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Wet Gold II: Measuring Gold Content in an Ore With Only a Scale


In my last post we saw how you could measure density with only a scale.  In this post, we will expand on that technique and learn how to measure metal content in gold/quartz ore.  In principle, this technique could be used for other ore, but the ores can only be two part (e.g. gold and quartz) systems.  Gold is a “natural” for this analysis as it is typically pure gold with quartz.

Gold is often found “veined” in quartz.  I was certain that this was the origin of the “Golden Fleece.”   The fleece being the white quartz with the gold on top.   However, a little research did not clarify this belief.

Anyway, let’s assume you take a few weeks off from work.  Leaving the world of solder paste, TIMS, ITO, wave solder flux and solder preforms behind, you set out for the west in search of some large gold nuggets.  Fate was with you in that, in a short time, you find a gold/quartz specimen as shown below.   The images, and the new “wet gold” weighing technique I will discuss, are from Bill and Linda Prospecting.


You are so excited you are shaking.  The only tools you brought are a scale, some string and a beaker.  To determine that gold content, you need to measure the weight of the gold in air and under water.  But you only have the scale as shown below.  What can you do?

After measuring the weight of the ore in air, fill the beaker part way with water, place it on the scale and zero the weight.  Then insert the ore on a string as shown below.  The scale will now read the weight of the volume of water that the ore displaces.  Let’s call this weight of the water displaced WD .  The wet weight of gold (weight of gold under water) will be the weight in air minus WD.  So we now have the weight in air and the weight in water.


The derivation of the equation that tells us how much gold is in the ore is at the end of this post.  The final equation we need is WAu = 3.07WW – 1.91WAir.  For our ore sample WAir = 25.1 pennyweight (pw). A pennyweight is 1/20th of a troy oz.  WD as shown in the photo above is 8.3 pw.  So WW = WAir – WD = 25.1-8.3 = 16.8 pw.  So WAu = 3.05*16.8 – 1.91*25.1 = 3.635 pw.  Subsequent analysis showed that the gold content was actually 3.9 pw and error less than 7%.  Not too bad for a simple field measurement.  At $1600/oz our ore sample contained. a little over $300 dollars of gold.

This technique could be used to measure the density of an alloy as in the last post.



The Derivation of the Equation