Occurrence of Gold - Gold 101

Gold is found in two ways in nature, through veins or placers. A vein is grains or particles of gold embedded into rocks.  It is formed by hydrothermal fluid that removes gold from deposits from deep within the Earth. It does this by dissolving gold from rocks as it moves up through the Earth’s crust. As the fluid gets closer to the Earth’s surface, cooler rocks causes the gold to be drawn out of the fluid. It then settles into cracks and forms gold veins. Veins are often called lodes.

A placer is also referred to as an alluvial deposit. It consists of free flakes, grains, or nuggets of gold that have eroded from the rocks of a vein deposit. This happens over millions of years as gold from veins are carried away in water. Eventually the heavier bits of gold land in the beds of rivers, lakes, streams, or even the sea.

To recover microscopic gold pieces from rocks, the rocks are crushed and then chemicals are used to remove the gold. When you hear about gold nuggets being found, those are most likely from placer deposits. Most gold mined does not come from nuggets, which are very rare. In fact, gold nuggets make up only two percent of the gold ever mined.

Gold found in nature is often referred to as native gold. It can contain as much as eight to 10 percent silver. If the silver content is higher than 20 percent, it is no longer considered to be gold, but electrum.

Actually the largest amounts of gold to be found on the Earth occur in our oceans. There is believed to be 10 billion tons of gold in our ocean waters. The problem is there is no cost-efficient way to remove the gold from the oceans. Likewise, a great deal of gold can be found in outer space. The asteroid Eros contains more gold than has ever been mined on the Earth. As with the oceans, there is no feasible and inexpensive way to get this gold from outer space.

Next: Production of Gold

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Back to the Gold 101

Gold was first discovered thousands of years ago in its natural state, in streams, which lead to mining all over the world. Its brilliance, natural beauty, great malleability and resistance to tarnish made it enjoyable to work with. Gold gave rise to the concept of money itself. Today gold is used for jewelry fabrication, industrial application, and medical uses, by governments and central banks and by private investors.

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