the gold, not in the concrete. 

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Location more than anything. You live in Florida, it’s jewelry. Arizona, gold nuggets. West coast - just depends which you prefer, nuggets or the beach.

I will say that I always thought the nugget patches would deplete to the point where I’d switch to jewelry detecting, which replenishes. That theory has been fading, as the best beach areas are where old decades long accumulated ring losses are recovered. A good storm that removes sand exposes rings lost over many years. However, those ring “patches” are also getting leaner with time, as detectorists are now cleaning beaches faster than losses are accumulating. The storm generated bonanzas are fading with time. It’s getting more about recent “drops”, and there are ever more detectorists competing for those recently dropped rings.

The biggest unforeseen impact, however, is people simply not wearing jewelry like they did. It used to be if you got married, you got some nice rings. A plain gold band was the low end option. Now it’s tungsten and silicon carbide, and I’ve seen people wearing rings now that are no more than a fancy rubber band. Now you hear people saying they found 6 rings, but then you find half were basically junk jewelry. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s not gold, platinum, or at least silver, it just does not count.

Long story short, my gold prospecting is still beating out my gold jewelry, but both areas are simply not what they used to be. The biggest factor is simple. When I started metal detecting almost 50 years ago, I never saw other people detecting. I was an oddball weirdo. Now the goldfields and beaches are crawling with detectorists. It makes it hard for a spoiled old timer like me to get as enthused as I used to be. Ounce of gold a day used to be a regular thing for me. Those days are very few and far between now.

I can say that when I go nugget hunting, I always come home with gold. Always. It’s not hard for me to find a few small nuggets no matter what. It’s the quantity that’s getting harder. Gold rings, I get skunked a lot, so I do find gold prospecting more dependable, ring hunting more hit and miss. Another factor I’ll mention though is logistics. I can ring hunt as near as the nearest park. Nugget detecting is far more time and logistics intensive, often requiring overnight, or multi day outings. There are still good out of the way places for finding gold nuggets. Florida beaches? People live an hour away, and every beach has a full time crew hitting the beach every single morning.

I do feel like I can seek out and make a major gold strike still, an undiscovered, virgin nugget location that puts many ounces of gold in my pocket. There are almost endless possibilities, and I’ve got lists in my head of places I’ve never been yet. You are not going to go out and discover a new, unknown beach. There are also still pound plus nuggets out there. In that regard, for the true gold prospectors, nugget detecting still has the best shot at major finds over beach detecting. It now looks to me like I’ll be chasing gold nuggets more than rings, for as long as I can keep detecting. It’s the better option for me at least, based on both my location, and my decades of experience at gold prospecting.

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