Minerals of Scotland

SCOTTISH GOLD &
SILVER from ALVA

with photographs of naturally occuring Gold & Silver

SCOTTISH GOLD
Gold in Scotland: A Panner's Guide
Historical Background - Mining & Current Status

ALVA SILVER
Silver Glen - A Historic Site
Other Scottish Silver Occurences

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Gold Panners

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The only dedicated online UK shop selling gold-pannning equipment
and offering gold-panning courses.

Gold Panning Supplies Video
Brief feature of Gold-Panning Supplies in action for French TV (in French, mostly)

Wanlockhead
gold panning & accommodation

SCOTTISH GOLD

Bottles filled with Scottish gold from different areas of Scotland.
left to right
- Tyndrum area (Argyll); Ochil Hills (Fife); Aberfeldy area (Perthshire)
and several glens in the county of Angus.
The photographs of gold nuggets show the results of five years of gold-prospecting in Scotland and a total haul of over 200grams of gold.

SCOTTISH GOLD NUGGETS

The nuggets above are from different streams across Central Scotland.
They have mostly been panned, though a few were found by means of a metal detector.
(for information regarding all gold nugget photos - see bottom).

Introduction

The Scottish Highlands is famous for its pure water - an essential ingredient in making Scotland's national and world-famous drink - whisky (from the Scottish Gaelic "uisgebaugh" meaning " Water of Life" ).

The water is also panned for gold in the small burns or streams, ubiquitous throughout the country. The Ochil Hills of Fife and some streams in the county of Angus are among the most popular areas to try one's hand, but there are others. Access to some sites is however not permitted.

A Scottish Gold Rush

In the 19th century, around 1860, there was a "gold-rush" in the northern Highlands to a location in the county of Sutherland - though, as can regularly be the case, there was more rush than gold.

Nonetheless, left to its own desserts and a couple of dozen decades, this occurence can replenish itself to a small degree. Scottish gold is of a generally high grade, that is to say, fairly pure.

Nuggets with attached matrix can be found, but well-crystallized gold on matrix, is much less common.
Near Aberfeldy, in Perthshire, a rare, small find of matrix gold was found some years ago.

There are other similar occurences in the region, though whether of mineral collector interest remains to be seen.

Each of the ten bottles above represents a different stream - spanning Leadhills (Lanarkshire) in the south, to Kildonan (Sutherland) in the north. The vial across the top contains some unidentified silver-coloured nuggets.

Leadhills Gold

Scotland's most famous mineral deposit at Leadhills and Wanlockhead started out mining for gold. The eventual decline in the extraction of this metal turned attentions to the rich lead ores that also occured in the area. Its lead deposit has since given it world fame - particularly as a result of the rare and common, lead mineral species found there. As for the gold, it occurs in situ in the surrounding Lowther Hills in small veins.

As the gold gets eroded out of its matrix, it eventually drops into the nearest burn as nuggets, great or small. Nowadays, the best way to get some gold from this area is to pan for it.

Gold Panning in Scotland
A Basic Guide

The following information and hints below on gold-panning have been graciosly made available for publication online by an anonymous gold-panner from Scotland, with great experience and, as the photographs testify, with a great deal of success.

WHERE TO PAN

The main gold-bearing areas are as follows: Leadhills, Tyndrum, the Ochil Hills and Strath of Kildonan. There are other isolated occurences dotted over Scotland.

I would advise beginners to start at either Leadhills or Kildonan as there are usually other panners on these streams who are always glad to give assistance.

EQUIPMENT

The equipment for gold panning is basic and cheap: starting with a plastic gold pan, a Henderson pump and a pair of Wellington boots.

ACCESS

As for accessibilty, the Leadhills area works through permits. The Kildonan burn itself is open to panners.

For all other areas, the landowner's permission MUST be sought!

SCOTTISH NUGGETS
Four nuggets from three different areas in Scotland.
(Weights clockwise from top left - 8.7, 7.6, 4.8 and 3.8 grams respectively. The largest nugget also contains quartz).

PANNING LESSONS

At Wanlockhead, one can learn and practice the art of panning and pan for the precious metal itself, as small nuggets and flecks, in the surrounding burns..

PROSPECTING HINTS

Gold, being heavy by nature, will be found sitting on top of bedrock, so try prospecting in areas where the bedrock is visible, as this will save you digging through several feet of gravel.

Gold does not uniformly deposit itself up and down the streams.

Try sampling the length and breadth of the stream until you hit a hot spot.

This may be where the water slows, the inside of a bend, where the stream widens or where there is a change in gradient.

PANNING CONTESTS..

Wanlockhead has been host to panning contests, including the World Gold Panning Championships.

Uses of Scottish Gold

The mace of the new Scottish Parliament is gilded with gold extracted from Leadhills.

Do's & Dont's

Do seek permission for access.
And most importantly, do enjoy the scenery, wildlife and all that goes with gold-prospecting!

Don't leave litter and don't dig into the river banks.

Native GOLD
Aberfeldy area, Perthshire, SCOTLAND.
A 6mm sheet of gold on matrix.

Scottish Gold-Mining

Gold is found in situ as micro flecks in quartz veins over a fairly large area of the Highlands. The main occurence, around the Highland Boundary Fault - which forms the southern border of the Highlands region with the Central Lowlands - is centred around the Tyndrum (Argyll) & the Aberfeldy areas (Perthshire).

Scotland's first gold mine was planned to open near Tyndrum, at Cononish, a few years back, but operations were terminated due to the economic conditions prevailing at the time and to environmental concerns - the mining area being within the Loch Lomond National Park.
With gold prices now at a premium, circumstances have changed and the Australian-owned mining company, Scotgold, has been pursuing the opportunity to mine for gold in the area. An amount of silver would also be recovered as a by-product.

The small-scale operations have now been approved with the company addressing environmental concerns. The creation of jobs locally has also influenced planning permission. Gold extraction at Scotland's first gold mine in over 500 years is due to commence in 2013.

Crystals of Scottish gold showing several differing habits.

SILVER

from Silver Glen, Alva, Clackmannan, Scotland.

In the last couple of decades, waste dumps were scoured on a small and forgotten occurence of cobalt and silver ore that was worked at the start of the 18th century (around 1715). On the edge of the Ochil Hills, near Alva, in the "wee county", Clackmannan, it is the richest deposit of silver in the United Kingdom.

When the small dumps of the site were scoured, they revealed superb, small specimens of skeletal and arborescent groups of native silver crystals, some associated with accessory erythrite, a secondary cobalt mineral or with crystalline masses of the rare species, clinosafflorite, (cobalt arsenide). The common and predominant habit of the silver is as dendrites with 90 branches. Other habits occur, but are rarer.
Specimens are of great beauty and fine quality. Unfortunately, they are now also difficult to obtain.

Though crystallized specimens are generally small, only up to around 5mms, a very few, larger specimens were uncovered. The Hunterian Museum of Glasgow University has one such specimen extracted from the time of the original mining period with crystallized silver groups to 3cms on matrix.

Analysis has revealed the silver is rich in mercury, containing around 10-15% of this element. Alva silver therefore approaches amalgam in its chemical constitution rather than the "kongsbergite" variety of silver, which is also mercury-rich. Additional analysis may also reveal more rare species or possibly new ones from this occurence.

The Alva silver mine is now barren: a later extraction has since cleaned out the deposit and the location is now part of a trustland.

A full account of the extraordinary history of the Alva Silver Mine is related in the recently published book entitled, "Bonanzas & Jacobites: The Story of the Silver Glen" by Dr. S. Moreton and published by NMS Enterprises Ltd. It is available for purchase through Amazon or other online bookstores.


NATIVE SILVER - Silver Glen Mine, Alva, Clackmannan, SCOTLAND.
Skeletal and arborescent crystal groups to about 5-6 mms.

ALVA SILVER - Photo Gallery


A crystal group, 0.3mm in length, forming a "flagpole" shape


Skeletal and arborescent crystal groups to about 5-6 mms.


Tabular crystals to c.1mm.

Other Scottish Silver Occurences

A similar, but less rich occurence of silver and cobalt is found at Hilderston in the Bathgate Hills, near Edinburgh.
This discovery took place in the early 17th century. It is quite likely related to the silver mineralization of Alva
(see above), on the other side of the Forth Estuary. Here, at the Hiderston occurence, very small amounts of native silver is found with skutterudite, a cobalt arsenide and other species, often occuring in massive barite.

Several other very small finds of native silver in Scotland include localities situated on the Clyde Plateau Lavas of Carboniferous age around Glasgow. Boyleston Quarry near Barrhead (Renfrewshire) and Loanhead Quarry, near Beith (Ayrshire) are two examples of such occurences. At both localities, silver occurs both as very small, microscopic wires and as crystals, the latter often in complex forms and, quite regularly, is associated with native copper.

Native silver is found only in very insignificant amounts in Scotland. In the past, silver was extracted
from the lead ores (galena - lead sulphide) at Wanlockhead which contain silver.
Galena found in the Highlands region is also normally rich in silver content.

Acknowledgement

A special thank you to a Scottish gold prospector and panner who will remain anonymous.
By graciously sharing some of his photographs and tips on gold-panning in Scotland and in general,
for publication on this site, he made the gold-panning and prospecting section possible.

References / Further Reading

The Mineralogical Record - vol. 27, no. 6; pp 405-414. "The Alva Silver Mine, Silver Glen, Alva, Clackmannan, Scotland." S. Moreton (1996).

Journal of the Russell Society - vol.2, no. 2; pp. 11-21. "Secondary Mineralogy of the Clyde Plateau Lavas, Scotland. parts 1& 2 - Boyleston Quarry & Loanhead Quarry..." T.K. Meikle. (1989).
vol 5, no.2, pp. 83-90; "Native Silver from Hilderston Mine, West Lothian, Scotland", T. Kemp Meikle, (1994).

UK Journal of Mines & Minerals - vol. 21, pp 8-27. "Twenty Years in Minerals: Scotland." D.I.Green/ J. G. Todd (2001).

Minerals of Scotland