Calling all gold diggers: Did you read about the two lucky gold hunters who last month unearthed a pair of enormous gold nuggets in Australia—one of the world’s top gold panning destinations? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see you pulling on your boots right now for a trip out into the field to do some gold hunting of your own!
For those of you wondering where to try your luck, here are some of the world’s best places to go panning for gold.
In ‘The Land of the Free’, gold is found in nearly all states. It’s no surprise that California is top of the list, though. California was the location of the famous 19th century Gold Rush. The area to head for is Gold Country (also known as Motherlode Country), a region in Northern California that lies on the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Here, gold gathers in the placer deposits of the streams running from its slopes.
Bordering California, Nevada, Arizona and Oregon also provide rich pickings for gold hunters. Nevada and Arizona are desert states, so you’ll need to dry pan or use a metal detector for the best results. Alaska is rich in gold and, unlike in California, the rules here are very relaxed.
Wherever in the states your gold panning adventure takes you, you’ll find countless places offering equipment hire and gold panning lessons—far too many to list!
In the remote north-west of Canada, the Yukon River is definitely one of the world’s top gold panning destinations. Dawson City, which lies on the river, is the capital of that mountainous region, and has been a destination since the late Nineteenth Century. This is where the Klondike Gold Rush began in 1896, and gold mining still thrives here today. There are plenty of spots around Dawson City to try your hand at panning for gold. For those who wish to linger, there are even log cabins for a comfortable stay in the wild.
Australia is a land rich in gold, particularly Western Australia where 60% of the country’s gold is mined. The biggest gold producing area is Goldfields—the clue is in the name!
At Warrego, near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, commercial goldmining ended in the 1980s, but there is still gold to be dry panned from the surface soil. This part of the country can be a challenge to tourists and care should be taken to follow official fossicking advice.
Another spot to consider is Clermont in Queensland. The site of a gold rush in 1861, Clermont still provides opportunities for visitors licensed to fossick. Panning may be wet or dry, depending on the season; but whatever the case, the Queensland government provides the visitor with plenty of advice and information on making a worthwhile visit.
In certain parts of New Zealand, visitors are free to try their luck at fossicking without the usual permits. The Tasman region, at the northern end of South Island, for example, was the site of New Zealand’s first gold rush in 1856. Here, the Department of Conservation has set aside a number of locations for low-tech amateur gold-prospecting. Whatever the yields, it’s a stunning place to visit.
The South Island’s West Coast also experienced a gold rush in the Nineteenth Century. It was there in Hokitika that New Zealand’s largest nugget was found, and today’s visitors can still dream. Not far away in Goldsborough all you need is a gold pan and some patience! Another option is the Otago region in the southern part of South Island.
For many centuries, the people of Japan have been looking for gold, but it’s fair to say that its resources have been underexploited. Things are changing, however, and today you can, in certain regions, join in the fun. The biggest mine in Japanese history was the Sado Kinzan mine on Sado Island. It is now a museum; as is the Toi Kinzan mine, where visitors can try their hand at panning for gold – and keeping what they find!
With the owner’s permission, you can have a lot of fun in the United Kingdom, especially the Celtic fringe. Scotland may make you think ‘whisky’, but gold in more solid form has been found for centuries in its multitude of rivers and streams. For half a millennium, Wanlockhead in Dumfries and Galloway has drawn gold hunters to its deposits. Once Covid restrictions have been lifted, beginners can take gold panning lessons at The Museum of Lead Mining.
In the highlands of Sutherland, The Suisgill Estate allows you to pay a small fee and pan for gold in two of its burns (streams). The Kildonan Burn flows through the Baile an Or, the site of the 1869 gold rush.
In Wales, the north is still yielding gold, while at the Dolaucothi Gold Mines in Carmarthenshire, first worked by the Romans, you can pan for gold under supervision. As for England, there is still gold lurking Cornwall the Pennines and the Lake District.
You can find more information about gold and gold panning in my Gemstone Detective guides to Australia, USA and India.
If you read about my field gemmology trip with Vincent Pardieu in April 2017, you’ll know how I learned about the existence of composite gemstones and lead glass filled rubies.
Lead glass filled rubies entered the market in 2004, but since many people (especially hobbyists and tourist collectors) are still unaware of their presence, I wrote about them in ‘Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in Thailand.’ After all, Thailand is a world hub for gemstone treatment and continues to be where most of the lead glass filled rubies (also known as ‘composite rubies’) are manufactured these days.
So, for those of you who want to know more about lead glass filled rubies, here’s an excerpt from the book:
In the grand scheme of things, 95% of all gemstones sold have been treated in some way. With rubies and sapphires, the figure is closer to 99%. Heat treatment is the norm and something that you shouldn’t usually worry about — unless you are intending to buy a natural, unheated gemstone, in which case you would be investing thousands of pounds and would expect it to come with a lab report. Be on your guard if someone tries to sell you a good-looking, ‘untreated’ stone!
Remember: if it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
Thailand is considered a world leader in gemstone treatment techniques, which can work both to the buyer’s advantage or against it.
Heat treatment simply enhances a gemstone’s natural beauty and clarity. Thailand is famous for the skill of its craftspeople, who have over the past 30 years or so developed sophisticated variations on the traditional art of heating gemstones to improve their colour.
Unless you’re looking to spend a vast amount of money, your primary aim should be to make sure the gemstone you are about to buy is genuine and not a piece of cheap fakery.
This said, there is a huge difference between rubies and sapphires that have been fissure treated in the traditional way and ‘composite’ gemstones, which are formed in the lab using a fairly recent technique. The appearance of traditionally fissure-treated rubies and sapphires is enhanced by using miniscule amounts of glass to fill any tiny inclusions on the surface of the stone. Composite gems are formed from lower quality corundum, which is acid treated to remove all the inclusions. The holes left behind are then filled with leaded glass. Leaded glass is very clear, but is even softer than ordinary glass and this means that composite gems are significantly less tough than their traditionally fissure-treated cousins.
Not only is the leaded glass in composite gems less tough than ordinary glass, its presence makes analysis of the corundum itself much more difficult. This means that it is harder for a grading
laboratory to determine the quality and weight of the original stone. Some composite stones are more than 40% glass! Furthermore, a composite ruby or sapphire whose corundum has many or deep fractures is difficult to distinguish from one whose corundum has only minor fractures. The former is much less durable than the latter.
Buying a composite gem is just fine if you know what you’re buying and have paid an appropriate price for it. The problems come when dealers knowingly — or unknowingly — try to sell you a composite ruby as a traditionally fissure-treated stone. Not only will you be paying much more than the stone is worth, but your piece of jewellery will be far more susceptible to damage and degradation.
If you decide to get the gem re-set or professionally cleaned, if you need a ring re-sized, or even if you wear your jewellery while cleaning or cooking, a composite ruby is likely to be damaged irreparably.
Composite gemstones are easy to identify if you can use a jeweller’s loupe — a small magnifying eyepiece used to examine gems. At 10x magnification under a strong light you should be able to see gas bubbles in the glass, heavy fracturing and an effect that looks like streaks of a different colour flashing across the stone.
India is home to some of the world’s most talented high-end
jewellery designers. It’s hardly
surprising that India boasts so much craftsmanship, as jewellery is hugely important to Indian culture—loved
for its beauty and ornament, and worn by men and women to enhance health.
I love India’s rich array of traditional jewellery styles
and techniques, and I’m fascinated by the imagination and artistry of jewellers
who can use these centuries-old arts to make contemporary pieces that are still
distinctly and proudly Indian in style.
Here are three of India’s high-end jewellery designers who
mix the traditional with the contemporary in jaw-dropping displays of
craftsmanship and flair.
In the early 1980s, friends and fellow history students Rajiv Arora and Rajesh Ajmera set off across India on a journey of discovery. Hungry to learn about their country’s rich heritage, they were so enthralled by the stunning tribal arts and designs they came across on their travels, that they set up a jewellery company to pay homage to India’s incredible tradition of visual arts. Today, Amrapali Jewels (named after a famous Indian courtesan and muse) is a global enterprise.
Amrapali Jewels takes heritage techniques, art forms and motifs and blends them with contemporary design to produce stunning interpretations of traditional jewellery.
Many of the artefacts and jewellery that inspired Rajiv Arora and Rajesh Ajmera are on display at the Amrapali Museum in Jaipur. If you can’t get to the museum itself, you can learn more on the museum’s website.
Anand Shah is the recipient of nine consecutive prestigious Solitaire Design Awards and not long ago was named by the World Gold Council as one of the top 10 gold jewellery artists in the world. His designs are coveted by jewellery lovers the world over.
Anand strives to create pieces that echo organic forms and
patterns, saying that he turns again and again to nature for inspiration.
Though he refers to his skill as a goldsmith as a god-given
gift, he also likes to work with gold because of its malleability. It’s this malleability that allows him to achieve
the intricately rendered details of leaves and flowers in each of his
Pallavi Foley describes her jewellery designs as ‘luxurious but understated, and never conventional. She founded Pallavi Foley Boutique Jewels in 2011, after nearly 10 years with India’s largest jewellery company, Tanishq. Since then, Pallavi has become one of India’s leading avant-garde jewellers, the recipient of prestigious awards and beloved by celebrities, movie stars and jewellery aficionados.
Her exquisite pieces use traditional Indian jewellery
techniques in new and surprising ways—indeed Pallavi states that ‘there is as
much science in a piece of Pallavi Foley jewellery as there is art.’
But its her life experiences that are the biggest influence on her work. Pallavi’s inventive designs are sparked by her love of travel, art, history and nature.
Minakari is the beautiful traditional art of ornamenting the surface of metal with brilliantly coloured enamels in elaborate and exquisitely detailed patterns featuring animals, birds and plant forms. The word minakari (also spelt meenakari) derives from the Persian word ‘mina’ which refers to the azure colour of heaven.
Invented by Iranian craftsmen, the art of minakari was spread by the Mongols to India, where is quickly became established as a favoured style for jewellery.
The most popular types of minakari art are ‘ek rang khula’ which uses a single enamel colour and ‘panch rangi meena’, which uses light blue, dark blue, white, red and green.
Traditionally gold is used in minakari jewellery as it is better able to hold the enamel and enhances the brightness and beauty of the its colours.
Using a metal stylus, the jeweller engraves intricate designs in the surface gold. These designs are filled with a mixture of metal oxides and powdered glass and the whole piece is then placed in a furnace to harden and fuse the enamel powder. Its only after the firing process that the colours can be seen properly. After cooling, the minakari is gently polished with a mixture of lemon and tamarind.
Kundan meena, which flourished in India during the Mughal reign, is a stunning fusion of the minakari style and kundan jewellery.
Kundan and Polki are both stones. Polki jewellery is made of unfinished natural diamonds. Polki is essentially an uncut diamond that is mined from the earth in a natural way without any enhancement or lab creation.
Kundan work, can refer to setting any stone in pure precious metal i.e. it is a style of jewellery that sets polished but uncut gemstones in 24 karat gold, with gold foils placed around the stones and cold-soldered onto the base to hold them in place. This style of stone setting is thought to have originated in the Rajasthani and Gujurati royal courts.
In kundan meena jewellery, the front of the piece is decorated in the kundan style and the reverse and sides in the meena kari style.
The best places in India to find this exquisitely stunning
jewellery are widely considered to be Jaipur and Delhi.
Don’t forget to connect with me on Twitter or Facebook to show me your gorgeous kundan meena finds!
Oh, and one more thing. The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed an unintentional error in Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in India, when the wrong picture was placed above a caption referring to kundan meena jewellery. Hopefully this blog post will have set the record straight on the beautiful art forms of minakari (meenakari) and kundan meena!
It’s hard to overstate the importance of gemstones and jewellery in India. From earliest times to the modern day, gemstones and jewellery have played a huge part in Indian culture, adornment and religion.
Our earliest evidence of Indian jewellery takes us back 5000 years to burial sites in the Indus valley. The artefacts found there, now on display in Delhi’s National Museum, showcase the emerging skill of the craftsmen of the Indus Valley civilisation. Tubular beads were carved from a variety of gemstones, including agate, feldspar and carnelian, and decorated with patterns, dots and lines.
As the centuries passed, Indian jewellers developed new techniques and became even more adept at metal working and gemstone cutting. India was until relatively recently the world’s main producer of gemstones. This meant that the craftsmen of India had plenty of opportunity to develop their skills and today, though gemstone mining has declined significantly, India is still known for the expertise of its gemstone cutters.
Indian jewellery and gemstones weren’t simply a statement of status and wealth but were—and still are—important in religious worship and observance. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is the Navaratna (‘Nine Gems’) jewellery. In the Navaratna, the nine gemstones represent nine Indian deities associated with the planets. The particular arrangement of a Navaratna piece is often tailored to the individual according to the reading of astrological charts to make sure that the gemstones are utilised to their best effect.
It was in the Mughal empire that Indian jewellery had its heyday. From the early 16th to the mid 19th centuries, this dynasty produced some of the most spectacular adornments ever made. Intricate pieces, lavishly decorated with gemstones, enamel and filigree gold and silver helped make the wealth of the Mughal Emperors famous across the globe. You can see examples of Mughal jewellery in many of the world’s famous museums, including London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Today, jewellery is still very much part of everyday life in India. Fashion jewellery (everyday jewellery made from cheaper materials) is favoured by the younger generations as it’s more affordable and means the wearer is less likely to be mugged. More expensive jewellery is worn on special occasions like weddings and each piece not only has religious significance but is also believed to have health implications.
To find out more about the jewellery of India and get yourself a signed copy of my latest book, do come along to the Institute of Directors on the 14th of May from 7pm. I’ll be there to answer your questions and talk about my amazing experiences researching gemstones and jewellery in India.
I hope you were able to find a few minutes to read Who is the Author – Parts 1 & 2. This is the final Who is the Author Q&A blog post.
What is the biggest mistake people
make when buying a gemstone that you tackle in the books?
The biggest mistake I think people make is being too trusting. One thing that I have learned through my
travels is that not many people working in the gem trade have real knowledge
about what they’re selling. They might
talk the talk – but how much do they really know about gemstones? You have to be so careful about who you buy
Unfortunately, it often comes down to survival. Competition is cut throat, there are bills to pay and families to feed. It’s a dog eat dog world out there and many people are willing to be dishonest to make money.
But that’s why it’s so important to take care and buy from people who can
advise you properly – people with real knowledge and if you’re buying a
precious gemstone, can give you a certificate from a reputable laboratory.
Who is the Author – Part 3
The Worldwide book offers the widest, most general appeal,
to anyone interested in buying a real gemstone – it looks set to be very
popular. What led to the creation of this
book, what sort of topics does it cover and who do you hope will read it?
After I had written the first few books, it became apparent that there was a market for a more general book on buying and caring for gemstones. It’s great for people who want to know more, but haven’t booked a holiday yet, or who want to buy a gemstone in their home country. I’ve taken out the country-specific detail, which has enabled me to add a few new topics.
I think the most helpful knowledge I share will be about choosing a diamond engagement ring. It was my husband’s idea to include an easy-to-follow guide to buying a diamond after confessing that he wished he’d known more about it when he chose our engagement ring 12 years ago. It’s written to help those who find themselves in a similar position – not knowing anything about diamonds but wanting to put a carat or two on their loved one’s finger. I talk about the 4Cs in relation to diamonds, the different ring styles and gemstone cuts, and I share some tips on making your holiday proposal one to remember!
handful of other new topics in the book, but I don’t want to spoil all the surprises!
Who is the Author – Part 3
What are your top tips for anyone who
wants to buy a real gemstone, such as a diamond, in the UK?
It doesn’t matter where in the world you are buying a diamond from, the exact same rules apply – make sure you buy from a reputable jeweller, and make sure it comes with a certificate – preferably a GIA lab report.
My other suggestion is to buy only what you can afford. Don’t listen to all the hype about how many months salary you should spend on a diamond – that was a line made up by a well-known diamond company to boost sales in the 1930s! Buy something that your loved one will enjoy wearing and that will suit the lifestyle you live.