COLORADO GOLD HIGHLIGHTS
1500 - 1857
- Most of the mineralization of the 200-mile long, 50-mile wide "Colorado Mineral Belt" from Boulder to Telluride is created in the Tertiary period (20 to 40 million years ago).
- The Colorado Mineral Belt contains concentrated deposits of gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, tungsten, and molybdenum.
- The average terrestrial abundance of gold is 0.005 parts per million, which geologists call the "normal geochemical background level."
- Concentration of gold in the Colorado Mineral Belt varies from barely above the terrestrial average to rich veins and pockets containing thousands of ounces per ton of surrounding rock "matrix."
- Most of the placer gold deposits found in Colorado form during the retreat of the Pleistocene glaciers.
1858 - 1867
- Ute Indians begin to inhabit southern areas of the Rocky Mountains around 1500, making these Native Americans the oldest continuous residents of Colorado. In this pristine wilderness they surely discover gold in their travels.
- Gold is discovered in the present Weminuche Wilderness northwest of Pagosa Springs and La Mina de la Ventura (The Mine of the Widow) is mined from 1750 to the 1770s by both the French and Spanish.
- Juan Maria Rivera, seeking his El Dorado in what is now Colorado, discovers gold in the San Juan Mountains.
- In 1783, the United States Congress sets up a "bimetallic" system, based on both silver and gold at a 15:1 ratio.
- James Purcell, a Kentucky-born fur trapper and adventurer, discovers gold nuggets in South Park's South Platte River in 1803.
- Fur trappers report discovering gold on Clear Creek at the present site of Golden in 1830.
- In 1837, the United States Congress continues the "bimetallic" system established in 1783 but fixes the price of silver at $1.29 per troy ounce and gold at $20.67 per troy ounce (a 16:1 ratio). The price of gold remains at this same fixed price though 1933.
- Bill Williams, a trapper/explorer, returns home to Missouri in 1841 with gold nuggets he discovered somewhere in the Colorado Rockies.
- John C. Fremont's exploration party reports discovery of gold near the present site of Lake City in 1848.
- George Simpson discovers gold in 1849 along Cherry Creek within present day Denver city limits.
- On June 22, 1850, Lewis Ralston discovers gold on Ralston Creek, a tributary of Clear Creek, near the present site of Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada
- Soldiers stationed at Fort Massachusetts in what is now northern Costilla County reportedly discover placer gold at the confluence of Grayback Gulch and Placer Creek in 1852.
- "Gold in great abundance" is reported near the headwaters of the Arkansas River in 1855.
- A Delaware Indian, Fall Leaf, reports finding gold in Colorado in 1857.
1868 - Present
- On June 24, 1858, half-Cherokee William Greenberry "Green" Russell, and his brothers John Riley Russell, Joseph Oliver Russell, and Levi Jasper Russell from Hall, Georgia (near Auraria, Georgia), spur the Pike's Peak Gold Rush (1858 to 1867) in Colorado when they discover traces of gold along the Colorado's South Platte River (known collectively as the "Cherry Creek diggings") some three miles upstream from the confluence of Cherry Creek (near the present Alameda Avenue bridge). The area is now under rail yards, highways, warehouses, and parking lots.
- On January 7, 1859, George A. Jackson, a cousin of Kit Carson, discovers an extremely rich gold placer sand bar at present day Idaho Springs on the South Fork of Clear Creek, scooping out the yellow stuff with a knife and a cup.
- In early May 1859, John Gregory, an Alabama-born mule skinner on his way to the Jackson Diggings, turns up the North Fork of Clear Creek instead and, following a trail of color a half mile up a small gulch (soon to be named Gregory Gulch), discovers a rich oxidized vein of gold-bearing quartz feeding a placer below with bits of free gold.
- Following the 1859 gold discoveries, other gold deposits were found in gulches surrounding Gregory Gulch. Quickly, mining camps grew in those areas too. Some of those camps were Springfield, Bortonsburg, Missouri City, Nevada City, Dog Town, Eureka, Russell Gulch, Lake Gulch, Black Hawk Point, Chase's Gulch, and Enterprise City.
- By June 1859, over 5,000 prospectors had claimed virtually every foot of the three-mile-long Gregory Gulch and its gold-bearing tributaries.
- By August 1859, spectacular gold discoveries are made in the Blue River drainage, with Breckenridge springing up to become the district seat.
- In the fall of 1859, miners established Jefferson Territory and petitioned Congress for immediate admission to the Union as a state. The petition was rejected because it was a "self appointed" territory and it would probably be admitted as a "northern state."
- In November 1859, a solitary miner began using a rocker box in some gold-rich dirt in Nevada Gulch a mile above Central City, taking out 150 troy ounces of gold by the following January.
- In 1859, despite the government's fixed price, gold was worth only about $16.00 per troy ounce.
- A large placer gold deposit is discovered on Cache Creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River, near Granite on the Lake County-Chafee County line.
- In April 1860, rich placer discoveries in California Gulch near Oro City some seventeen miles to the north of Cache Creek on the present site of Leadville cause a stampede of miners to the area.
- In July 1860, Austin M. Clark, Milton E. Clark, and Emanuel H. Gruber, begin operation of the Clark, Gruber & Co. Bank & Mint on the corner of present day Market and 16th Streets in the center of rapidly growing Denver. The company was soon minting private gold coinage in denominations of $2.50, $5, $10, and $20.
- Charles Baker discovers gold in 1860 at Eureka near the present location of Silverton in the San Juan Mountains.
- On February 22, 1861, Congress establishes Colorado Territory, anticipating the onset of civil war. William Gilpin is the new territory's first Governor.
- Placer gold is found in Washington Gulch in present day Gunnison County in 1861.
- The American Civil War erupts in April of 1861.
- To discourage shipment of gold to the Confederate South, in 1861, Governor William Gilpin organizes two volunteer infantry regiments, the Colorado Volunteers, which he outfits with funds raised from unauthorized drafts on the federal treasury.
- In 1861, Clark, Gruber & Co. begins adding in their coinage one percent more gold than U.S. Mint issues supposedly to "protect the holder against loss by wear" but more likely to ward off any question of "full weight."
- In 1861, two small private coin mints are established by John Parson & Co in the South Park camp of Hamilton and by J. J. Conway & Co. in Georgia Gulch near Breckenridge. Both companies' coins bear the name "Pike's Peak."
- In 1862, the Colorado Volunteers distinguish themselves in a series of actions of La Glorieta Pass (also called Pigeon's Ranch) in Peralta, New Mexico, helping eliminate the threat of "invasion" by Southern Confederate forces from Texas.
- Late in the year of 1862, Clark, Gruber & Co. cease all coinage operations pending final transfer of their mint to the federal government.
- Colorado gold production reaches $4 million for the year of 1862.
- In April, 1863, Clark, Gruber & Co. transfers their mint to the federal government, but remains in the banking business until 1865.
- In 1863, Placer gold is discovered in Colorado Gulch in present day Lake County.
- In one of the last large strikes of the Colorado Gold Rush, placer gold is discovered near Hahn's Peak in present day Routt County in 1864.
- The Civil War ends when terms of surrender are signed on April 9, 1865.
- Colorado's gold production drops drastically from $4 million in each of the previous three years to $3 million for the year of 1865.
- Colorado gold production drops to $2 million (about 110, 000 troy ounces) for the year of 1866.
- Following a federal policy of benign neglect with the mineral claim system in use in the West, the U.S. enacts the 1866 Mining Act that confirms existing mining claims and contains the declaration that the minerals on public land are open to exploration by all citizens of the United States. The locator is given legal protection for his claim.
- Denver is established as Colorado Territory's third territorial capitol in 1867.
- Prunes, the burro, is born in 1867.
- The Colorado Gold Rush comes to an end in 1867.
- In 1867, former Brown University professor Nathaniel P. Hill takes 70 tons of Colorado ore to Swansea, Wales, returns with a new ore reduction process, forms the Boston & Colorado Smelting Company, and establishes the first important area smelter in Black Hawk.
- As a direct result of Nathaniel P. Hill's new smelting process in Black Hawk, which successfully extracts gold from difficult-to-refine refractory rock, a mining revival is started in 1868 as many closed properties reopen and begin to operate at a profit.
- In 1868, mechanical mining drills begin to appear in Colorado.
- The Placer Act of 1870 updates the Mining Act of 1866 to provide a method of patenting placer claims.
- Placer gold is discovered in 1870 on Wightman Fork, 11,500 feet high on South Mountain in the San Juan Mountains at the future site of Summitville.
- By 1870, more than 300 miles of water diversion ditches serve Colorado's placer mines.
- On May 10, 1872, the Mining Act of 1866 is further updated as the United States Mining Law of 1872 that defines the acquisition of mining rights on large amounts of public land in the West but does not sanction the disposal or use of public lands for purposes unrelated to mining.
- The U. S. Government orders all prospectors out of the San Juan Mountains in 1872 because all their claims are illegally staked on Ute land.
- In 1873, the U. S. Government places the quest for gold above Indian rights and orders Felix Brunot, a U. S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, to negotiate a settlement with the Utes who relinquish claim to 4 million acres of mineral land in return for an annual federal payment of $25,000.
- George Howard and R. J. McNutt strike a 3,000-foot vein of gold on the high peaks some eight miles northeast of Silverton in 1873.
- Gold, silver, and base metals are discovered near Lake City in 1874.
- In 1875, prospector John Fallon make the first claim in Marshal Basin above Telluride, registering the Sheridan Mine with the Silverton County Clerk, the 3,000-foot Smuggler vein that proves to be rich in gold, silver , copper, zinc, lead, copper, and iron.
- In 1877, George Barber and William Weston discover a large, mineralized quartz vein, containing almost one ounce of gold per ton, southeast of Ouray in the 11,500-foot-high Imogene Basin.
- The "Mt. Pisgah Hoax" is perpetrated on hundreds in Cripple Creek in 1884 when some local entrepreneurs try to boost property values by salting a few holes with placer gold, not knowing that they were sitting over the greatest concentrations of high-grade gold ore in North America.
- Prospectors find gold in the gravels nine miles below the present site of Uravan on Mesa Creek, a tributary of the San Miguel.
- On July 23, 1887, Tom Groves and Harry Lytton, working on the Fuller placer on Farncomb Hill near Breckenridge strike a pocket of more than 243 ounces of lode gold.
- Six years after Cripple Creek's "Mt. Pisgah Hoax," one "Crazy Bob" Womack discovers a huge lode gold deposit in Cripple Creek after looking for it since finding a single loose piece of alluvial "float" in 1879.
- The Gold Standard Act requires the U.S. Treasury to maintain a minimum of $150 million in gold reserves while the price of gold remains fixed at $20.67 per troy ounce.
- In 1908, the entire 42-foot-diameter dome of the Denver capitol building is covered with 200 troy ounces of gold leaf donated by Colorado mining companies.
- By September 1918, it cost $30.00 per ounce to produce gold that could be sold for at a maximum fixed price of $20.67 per ounce.
- On November 24, 1914, miners on the 1200-foot level of Cripple Creek's Cresson Mine blast into a huge vug (geode chamber) some 23 feet long, 14 feet wide, and 36 feet high lined with gold crystals.
- The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 makes certain nonmetalliferous minerals exclusively leasable and not open to acquisition by claim staking.
- Prunes, the burro, dies in 1930.
- On April 30, 1933, the United States leaves the Gold Standard to limit private citizens' access to gold, thus giving the federal government greater influence over the economy. America's legal tender is backed only by the U.S. government's "promise to pay."
- In 1934, the U.S. government fixes the value of gold at $35.00 per troy
- The Materials Act of 1947 defines a group of salable minerals.
- The Multiple Mineral Use Act of 1954 provides for multiple mineral development of the same tracts of public lands.
- The Multiple Surface Use Mining Act of July 23, 1955, withdraws common varieties from mineral entry.
- On March 17, 1968, because of a gold crisis, a two-tiered pricing system is established by the U.S. government whereby gold is still used to settle international accounts at the old $35.00/troy ounce price while the price of gold on the private market is be allowed to fluctuate.
- On October 3, 1975, Bob Ellithorpe gouges a yellow streak in a boulder with his bulldozer on the ASARCO, Inc. lease of Reynolds Mining Company property north of the Dexter Mine at Summitville. The boulder is approximately 18 by 12 inches and weighs 141.5 pounds. The matrix of fine-grained crystalline quartz and barite is mostly wrapped in 350 troy ounces of gold.
- The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 redefines claim recording procedures and provides for abandonment if procedures are not followed.
- In 1976, Gary and Barbara Christopher open The Prospector's Cache, a prospecting and metal detecting store on South Broadway in Englewood, that becomes the largest retail gold mining and treasure hunting shop in the entire Rocky Mountain region.
- In 1980, free-market gold reaches about $620 per troy ounce.
- In 1990, free-market gold is about $410 per troy ounce.
- In 2000, free-market gold is about $313 per troy ounce.
- June 1, 2003, China begins allowing its citizens to own gold, the first time in over five decades that the Chinese people have had this freedom.
- Gold hits a high of over $960 per troy ounce.
- The Sanskrit word for gold is jval, meaning "to shine."
- The Latin word for gold is aurum, meaning "shining dawn."
- The Anglo-Saxon word gold is derived directly from the Teutonic gulth, meaning "shining metal."
- Gold, the first precious metal, has been known for at least 5,500 years.
- Gold became a monetary metal by the Chinese as early as 3,000 years ago.
- Gold is called a "noble" metal (an alchemistic term) because it does not oxidize under ordinary conditions.
- There is approximately 1 milligram of gold dissolved in every ton of seawater, but so far it cannot be extracted profitably.
- Nearly 40 percent of all the world's gold has been mined since 1980.
- Gold found in streams is termed "placer" gold while gold found in ore bodies is known as "lode" gold.
- In gold-bearing country, prospectors look for gold where coarse sands and gravel have accumulated and where "black sands" have concentrated and settled with the gold. Magnetite is the most common mineral in black sands, but other heavy minerals such as hematite (iron oxide), cassiterite, monazite, ilmenite, chromite, platinum-group metals, and some gemstones may be present. Black sands have specific gravities (densities) ranging from 4.3 to 5.2.
- Typically, prospectors followed placer deposits to the lode gold source then start hard rock mining.
- It is estimated that all the gold that has been refined in the world so far could be placed in a single cube 20 meters (60 feet) on a side.
- It is estimated that less then two percent of the world's gold remains in the form of nuggets, which are becoming more rare and harder to find. For example, a 5-carat diamond is easier to find than a 1-troy-ounce nugget.
- Gold nuggets range from approximately 92% to 99.6% pure gold (approximately 22 K to 24 K).
- Gold in the form of gold dust comprises 98% of the world's gold.
- Most of the bullion that is traded on the stock market made from gold dust melted down in the form of coins.
- Gold in the United States depository consists of bars about the size of ordinary building bricks (7 x 3 5/8 x 1 3/4 inches) that weigh about 27.5 pounds each (about 400 troy ounces) and which are stored without wrappings in vault compartments.
- In the last 500 years, about 80,000 tons of gold have been taken from the earth.
- It is estimated that the world reserves of gold economically recoverable by present methods may total only about 32,000 tons.
- Aside from monetary uses, gold is used in jewelry and allied wares, electrical-electronic applications, dentistry, the aircraft-aerospace industry, the arts, and medical and chemical fields.
- A radio isotope of gold, gold-198, is used to treat cancer.
- Gold sodium thiosulfate (AuNa3O6S4) is used as a treatment for arthritis.
- Chlorauric acid (HAuCl4) is used to preserve photographs by replacing the silver atoms present in the image.
Carat vs. Karat
- A carat is a unit of weight for precious stones, equal to 1/5 gram or 200 milligrams. It also is a 24th part of gold in an alloy. A karat is defined similarly, so they are in fact the same.
- 14 karat ring contains 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts alloy material.
- The only apparent difference between carat and karat is in their use. Carat is normally associated with precious gemstones, whereas karat is associated with gold. The abbreviation K stems from its French origin.
- "Fineness" refers to parts per thousand of gold in an alloy. For example, three-nines fine would correspond to gold of 99.9 percent purity.
- "Laboratory Pure Gold" is 1.000 fine
- 24 K = 99% pure (.9999 fine) "Commercially Fine Gold"
- 23 K = 97% pure (.9650 fine)
- 18 K = 75% pure (.7500 fine)
- 14 K = 58% pure (.5883 fine)
- 12 K = 50% pure (.5000 fine)
- 10 K = 42% pure (.4167 fine)
- 8 K = 33% pure (.3323 fine)
- U.S. gold coins are 22 K (.9166 fine)
- The weight of gold is determined in the scale of troy ounces rather than the avoirdupois scale. Their commonality is in grains: there are 480 grains in one troy ounce, 437.5 grains in one avoirdupois ounce.
- To convert avoirdupois ounces to troy ounces, multiply by .9114883.
- 1 troy ounce = 20 dwt (Pennyweight), 31.12035 grams = 480 grains
- 1 troy pennyweight (dwt) = 1.555 grams = 24 grains
- 1 troy gram = .643 dwt = 15.43 grains
- A gold "nugget" is a piece of native gold larger than one troy grain in weight.
- In the Periodic Table of Elements, gold is classified as a transitional metal with the following characteristics:
- Atomic symbol: Au
- Atomic number: 79
- Atomic radius: 144 pm
- Atomic weight: 196.96655
- Melting point: 1337.33 Kelvin (1063 °C or 1945 °F)
- Boiling point: 3129 Kelvin (2856 °C or 5173 °F)
- Specific gravity (density): 19.282 grams per cubic centimeter
- Oxidation states: +3, +1
- Ionization energy: 9.226 eV
- Hardness (Mohs Scale): 2.5 to 3.0 (harder than lead, softer than copper)
- Abundance ranking: 58 out of 92 natural elements
- Electron configuration: [Xe]6s14f145d10
- Phase at room temperature: Solid
- Alchemy symbol: (a circle with a center dot representing the sun)
- Gold's crystal structure is cubic.
- Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all metals.
- One troy ounce of gold can be beaten out into a sheet approximately 187 square feet (17 square meters or 16.4 feet square).
- Gold leaf can be 1/3000,000th of an inch, but gold has actually been beaten thin as 4 millionths of an inch--so thin that light can pass through.
- One troy ounce of gold can be drawn into a wire up to 60 miles long.
- Gold has a yellow color when in a mass, but when finely divided may be black, ruby, or purple.
- Gold is one of the heaviest of all metals.
- Gold is a good reflector of infrared radiation and is a good conductor of heat and electricity.
- Gold is the most non-reactive of all metals.
- Gold does not tarnish when exposed to air and is resistant to fire and most solvents.
- Although gold does not react with common acids, it can be attacked by a 3-to-1 mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids, called aqua regia (Latin for royal water) because it reacts with the so-called "royal metal."
- Gold is so soft that it is alloyed with other metals, such as nickel (Ni), to give it strength and hardness.
- In its pure form, gold has a metallic luster and is sun yellow, but when mixed or alloyed with other metals, such as silver (Ag), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), nickel (Ni), platinum (Pt), palladium (Pd), tellurium (Te), and iron (Fe), creates various color hues ranging from silver-white to green and orange-red.
- Usually, red, yellow and green golds are made by adding varying amounts of copper (Cu) and silver (Ag) to produce alloys of 10 to 14 carats. White golds have traditionally been made by alloying nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn) and copper (Cu) with gold, but more recently silver (Ag) and palladium (Pd) have replaced the zinc. These color variation treatments to gold are mostly used in jewelry.
- Mesh refers to the opening between the threads of a screen and is measured by the number of openings per inch, that is, 10 mesh equals 10 holes (openings) per inch.
- Coarse gold will not pass through a 10-mesh screen.
- Medium gold will not pass through a 20-mesh screen and averages about 2,200 colors to a troy ounce.
- Fine gold will not pass through a 40-mesh screen and averages about 12,000 colors to a
- Flour gold passes through a 40-mesh screen and averages about 40,000 colors to a troy ounce. Flour gold has such a large surface area in proportion to its weight that it tends to float out of pans and over riffles where it cannot break the surface tension of water.
- Color simply means a tiny particle of gold.
- A common medium of exchange for miners was gold dust. A merchant could measure a small amount from the customer's poke on a balance scale or use a rule of thumb--a pinch between the index finger and thumb (equal to about 25 cents).
- There were, however, tricks that unscrupulous merchants could employ to steal the miner's gold dust. He could squeeze a dried pea in his pocket to produce a temporary indentation in his thumb and thus pick up more gold dust. He also could casually rub his finger along his nose, get some skin oil, and attract more dust. Weighers in the gambling halls and saloons lived off the tiny bits of gold dust that they could make stick to fingers wet with beer and wiping the hands in leather pant pockets. Some had long fingernails that trapped more dust. One ingenious weigher groomed his hair by combing syrup into it, running his hands through his hair after each weighing, and frequently washing out the gold dust.
- Possibly the largest operation in mining the miner, on the other hand, was done by the Chinese hand laundries that sprang up from San Francisco to Denver and beyond during the various gold rushes. The Chinese laundry man usually could wash enough gold dust out of pants, cuffs, and shirttails to set himself up for life.