Jan. 24 marks the anniversary of James Marshall’s 1848 discovery of gold at the Johann Sutter’s mill. Once there was a word about the findings of Marshall, California became known all over the world.
Today there may not be such a rush, but there are still those hills with gold in them and people working hard to find it.
Much has changed in mining since the 1850s, but one thing remains the same-it takes hard work , patience and luck to prospect for gold.
“It’s a hobby that pays a dividend,’ says Robert Rieck, owner of Royal Manufacturing in Santa Ana.
Rieck ‘s company manufacturers new sluice cabinets, dry washers, and other outdoor miner supplies. Royal Manufacturing and a larger business, Keene Engineering in Chatsworth, supply and educate recreational miners at all ages. Between Keene Engineering and Royal Manufacturing, one might claim that the mother lode at recreational mining machinery is manufactured in Southern California. Today, backpack-sized gear can be used to find nuggets and flakes in the creeks or desert washes of California. Those two firms are supplying mines all over the world.
The map above is from the California Conservation Department, which produced a map of historic gold mines for the state’s 150th anniversary. The map depicts the statewide locations of 13,500 mines. Robert Rieck of Royal Manufacturing reveals how a table loaded with gold dust functions in his showroom in Santa Ana. From a spoonful of Rieck concentrate pumped into the unit comes a small speck of gold glitter.
Rieck claims that 20 per cent of his company pays for the gold mining machinery he produces. To the automotive and lighting industry, the majority of his huge metal shop produces components, including even a 100-foot guitar for the newest Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Sacramento.
Rieck has patents for his mining equipment as well as a couple of gold mining claims in San Bernardino and Kern counties. He is training for the February 15-16 Gold Exhibit at the Pomona Fairplex. The series is one of many that the Gold Prospectors Association of America supports around the world.
Rieck strongly advises potential prospectors to join the GPAA for fun, education and access. GPAA provides links to disputes across the U.S. to its representatives, and conducts community mining activities. Since 1955, Keene Engineering has been family-owned and is the world leader in portable equipment for mining and prospecting.
The work of the miner is never simple in a group, or on your own. Digging dirt, grading the rocks down to sand, then using a sluice to get just a concentrate can of coffee could take the whole day – and you might not find a flake. Rieck has a showroom on the second floor of Royal Manufacturing. Rieck lets out some gritty, sandy concentrates by utilizing a hardened table of gold dust and requires a thin layer of water to wipe it over a sheet of polyurethane. Three miniscule flakes of gold dust appear.
“Even the best panner can’t capture the finest gold,” he said. Then he sucks the gold up in a snuffer bottle with other flakes for safekeeping.
Upon shutting off the screen, Rieck says, “You can be in nature and on a hike. Chances are people have been there and seen those trees or rocks before, but when you find gold, you are the first ever to see it.”
Gold fever in California is alive, and healthy.