Did you know that gold has its own language? The words used to describe gold help us to talk about its purity and how its found as a deposit.

First off, you can measure gold’s concentration in one of two ways. Gold is often found alloyed with other metals because of its softness. Because of this, a major gold find is often mixed with other metals. Thankfully, gold’s price more than makes up for this.

Purity is measured in karats. One karat is equal to 1/24th of the total weight of a sample. Therefore, one karat gold would be one part gold mixed with 23 parts of other metals. Usually, gold is found in more concentrated deposits than this. If you had an alloy that’s five-sixths gold, you’d say it’s 20 karats. A 24 karat sample would be absolutely pure.

Gold can also be rated by fineness. This measures parts per thousand. A pure sample of nothing but gold would rate at a fineness of 1,000. An 80-percent sample would have a fineness of 800.

Gold also has different arrangements at the atomic level. As crystals build upon each other, they cluster into different shapes. A wire of gold is rare and looks like a long, thin deposit. A leaf of gold is more spread out and may contain brittle extensions. It will often grow in thin layers on quartz. Branch gold is thicker and often fuses or wraps around quartz and other metals. Its extensions are more durable. Tree gold seems to have roots and branches of its own.

All of these kinds of gold are eroded and broken down by weather patterns, rain, and when water seeps into rocks, freezes and melts again. These processes are what flake off the gold and send it downriver, making for excellent gold panning in California throughout the year. These flakes and nuggets can prove very valuable.

This is because gold is very dense. If you compacted metals into a cube, a square of gold that measured one foot on every side would weigh about a ton. To get a ton of iron, you’d need a cube well over twice the size! (That one ton of gold would be worth $64.3 million, by the way.) Gold panning in California won’t give you that all at once, but it is a skill that can help make you money throughout your lifetime!