Mining History: Hydraulic Mining

While the origins of hydraulic mining could be traced to ancient Roman technology, it’s popularly recognized use came around in the 1850s with the California Gold Rush. By shooting high pressure jets of water to dislodge and direct earth, hydraulic mining brought new life to the mostly played out placer claims of the California foothills….

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The Nugget

In a quiet corner of the Smithsonian American History Museum, in a small case in the shipping transportation section, next to a few coins from the 1800s, is a small fleck of gold under a magnifying glass.  One would have expected any gold samples to be part of the extensive gold collection held by the Smithsonian…

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Gold at the National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum is the third most visited museum in the world. With a quick perusal of the highlights it is easy to understand why. The remarkable gem and mineral collection is world class including 300,000 rock and ore specimens. While we are, only naturally, impressed by the Hope Diamond, a few rooms further…

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Placer County Museum

Placer county is one of many local governments in the California foothills that was born out of the mass population influx and wealth of the California Gold Rush. The land that became Auburn, within Placer County, was first settled in May 1848 and became a transportation hub for neighboring gold mining operations. Even today, there are over…

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Wells Fargo Museum – Part 1

The Wells Fargo Museum was formed to celebrate the history of the Wells Fargo bank. Yet, such a legacy is so tightly tied to California gold that many of the displays are devoted to the shinny stuff.  While the museum occupies a small section of street in San Francisco’s Financial District, it is packed with gold nuggets, gold dust, and gold history.

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Ironstone’s Crown Jewel

Gold can be found in unusual places. One such place is the Ironstone Vineyards estate, which is home to the world’s largest piece of crystalline gold leaf, weighing in at 44 lbs. The “Gold Pocket” was discovered on December 24, 1992, at the Sonora Mining Co. mine in Jamestown, California.  The gold was originally 66 lbs, however, when it was purchased by the Ironstone Vineyards owner, John Kautz, it was etched to remove the extra, visible quartz leaving behind a 98% pure piece. The piece is now suspended inside a vault safe that visitors may walk into and view during regular operating hours.

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Fool’s Gold

Happy April Fool’s Day! To celebrate, we thought we would discuss the most common trick that is visited on the unseasoned prospector: Fool’s Gold. Fool’s Gold is a sulfide mineral better known as pyrite or iron pyrite. While it is shiny and pale yellow and often found in veins of quartz, that is the extent…

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The New Forty-Niners

While any prospector can testify that gold fever has continued to capture the hearts and minds of ambitious, hard working Americans long past the original fervor of the California gold rush, few have more expressively and poignantly depicted these modern diggers than Sarina Finkelstein in her book The New Forty-Niners. This elegant book features photographs of…

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