Characteristics of Gold-Bearing Quartz Veins (Part 2)

(This mountain contained a series of the richest gold-bearing quartz veins ever discovered in southeastern California.)

The single most common gold-bearing matrix in the world as a whole is the quartz vein. I'm no geologist, but as a hard-rock or placer gold miner I do know that having a basic understanding of the geological characteristics of auriferous quartz veins is important. So here is Part 2 of this series:

Associated Minerals

Many different types of minerals are associated with gold-bearing quartz veins as well as their surrounding host rock(s). This is why you hear me stress so often in “Bedrock Dreams” the importance of understanding (or at least having a basic grasp) of gold geology and mineralization. The bottom line is this: the more knowledge and experience you have, the more gold you will ultimately find and recover.

Where to Find Placer Gold

OK, that bit of oldtimer's wisdom out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the minerals associated with gold-bearing quartz ores:

1) Natural or native gold (Au is what it’s all about, right?)

2) Pyrite (good old iron sulphide)

3) Arsenopyrite (iron arsenic sulphide)

4) Galena (lead sulphide, a common form of lead ore)

5) Sphalerite (a type of zinc ore)

6) Chalcopyrite (copper-iron sulphide)

7) Pyrrhotite (an unusual and sometimes rare iron mineral)

8) Telluride (an ore type that is often refractory, meaning that its precious metal content is typically in a chemical and not a free-milling form)

9) Scheelite (a main form of tungsten ore, sometimes known as calcium tungstate)

10) Bismuth (has characteristics close to antimony and arsenic, used as an ingredient in good ol’ Pepto Bismol because it tightens the bowels)

11) Cosalite (has lead and bismuth as its main constituents, found with gold but more often with silver)

12) Tetrahedrite (copper and antimony sulphide)

13) Stibnite (antimony sulphide)

14) Molybdenite (molybdenum sulphid[t]e, similar to graphite in appearance and texture)

15) Gersdorffite (a mineral containing nickel and arsenic sulphide)

You purists out there probably noticed that, with the exception of gold, I didn’t include the Periodic Table of the Elements chemical designations in this list. If you’re a geologist or chemist knowing the element designations is pretty much mandatory, but for a small-scale miner or prospector intent on getting the gold it probably isn’t going to add a whole hell of a lot value in a practical sense.

Do Your Homework

I want you to stop and think for a moment. If you could readily identify each of the minerals listed above out in the field, would that increase your chances of gold mining success or decrease them? Especially in terms of locating or identifying potential gold deposits or showing you what sort of ground could be highly mineralized?

More Gold Locations

I think you get the picture here. One thing I used to carry with me when I was out and about on a prospecting jaunt was a small, mineral field book that contained color images and short descriptions of the types of minerals listed above. Do your homework and spend enough time out in the field this way and you'll get very good at identifying those minerals that are associated with auriferous quartz veins.

There’s more to come down the road so keep coming back.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "10 Tips for Smart Miners: Network With the Locals"

© J.R. 2011

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. excellent blog! I'll be going over the rest of it with a fine tooth comb! I live in Albuquerque and have been "prospector" curious all of my life. I only recently started reading and trying to learn about my "gold fever". I commented on the first article I found at this site (google searched) before I realized you were here in NM. anyway, great stuff, a real wealth of information. your mom would be proud! You'll be happy to know I've only spent about $60 on gear and am already having a great time looking for the yeller metal.

  2. Hello again Bo! Thanks for the positive feedback and the support. Both are appreciated. Yep, I think you're Mom would be proud, bless her long-departed heart. Good man..$60.00 is more than enough to get you going out the door. Thanks for commenting and keep coming back. J.R.


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