Gold, or perhaps not

27 Aug

Salting” of gold claims to improve them. I’ve heard of the “shotgun” method, but not some of these (from November 1940 Popular Mechanics):

Foiling the Gold Swindlers

  • False rivet in shovel handle allows gold dust to drop into gravel.

“Looks like gold,” agreed the stranger. “I’ll buy your claim if it runs high enough to pay but you’ll have to let me take a sample for assay.” “Sure thing,” the prospector assented. He shoveled together a pile of gravel, divided it into quarters, then discarded two of them. The balance he heaped up and quartered again, repeating the mixing and quartering until-finally the stranger took away a paper bag full of the remainder. When he called at his assayer’s for the report, he was summoned into the labaratory. “This stuff ran so high I could hardly believe it,” said the assayer. “Take a look.”

He dropped a tiny pinch of gold dust onto a glass slide and slipped it under a microscope. The other peered, saw the tiny grains magnified to the size of boulders. But unlike boulders, they were jagged. Across many of them ran deep scratches. “Did you ever see any square-cornered gold dust from a river bed?” demanded the assayer. “Placer gold rolls among the pebbles as it is carried downstream and soon gets rounded and smoothed. Notice those file marks. Somebody must have improved this sample with a little gold dust – from a watch case or a ring, probably.”

The miner grew indignant when accused of trying to salt his claim, but the prospective buyer suddenly grabbed the shovel used in quartering the sample. He examined it and learned the miner’s secret. When turned a certain direction, the hollow handle lined up two holes to release the hidden gold dust it contained – “sweetening” the sample to bonanza richness.

{Note: Placer gold is gold that has weathered from the host rock where it was formed and been “placed” either on hillside (eluvial placer), stream bed or alluvial fan by the action of water, glaciers or other geological forces.}

  • Needling gold solution into sample bag.

One thing a sucker needs to learn at once is to guard well his sample bags. With a hypodermic needle, a gold solution can be injected right through the sealed bags; or the solution can be dropped on them and allowed to soak through. Shrewd individuals use a sealed paper sack as an inner lining for the regular cloth bag. A needle hole or a stain reveals any tampering.

  • Gold dust being rolled in cigarette.

Carelessly flicking the ash from his cigarette as he picked off chunks of ore, an old-time salter could easily load the samples with gold dust. An ordinary, roll-your-own cigarette can be loaded with 200 milligrams or so of gold, enough to make the assay show sensational values. But again the microscope betrays the true character of the grains. If polished from rolling in a stream bed, they would be out of place in a hard-rock mine where the ore must be picked or blasted from solid quartz.

  • Hole down center of this drilling bit lets gold dust fall out.

  • Spraying gold solution onto rock to salt sample.

One salter, noticing a balcony overhanging the open workshop where an assayer’s furnace was located, climbed upstairs and fed grains of gold into the samples by poking them through a knothole in the floor. Another assayer became suspicious of the reports his methods were getting but his client insisted the samples couldn’t have been touched before they reached the laboratory. The assayer discovered somebody had “spiked” the gasoline for the assay furnace with a gold solution.


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