Thursday , April 18 2024

Gold Nugget Hunting: Metal Detector Buying Guide

Gold and the promises of riches is what populated this country. Australia has the largest gold mine reserves worldwide, and the precious metal still finds its way in countless untouched places, either as flakes or huge nuggets each worth a fortune. Stories of gold discoveries have inspired many prospectors in their search for fortune. And some are too good to be true.

To increase your chances of striking it rich, you’ll need to know where to look and have the right equipment. Previous discoveries and fields are a good starting point, and equipped with a decent metal detector, like the Minelab GPX 5000, a 4WD and some basic safety and prospecting gear, you’re good to go. And you’ll also need a fossicking or miner’s licence issued by state authorities.

A metal detector is the basic piece of gear on this list. Having the right one is the difference between finding gold and going home empty-handed. You might be baffled as to how one works. And with so many different types around, which one do you choose? Read on, and make your pick.

How Metal Detectors Work

Metal detector's work on the gorund


Metal detectors work by sending an electromagnetic field into the ground. Any metal objects in that field become energised and transmit signals of their own. The search coil in the detector reads these signals and alerts the user of the find.

Signals are generated by the control unit located near the handle, and passed down by wires snaking around an adjustable pole to the detector coil. The coil transmits and receives signals and relays them to the control unit which displays info on your find.

Metal detectors use different technologies when searching for a specific type of metal. Gold detectors for instance will have frequencies fine-tuned for gold, while ruling out any other metals, particularly iron, to make detection faster and more precise. Also, different factors, like the depth of the find, the shape of the object and its orientation in the ground, either horizontal or vertical, all influence signals and your success rate.

What are the Different Types of Metal Detectors?

Three types of metal detectora


There are three types of metal detectors. Each uses different ways of generating an electromagnetic field. Price differences are substantial, so factor in whether this is only a hobby or something you’ll take seriously.

Very Low-Frequency Metal Detectors (VLFs)

These are the most common and cheapest to buy. They have two coils, one for the receiver and one for the transmitter. They use a single frequency to detect metals, so are more suitable for general use as they won’t penetrate to greater depths and different types of soils. The upside is they are lightweight, simple to use, affordable and can provide hours of prospecting fun. A good entry point into finding gold.

Multi-Frequency Metal Detectors

These are more complicated units using better tech. Signals are generated in multiple frequencies at the same time, so objects of different sizes and at different depths are located easier. Multiple frequency detectors are also better suited for more serious work in mineralised soils with high concentrations of metal, basically all of the Aussie Outback. In addition, control displays here provide more detailed and precise information.

Pulse Induction (PI) Metal Detectors

These are top of the line detectors used by serious prospectors. They have a single coil to transmit and receive signals. PI detectors, like the Minelab GPX 5000 generate signals in pulses or waves hundreds of times a second making them extremely precise in detecting metals at almost any depth and soil type. More advanced versions, like the mentioned Minelab detectors, incorporate various sensing technologies. This includes Multi Period Sensing which alternates the pulse width, Dual Voltage Technology which changes the soil voltage for increased sensitivity and Smart Electronic Timing Alignment, which enables detectors with multiple timings to align to each timing independently. In addition, the detector can be fine-tuned to locate objects of a specific size and type. Preset search modes allow users to customise settings for different soils and locations, change signal sensitivity, change timing settings for greater depths and more. Units like the Minelab GPX 5000 also have detailed audio settings with different readouts. Search results are displayed on a crisp LCD. The whole unit is powered by Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries providing prospectors days of detecting on a single charge. This is the detector to get when searching for gold in beaches, riverbeds, and complex soil structures for days at a time.

Which Metal Detector is Right for You?

Man holding metal detector in hand


Things to consider when choosing a metal detector, and when you have gold in mind, is the location you’ll be using it. Beaches are popular places for finding lost gold rings and jewellery and detectors here need to be waterproof and have high sensitivity signal transmission. Soils vary so a detector with high sensitivity will bring better results. Experience levels are also important. Simple detectors might be good for the novice prospector, but have limited functions and range. Detectors with high-end features will be a little more complicated to use, but if you know what you’re doing then the rewards pay off, maybe in a single find. Lastly, there’s the price. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for the most basic VLF detectors, or a few thousand for a high-end Pulse Induction detector. Either way, enjoy your purchase, and fingers crossed you’ll find the next huge gold nugget.