The latest adventure in Australia is experiencing the new gold rush! In the land down under it’s called fossicking. This ancient word is from the Cornish language and is used in both Australia and New Zealand. Australia’s frantic gold rush began in 1850. Those intense emotions have been replaced by a way to get out on the land and discover the country.
Australia is vast, it is the place time left behind, and it’s the home of the world’s oldest civilization. You can find gold, opals, sapphires, and other gems in Australia, as well as a few extraordinary surprises. And you may also reclaim your sense of wonder.
This is how Australians go fossicking, and how you can too
1. Some get the ideal equipment. This includes a roomy canvas pack with side pockets to carry gear; a pick and a good bucket; two 12” fossicking sieves, one fine and one coarse; a magnifying loupe that can hang around your neck; a 14” plastic gold pan; a large pair of blunt tweezers to pick up your treasure; a battery-operated scale to weigh that treasure with a .05 carat capacity; a folding shovel, small shovel, or large shovel; large, blunt-end tweezers for sorting; suction tweezers + vial for gold found in streams; a plastic jar to hold your gems.
2. If you want to go down and dirty, you just need a pan, a small shovel, bucket, magnifying glass, blunt tweezers, a sack, and two sieves. That’s pioneer-style.
3. Before you go, get in touch with a shop for rock hounds, a rock club, or an old general store. Ask for tips. You’ll probably hear some remarkable stories that might have nothing to do with panning. Chatting with an Aussie is a treat.
4. If you find a waterhole, known as a willoughby in Australia, dip you bucket into the water at the bank. Carefully pour the contents into a fine sieve. Sort at the center, moving to the outside in a clockwise motion. Keep your eye out for anything that looks shiny. Sapphires are heavier and tend to be in the middle. Use your tweezers and place any shiny finds in your bag or jar.
5. Panning for gold is often best in a riverbed, either dry or running. For a stream, use the same method as with the willoughby. Using your shovel, move a bit of surface dirt aside, dip your fine sieve into the water, and slowly move it around. Lift up, flat, and carefully sort, going clockwise with your fingers. Keep a sharp eye out for anything shiny. Get out your tweezers and put anything that sparkles in your jar.
6. Australians also pan for gold in a dry riverbed. Dig away surface soil, move away a bit of surface dirt, and shovel the layer that’s under the surface into your fine sieve. Fill your bucket with water and slowly move the soil around, using your fingers, watching for gold.
7. Your best bet for dry riverbeds is topaz—rain washes topaz to creeks and gravel. Use your coarse sieve and shovel the dirt into it. Gently move the sieve back and forth. When the dust is gone, you’ll have large pebbles, stones, and topaz. The topaz is frosty, often about one inch, and is usually light blue or clear. Wet this stone, and there is a beautiful shine!
Follow the Australian rules of fossicking. You can trade or sell your stones or gold, but this is not a commercial activity. Every state has regulations about where and when you can go fossicking, and if a permit is required. Throughout the country, Aboriginal territories are sacred ground—any ancient artifacts you come across must be left in place.
Australia is filled with gemstones and gold, waiting to be found. No training is needed, just minimal equipment, a good eye, patience, and an adventurous spirit. Fossicking is a beautiful addition to any Australian vacation!