The quality of California’s gold

California gold photo by Aramgutang

The quality of the gold varied greatly across the gold country just as did the quantity. The gold from the Kern River area was so mixed with silver that it was nearly white and worth only about half that of pure gold. The quality improved in Fresno County and more so around Mariposa. By Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Calaveras Counties it had hit a high standard. But in Amador and El Dorado the gold varied greatly and was generally not so good. Yet as one went farther north the quality improved, reaching the highest standard of 990 parts fine per thousand in Sierra and Butte Counties. The gold along the Trinity and Klamath Rivers, while better than that along the Kern, was still relatively poor.

The size of the individual gold nuggets also varied greatly in size from nearly two hundred pounds to tiny, almost invisible grains. The placer gold came in large irregular lumps, rounded from the erosive action of the fast moving mountain streams, down to as small as a pea or even a grain of rice and even smaller still. When gold was picked from of the original quartz veins it often resembled what one man called those odd shapes taken when molten lead is thrown into water. In other places it was found in sheets or even as threads while in a few cases the gold was said to resemble a fern leaf.


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