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Metal Detecting News / Sifting for sunken treasure
« Last post by Tascio on August 20, 2017, 01:35:16 PM »
Sifting for sunken treasure

Paul Miederhoff is proof you don't have to go to an ocean to find sunken treasures.

The retired Kelso, Missouri, resident has made a hobby out of retrieving others' lost valuables, reuniting rings and fingers, often to the surprise of grateful owners, many who had also long ago lost hope.

Miederhoff only has to pull out his phone to access an index of his many underwater discoveries, including several newspaper clippings with pictures documenting the ecstatic presentation to an owner after a find. There is a recent one with Miederhoff in classic form, wearing a T-shirt, a ball cap emblazoned with Ringfinders and a humble smile; standing alongside him is a woman in a dress who looks like she's been proposed to by her dream fiance, her extended hand adorned with ring and her face with a glowing smile.

Those are the moments that keep him sifting through the less glorious times, ones spent scooping sludge and diving to the bottom of murky ponds, lakes or rivers with a metal detector.

"That's as much fun as finding it," Miederhoff said. "You see the reaction and smile on their face when you return it. They can't believe when they hear about it."

Some of his finds come out of left field, years removed from their disappearance. And they're not all wedding rings.

He estimates he's returned about "13 or 14" high school class rings, one of the easier items to track since yearbooks provide a virtual phone-book-like source of possible owners.

One of the clippings details an Oklahoma man reunited with a class ring he lost while swimming 19 years earlier. The man told the newspaper he lost it while swimming on July 4, 1977, and he searched futilely for an hour. He was contacted by Miederhoff years later, and the man was so excited to get his ring he drove to Texas for the presentation.

Miederhoff is a former Navy seaman -- he spent two months at sea on a nuclear submarine -- who said he's always been attracted to water. He also had an interest in searching for valuable metal. The Sikeston native began sifting for gold while living in Arizona on weekends while employed as an electro-mechanical technician for Motorola. His ventures uncovered a few precious ounces.

His two attractions crossed paths when he moved to the Kansas City area, where Miederhoff bought a metal detector and joined a club. Through club members, he was introduced to the idea of searching water, which he proceeded to do for years by wading chest-deep, detaching the controller from the device to keep it dry and using a scoop to excavate items detected on the bottom.

While crude, the technique was fruitful.

"It was probably a couple days before I found my first class ring," Miederhoff said.

After moving to Texas, he had a couple well-documented finds, including the aforementioned class ring.

He also surprised a woman with her lost wedding ring.

"I got ahold of her husband, and we surprised her at work," Miederhoff said. "We had a newspaper reporter with us."

The woman's dumbfounded reaction was captured for the front page of the local paper.

Miederhoff moved back to Southeast Missouri 18 years ago and uncovered another class ring at Whippoorwill Lake near Advance, and he has since upped his game to include scuba diving. He gained certification at Mermet Springs in Illinois about 12 years ago to open new territory, and it has.

"The good stuff that's out deeper, nobody was going for that," Miederhoff said. "Not many guys do that; they still don't. It gave me an opportunity to cover more area."

Using a compressor hose instead of a tank, he can spend hours submerged while on the hunt.

Cold water causes fingers to shrink, making rings a common sunken treasure. He estimates he's found about 100 gold rings over the years, and he's found even more silver rings.

He registered online with Ringfinders last December and now is contacted by distraught people who have seen valuables disappear below the surface. He turned up two expensive wedding rings in July in a matter of days. He also was contacted about a ring lost in a party cove at Lake of Egypt in Illinois, which resulted in a non-productive search, other than the trove of red Solo cups, beer cans, sunglasses and swim goggles.

His finds also have included coins, a lead toy gun, a boot revolver from the mid-1800s, Civil War items, chains, pendants, earrings, tokens and you name it.

Recently he was contacted by a woman to search for her husband's wedding band lost in the Black River at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park.

Searching at depths up to 30 feet, his four-hour excursion netted an Apple watch, coins, five pairs of sunglasses and ... a men's wedding band.

Happy ending? Not quite.

"It wasn't the one I was looking for for this woman." (573) 388-3632
Leeds metal detectorist spends two decades unearthing historical treasure

LAURA DRYSDALE Published: 13:44 Friday 18 August 2017

Each time his metal detector beeps, Michael Smith digs and digs in the hope of unearthing another piece of our county's history. From coins and brooches to medieval belts, his finds have made their way into museum exhibitions up and down the country.

And the thrill the 61-year-old, from Cottingley, gets every time he discovers a new item spurs him to keep going and uncover more of the region's treasures. "It's a great buzz knowing that someone has dropped this item years ago, and probably got back home and panicked that it was gone," he said. "It's some feeling knowing you are the first person to see or handle it for hundreds or thousands of years." Mr Smith, a chef by trade, began his hobby in the 1990s. His detecting equipment, worth around £1,400, helps filter out valuable or historical objects hidden underground.

Read more at:
Oswestry history enthusiast to welcome metal detecting celebrities

A history enthusiast will be welcoming some celebrity names later this year after launching a metal-detecting holiday business.

Chris Langston – who writes the Oswestry Unearthed column in the Advertizer – will welcome Relic Recoverist blogger Jocelyn Elizabeth and Tim ‘the Ringmaster’ Saylor from the National Geographic channel, plus his partner Carlotta, to spend a few days discovering the hidden past of Oswestry and its surrounding areas.

Joycelyn and Tim are well known in the US for their work digging up history.

It’s a coup for Chris who has launched Metal Detecting Holidays (MDH) in partnership with Louise Idoux and John Flaherty.

“We are all really excited,” said Chris, who will lead the metal-detecting tours.

“We are really looking forward to them coming over and showing them what Oswestry has to offer.”

The holiday business will be based in Whittington, but has permission to visit more than 1,000 acres of historically-rich farmland, ensuring there is plenty for guests to discover.

The area’s past has seen Bronze Age settlements, Roman camps and battles between Welsh princes and English monarchs.
Appeal for information on unusual treasure found on Fife beach

Read more at:

A metal detectorist is trying to put together the pieces of an old puzzle after discovering an old silver ferrule on a Kirkcaldy beach. Liam Mason (34), discovered the artefact, the metal cap which strengthens the end of a handle or stick to prevent the wood from splitting, while sweeping Seafield beach with his metal detector back in April this year.

Liam had only become involved in detecting last year through his wife Jess, who had been doing it for several years, and had volunteered to help out at a beach clean. “I thought I could go along and maybe help by picking up some old cans with the detector – I wasn’t expecting to find anything,” he said. “I had picked up a few things, mainly on beaches because you don’t need permission to detect on them as they are usually public. I found a brooch dating back to around WW1 last year near to Ravenscraig beach, so I knew there were things to be found. “I had only been there around half an hour but because there was a lot of electrical interference in the area I was about to give up and was on my way back to the car just sweeping as I went along when I got a high pitched signal.
Mysterious mourning ring has been discovered by metal detectorist, Colin Spiller, in west Dorset field

Almost exactly 200 years after it was made, to commemorate the death of someone with the initials ‘I.W.’, a mysterious mourning ring has been discovered by a metal detectorist in a west Dorset field.

The man who found it Colin Spiller, a 44 year-old building maintenance worker from Chard, Somerset, said it was a "fantastic find”.

Mr Spiller was taking part in a metal detecting day with about 50 other enthusiasts in a farmer’s field in Burstock, near Beaminster.

The ring is expected to fetch up to £1,200 at Mayfair auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, the international coins, medals and jewellery specialists, when offered for sale at auction on September 5 in London.

Mr Spiller, who has been a metal detectorist for 12 years, said: “I thought about keeping it but it would only have stayed in the back of a drawer.”

He will split the proceeds 50-50 with the farmer who owns the field where it was found.

Laura Smith, a jewellery specialist at Dix Noonan Webb auctioneers, who regularly sell discoveries by metal detectorists, said: “This ring is such a poignant find. Mourning rings were worn to commemorate loved ones who had passed away and one cannot help but

wonder who ‘I.W.’ was and what sort of life he or she lived.”

The ring is a gold band decorated on the exterior with stylized foliage and a ‘momento mori’ (reflection on mortality) skull relief decorated in black enamel.

Inside is a Latin inscription which translates as ‘I.W. died 9 April 1717 aged 71.’ Although the black enamel is chipped and worn, the ring is in remarkably good condition given that it may have spent much of the past two centuries buried in a Dorset field.

It was on 26 February this year – almost exactly two centuries after the death of the person commemorated by the ring – that Colin Spiller went into the field accompanied by his 15 year-old stepson Ashley Miner.

After an hour they received a strong signal on their detector and found the ring about four or five inches below the surface.

Mr Spiller added: "To be honest, I thought it was a modern piece at first because it was black and I did not know that this was enamelling.

“Then Ashley put his finger through the middle of the ring to clear out the earth and we saw the date. We did a ‘high five’.”
With prospects, they’re panning like it’s 1849

By Thomas Curwen
California’s historic drought has ended. Riverbeds, once dry, are torrents, and California’s Gold Country is living up to its reputation.
Standing on a narrow bridge over Eagle Creek, weeks before the Detwiler fire ravaged the foothills to the south, Robert Guardiola watches nearly 40 miners spread out. Wearing kneepads and waders, they have begun to organise their equipment – buckets and classifiers, hog pans and cradles – along the edge of the stream.
Some cut into sandbars with their shovels; others adjust their sluices half in and out of the flowing water. A few have begun swirling mud in their gold pans.
“Everything begins and ends with a pan,” says Guardiola, pleased with the activity. He helped organise this outing, a monthly foray for a local prospecting association known as the Delta Gold Diggers.
Settled in a nearby folding lawn chair, Russ Tait is doing his part. A latte-coloured slurry circles the perimeter of his emerald-coloured pan.
With a floppy hat, ponytail and a white beard that hasn’t been trimmed in 18 years, the 72-year-old looks like a refugee from Knott’s Berry Farm. Even his blue eyes behind silver frames have a bit of a twinkle.
Tait has bone cancer, so getting down to the creek isn’t easy. But even if his days are numbered, he isn’t above dreaming. He peers into the murky solution, hoping to glimpse something shiny.
“I guess you call it gold fever,” he says. “You get out there, and there’s times where you get tired and you don’t want to quit.”
For years, especially during the drought, Tait and his friends stood on the riverbanks of California’s Mother Lode alone with their obsession. Now, as record snowmelt scours these watersheds, washing gold into streams, that’s seldom the case.
More and more strangers are out on these rivers and streams, looking for that sparkling metal.
Since it was first smelted almost 6,000 years ago, Au 79 – one of the 118 elements on the periodic table – has inspired an enduring madness.
Ovid tells the tale of Midas, John Huston of a similar malady in the mountains of Mexico, and television cameras bring home the frenzy on the Bering Sea.
But gold is admired not just for its beauty and worth. In a chaotic world, it speaks with evangelical zeal to values less ephemeral. Populists and politicians champion it as a stabiliser for the dollar. Survivalists see salvation in its worth when civilisation collapses.
But on the banks of Eagle Creek, the talk is more about the poison oak, twining its way through the brush, as unwanted as the mining regulations that have come out of Sacramento.
In 2009, the miners complain, a state judge issued an injunction that placed a temporary moratorium on the use of motorised equipment near the state’s rivers and streams, putting an end to dredges that suction rocks, sand and pebbles from the bottom of a creek and pumps that circulate water into sluices located high on river banks.
A coalition of tribal, conservation and fisheries representatives said such practices compromise riparian habitat, and the judge ordered the matter to be studied. A final ruling has yet to be made.
But what regulations have prohibited, nature has allowed, and with all the water blasting through these mountains, prospectors have a new kick in their step.
Geological gumshoes, they search for ancient rivers, for rounded boulders tumbled together, for orange soil tainted by rusted iron and veins of quartz hiding gold.
They read streambeds, imagining how the current flowed during floods, hunting for any irregularity – a riffle, a ledge, a waterfall – that could create a backward eddy for the gold to escape the water’s momentum and drop to the floor.
Heavier than most metals, gold, they say, has arms and legs for its propensity to climb deep into bedrock where it lies trapped.
Late afternoon, after nearly an hour in the water, Guardiola totes two five-gallon buckets up from the creek. One contains trash collected from the shallows: a spark plug, a shotgun shell, a square-headed nail, a spatula and part of a car door.
The other contains his concentrates, less than a cup of dark sand sloshing about in water.
Panning it, he separates the lighter material from the heavier to reveal a few gold specks, each no bigger than a fat flea.
What could possess a man to stand for an hour in snowmelt with a shovel and gold pan for the sake of a few microns?
Every miner has an answer, and Guardiola’s reply comes two days later on his personal claim, some 20 miles south of Eagle Creek near the town of Moccasin.
California’s Mother Lode is a lonely place – twisting roads, tall grass, ancient oaks – haunted from the days of 1848, when the Argonauts panned out from Sutter’s Mill. Gold littered the ground like potatoes, then like marbles, and finally a dust they called flour, all totalled: $2 billion extracted by 1852.
Their legacy lies not only in the rusted debris and flattened mountains they left behind, but in the blackberries, the fig and apple trees they planted, still growing in these forests, vestiges of their dream.
Guardiola, 52, purchased the right to mine these 20 acres in 2001. When he first walked out on this property, he knew he could be happy here. Ten deer, two bucks and fawns browsed beneath the oaks. A stream – Grizzly Creek – cut through the property, which already had two mines on it, always a good sign.
Seven years later, after losing his equipment rental store in Modesto to a broken plumbing pipe and a slow insurance settlement, he began to work the claim more seriously.
Prepped for the cold – insulated waders, booties, wool socks and sneakers – Guardiola wades into a pool of 55-degree water as deep as his thighs.
“We’ll see if Mother Nature was kind and restocked my bank,” he says.
Above him, the stream cascades over a rocky shelf, creating a small waterfall. The sun plays peek-a-boo behind the clouds.
Two years ago, the stream was dry. Last year it was a trickle. But this winter brought a torrent of water, and with it, nearly 2 feet of new rock and gravel deposits, called overburden, into the pond, and the water has not stopped flowing.
With his face right up against the surface, he muscles a submerged boulder aside – 200 pounds, by his estimate – to get at the deeper material. With a choked grip on a short-handled shovel, he fills his gold pan and examines each scoop.
His T-shirt is drenched, his hair plastered to his scalp. Mosquitoes land on his neck, and suddenly he flinches as if a pulse of electricity had passed through him.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said, surprised by a decent-size nugget, a little smaller than a pea, shining up at him.
An hour later, shaking from the cold, he wipes his eyes and gathers up his gear in the waning light.
Historian H W Brands, in his account of the Gold Rush, The Age of Gold, writes that the epic quest shaped history “so profoundly because it harnessed the most basic of human desires, the desire for happiness.”
Not everyone found it, he adds, but that democratic vista has left its imprint on today’s miners.
On the South Fork of Stanislaus River, Tom Mutschelknaus confesses to taking home buckets of concentrate and just letting them sit in the yard.
“As long as I’m not sure what’s in the bucket,” he says, “I have hope.”
In a former life, Mutschelknaus worked on the kill floor of a meatpacking plant in South Dakota, then as a cross-country truck driver. At 63, he is living his “dream come true,” caretaking 160 acres, a place called Italian Bar, owned by a national prospecting group, the Lost Dutchman Mining Assn.
A few miles west of here in the 1970s, one especially lucky miner, George Massie, pulled nearly 800 ounces out of the ground and went on to extol recreational gold mining to the rest of the country.
Surrounded by live oak, cedar and sugar pine, Mutschelknaus stands in Silver Creek, having reduced three gallons of material to 1.5 cups that he swirls in his pan. On his right hand is a ribbon tattoo in memory of his first wife, who died of breast cancer in 2011.
The afternoon breeze wafts through the canopy overhead, white clouds, blue skies. Mutschelknaus stops panning to listen to a robin. He saw a mountain lion on the road the other day.
“When I’m around the sound of water like this,” he says, “I can be feeding my sluice and actually fall asleep.”
Once trapped inside the Earth, gold made its way to California when the Pacific plate crashed into the North American plate, heating up layers of sediment, liquefying rocks and creating a soup that flowed to the surface carrying the gold.
One ounce – which would almost fill a lipstick case – is worth more than $1,200, and at 49er Mining Supplies in Columbia, Rob Goreham is always in the market.
“I’d be stupid not to,” he says. Buy low, sell high is his mantra, his hedge against financial uncertainty.
Goreham pulls out his purchase tray. A stack of $100 bills lies on top of the zippered baggies and black-lid vials filled with gold: crystalline gold, leaf gold, placer gold, lode gold and gold dust, fine as sand. He’s quick to mention that he doesn’t keep it all on site and what’s here is secured by a .45 semi-automatic loaded with hollow points.
His purchases are made from prospectors who scour the nearby hills: plumbers, roofers, air conditioning workers, bank managers, US Forest Service employees, chiropractors and a few who live off the grid.
But, Goreham says, it’s a mistake to put all your faith in gold. When strangers call looking for advice, saying they quit their day job in the hope of striking it big, he can only despair.
“Looking for gold,” he says, “is no different than playing a scratcher – if you don’t have the knowledge.”
Before Shannon Poe started prospecting, he did his homework.
Poe, 55, quit his job in 2009 as the director of loss prevention for a few retail businesses in the Bay Area. Tired of corporate politics, the suit and the traffic, he turned to the Sierra, and after researching the equipment, talking to a few old-timers and putting in five days a week, he made in one year a little more than $150,000.
But when the ban on dredging was passed, his income dropped to $25,000, and Poe started the American Mining Rights Assn. (“fighting for your right to mine”).
In his company, gold mining seems less a get-rich-quick scheme than a libertarian impulse, an exercise in independence and self-determination as much a part of the American heritage as the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
Ask him what his political party is, and he’ll say he is neither a Republican nor a Democrat.
“We are more constitutionalists than anything else,” he says.
Eager to show what the winter storms did to his claim, Poe leaves his SUV – plastered with its appliques of an American flag, an eagle, the Constitution and a gold pan – in the parking lot, and he and his mining partner, Don Siegel, pile into their so-called scratch truck, better suited for whatever pin-striping the brush might add to the paint job.
“I think you’ll be interested,” he says. “It’s not like anything I’ve seen.”
Bounding on a dirt track outside of Greeley Hill east of Coulterville, they enter the woods and take Old Yosemite Road.
The scratch truck rocks and rolls over ruts filled with water and mud. Rising above Lewis Gulch, Poe glances at the exposed rocks in the distant creekbed.
“That’s what we call yum-yums,” he says, imagining the gold beneath them.
Just when the road grows impassable, Siegel stomps on the brakes and cuts the engine. Bull Creek, a braided stream flowing into the Merced River, spreads through a tumult of fallen trees and new and dying vegetation.
The streambed, however, is stripped clean, water coursing over smooth rock faces.
In early January, says Poe, the vegetation here was so thick that you couldn’t walk through it, and the overburden took two days to dig through.
But when the storms arrived, the beetle-infested trees in the area fell, creating small dams, and when the dams broke, the water ripped through the canyon, sweeping the riverbed to bedrock.
“Mother Nature did what we would normally do with a shovel,” says Poe. “All these cracks hold very good gold.”
Crossing to the opposite bank, he starts digging where the stream eddies around a small ledge. He calls Siegel, and they push a boulder aside and begin filling a bucket and sandbags with the mud.
Running it through their sluice, they watch as the gold accumulates in its riffles, a good sign for just 45 minutes of work.
“Holy cow,” Poe says. “Whatever that was just lit the box up.” – TNS
World gold panning championship: Ballarat’s Matt Kelava represents Australia

By SARAH HUDSON, The Weekly Times
August 9, 2017 3:00pm
WITH any luck, right about now Ballarat’s Matt Kelava will be striking gold.

But it won’t be in his usual haunts of central Victoria that he’ll be prospecting.

Instead, the 73-year-old is representing Australia — the only person to do so — at the 41st World Gold Panning Championships in Scotland, which run from August 8 to 12 in the town of Moffat.

It is the seventh time Matt is representing Australia in the little known sport that pits pan against pan.

“The skill is in the speed,” says Matt, a three-time Australian champion.

“The pan I’ll be using is a fibreglass one and I’ve modified it with a Stanley knife, deepening it by 1.5mm and I think it will give me a good chance at winning.”

Matt says the championship starts with an opening parade of about 20 countries, where he will proudly march with the Australian flag.

More than 400 panners will then get down to the “pan-off”, each given a 10kg bucket of sand containing between five and 12 flecks of gold, the number known only to the judges.

Competitors have to pan, capture the gold in a bottle of water and then wash the pan out.

“The world record time is 58 seconds and I can do it in 75 seconds,” says Matt, who has numerous trophies to prove his panning prowess.

“If the judges find one extra piece of gold, you’re disqualified because it’s cheating. In the past some competitors have added their own gold.”

Matt says while most competitors will opt for the fastest pan in the world, made in Sweden, he prefers his Slovakian fibreglass dish.

Matt, a tailor by trade, even invented and patented his own pan in 2001, called the Black Hole, sold around Australia, Japan and with a failed attempt to sell in the US.

“My pan is only suitable for using in creeks, not world championships. I called it Black Hole because there’s a vortex that takes the gold into the middle.

“I’m a designer of women’s and men’s clothing. The materials may be different, but it’s about creativity.”

To get to the world championship in Scotland, Matt first had to compete at this year’s annual Australian championship in Blackwood, central Victoria, in February.

Matt says he is one of several prospectors lobbying the City of Ballarat to move the event to Sovereign Hill.

“If the event moved there it would be big for Ballarat. People come from all over the world go to these gold panning championships and we’re hoping the city council jumps on it.”

Victorian Gold Panning Association president Marcus Binks runs the annual national competition which, he says, first ran at Sovereign Hill in 1993 and now attracts up to 100 competitors from across Australia and New Zealand.

“It makes sense to bring it back to Sovereign Hill to showcase the sport, given its gold mining history,” says Marcus, who has attended four world championships.

“The sport has changed so much, even in the last decade.

“New pans are three times faster than the traditional dish thanks to technology and design.

“The traditional dish is deep with steep sides but new ones are flat and shallow, no deeper than 1.5cm, which allows the gold to sink and the gravel to quickly wash off.”

It was back in 1981 — when Matt first moved to Ballarat — that he adopted fossicking as his hobby.

Matt was born in Bosnia and move to Australia in 1967 as a 23-year-old to flee the communist regimen, initially working as a tailor in Tasmania.

“When I first moved to Victoria I stayed in a caravan park in Creswick and there was a creek there and I just began sluicing.”

It probably helped cement his passion that he almost immediately found an 8gm nugget, which he still keeps today.

Eventually he found enough specks to fund the first month’s rent on a Ballarat shop, Matt The Tailor, which he still operates.

He quickly moved from panning to using a metal detector when he found a 2.5 ounce nugget and these days spends most weekends metal detecting around Victoria and on holidays travelling throughout Australia.

The father of three and grandfather of two says his wife Judith doesn’t share his passion, although she is proud of his finds, which he estimates so far total about 1kg.

It was in nearby Maryborough in 1999 that Matt first became associated with the sport of gold panning, winning a trophy and prize money in his first attempt.

In 2001 the first Australian world championship was held in Maryborough, where Matt won a team event.

Over the years he has represented Australia six times, including in Japan, South Africa, Poland and Italy.

He largely pays his own way — with a little help from sponsorship — and in Scotland will be staying in a sleeping bag in a tent to reduce costs.

Then again, he says, that’s what he loves about the sport.

“For me, I love going out in the bush, sleeping under the stars, being part of nature, part of the earth and refreshing the mind.

“Finding gold is just a good excuse to get out there.”
Modern-day prospectors find a little bit of gold and a lot of time outdoors

By Jeff Layton
Special to The Seattle Times
BLEWETT PASS — The two men stepping out of the pickup truck were rough-looking fellows.

One of them wore a sidearm pistol, and the second was missing a front tooth and held a spade with a deadly-looking spike on one end.

On a normal day, these aren’t the type of strangers I would follow under a bridge deep in the mountains. But on this particular day, we were kindred spirits.

That’s because we were after the same thing: tiny flecks of placer gold that wash into streambeds.

Joe Rangel and Jesse Manion, of Moses Lake, are modern-day prospectors. I met them scouting Peshastin Creek near Blewett Pass when I was out trying to learn more about where precious metals and gems occur in nature.

As it turns out, looks can be deceiving, both in the people you meet and where you hunt for gold.

While my new mentors seemed intimidating at first glance, they were delighted to share their wisdom while they dug sand from dry riverbank — a place I never would have thought about probing.

You have to think about how the river moves, explained Manion. “It takes the straightest route it can down the stream.” So you try to guess how it will deposit in little eddies and under big rocks.

Rangel’s eyes stared hawklike on his swishing pan as he told how he caught gold fever. He received a panning set for Father’s Day, and on his first outing, discovered a few flakes of gold and some red garnets.

After panning for a while, he scrambled around the riverbank looking for bedrock to split apart — a technique known as sniping. You’re looking for seams where gold will collect over time, he explained.

You want to find rust red layers in a rock. “They say redder is better. If you find some rocks that have quartz running through it, well that’s where the gold gets trapped.”

Them thar hills
Washington probably isn’t a state that comes to mind when you imagine gold rushes. But the gold strike of 1860 is a big reason Blewett Pass came to be.

For decades, gold and silver were mined commercially, and today it remains a hub for those pulling riches from the ground.

In the old days, there were stories of miners finding large gold nuggets nicknamed “potatoes.”

“The early miners got a fair amount of the easy gold that was in the area,” says Ryan Brown, president of the North Central Washington Prospectors. But even at sites that saw commercial mining, it’s impossible to get everything.

You could still uncover a fortune, and it’s part of what makes it such an addicting hobby, he says.

“The thrill of the hunt and the possibility that there might be a big nugget under the next rock keeps even the oldest of our club out there searching.”

More than getting rich
I met Robert Higgins, of Wenatchee, a few miles upstream. He was relaxing in a shaded lawn chair with his dog Copper, next to a gurgling machine.

Every few minutes he scooped a trowel of sand inside, and sat back to enjoy his surroundings.

In the 1970s he worked on a commercial dredge, and decided to try prospecting after he retired. His battery-powered “high banker” diverted a gentle stream of water, pushing sand down a trough that traps gold flakes.

He was positioned downriver from a small landslide where he thought ore might have washed into the stream.

As someone new to DIY prospecting, he joined three different clubs, allowing him to use claims along the Old Blewett Highway.

The clubs already own mining rights to some of the best areas, he explained. Once you’re a member, you can basically go whenever you want.

Membership is relatively cheap — usually under $100 — and it means you don’t have to worry about accidentally trespassing.

Prospecting and gem hunting is heavily restricted, even if you’re working a legal claim. To minimize the damage to rivers and fish, there are limited windows of time when you may disturb a riverbed.

Higgins held up a book of regulations he’s required to carry. “It’s detailed down to the stream and tributary and shows exactly when and where someone can set up equipment.”

He admitted that he needs tweezers to handle his biggest finds.

People show up with quart jars expecting it to be like a TV program, he said. “I find a little speck and I’m like ‘Oh cool!’”

Would he feel disappointed if he worked all day and didn’t strike gold? Higgins smiled.

He was sitting by a tranquil mountain stream on a warm day with his dog by his side. There were worse ways to spend an afternoon.

“There are many forms of gold that you find on a prospecting trip, from the peacefulness of the creek to the laughter of family and friends that surround you,” says Brown, of the prospectors club.

“There are a fair amount of our members who will probably never sell a speck of the gold they have found because it’s a reminder of the trip that they found it on.”


Don’t know where to go? Join the club
A big challenge of prospecting and gem hunting is knowing where to legally search. Area clubs offer access to their claims as well as demonstrations, workshops, guest speakers, equipment loans, day hikes and group campouts. A sampling:

• Washington Prospectors Mining Association,

• Bedrock Prospectors Club,

• North Central Washington Prospectors,

• Prospectors Plus,

• North American Miners Association,

Don’t just start digging
• Prospectors are required to carry a printed copy of Washington’s regulations, published by the state Department of Fish & Wildlife:

• Prospecting is never allowed in national parks, national monuments, national wildlife refuges and national scenic areas, or on tribal lands or private land without the owner’s permission.
Chard duo, Colin Spiller and Ashley Miner, discover mysterious 200-year-old gold ring in Dorset

A MAN from Chard has unearthed a mysterious 200-year-old ring on a metal detecting day in a field in West Dorset.

Colin Spiller, 44, found the ring when taking part in the day with 50 other enthusiasts in a farmers field in Burstock.

The ring itself is almost exactly 200 years old and was made to commemorate the death of someone with the initials I.W.

Mr Spiller, who has been a metal detectorist for 12 years, said: “It is a fantastic find.

“I thought about keeping it but it would have stayed at the back of a drawer.”

The ring is expected to fetch up to £1,200 at Mayfair auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb when it goes up for auction on September 5 in London.

Colin will split the proceeds 50/50 with the farmer who owns the field.

Laura Smith, a jewellery specialist at Dix Noonan Webb auctioneers, said: “This ring is such a poignant find.

“Mourning rings were worn to commemorate loved ones who passed away and one cannot help but wonder who ‘I.W’ was and what sort of life he or she lived.”

The ring is a gold band decorated on the exterior with stylized foliage and a momento mori (reflection on mortality) skull relief decorated in black enamel.

Inside is a Latin inscription which translates as “I.W. died April 9, 1717, aged 71.”

The ring is in remarkably good condition given that it may have spent much of the past two centuries buried in a Dorset field.

Ironically it was on February 26 this year, almost exactly two centuries after the death of the person commemorated by the ring, that Colin Spiller went into the field accompanied by his 15 year-old stepson, Ashley Miner.

After an hour they received a strong signal on their detector and found the ring four or five inches below the surface.

Colin said: “To be honest, I thought it was a modern piece at first because it was black and I did not know that this is enamelling. Then, Ashley puts his finger through the middle of the ring to clear out the earth and we saw the date and we did a high five.

“I didn’t know exactly what it was until Laura Smith at Dix Noonan Webb advised me.
Treasure including almost a thousand ancient coins has been unearthed in Thanet

A Bronze Age ceramic pot containing almost a thousand ancient coins has been found in a field in Thanet .

Christopher Smith of Clifftonville made the discovery while metal detecting on private land last May. The location is being withheld to prevent others digging illegally.

He also discovered a gold coin a few months later, which he believes is "worth a bit of money".

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