Many of the gold rush miners in 1849 found nuggets of metallic, crystallized, gold-colored, metal-like stone that they believed to be gold. We now know, and they found out, that those nuggets were pyrite, known more commonly today as “fool’s gold.” Though no one is fooled by pyrite today, (well, I hope no one) there is another mineral that many people today think is gold.
You know those little flakes of gold specks you see at rivers or lakes? Everyone at one time or another has thought that they were gold. Well, I hate to disappoint any of you who still think that, but it is not gold. Rather, it is a mineral in the mica family, called muscovite. It has a very flaky texture, as you can see in the photo, and the little flakes just peel right off. Muscovite is very common, and it forms in granite, pegmatite, gneiss and schist, and, it being so light, washes out of the host rock and is very easily carried by currents and waves to where you are prospecting near the shore. Also, gold panning muscovite does not work, as the muscovite washes away from the dirt, rather than vice-versa.
Even though muscovite is very common, it is still lots of fun to ‘mine’ it.