The Metal Detectors Used for Gold Prospecting

Written by linda woolhether
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The Metal Detectors Used for Gold Prospecting
Metal detectors are now being used for gold prospecting. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

A metal detector is an electronic device that senses metallic objects buried underground, but metal detecting for gold is relatively new. Several modern technology companies have developed metal detectors designed to find gold nuggets, but no metal detector currently available will find only gold and no other type of metal. With the price of gold increasing daily, new prospectors are adding to the number of those in pursuit of this precious metal.

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According to Radio Shack, the most widely used metal detector is the very-low frequency (VLF) type. It uses two coils combined to work as one. The metal object creates a magnetic field around it that sends out signals to the detector. Another type used in searching for precious metals is the pulse induction (PI) type. The sensitivity of this type causes it to have difficulty distinguishing between valuable items and worthless ones. Beginners prefer the Beat-Frequency Oscillation (BFO) for its simplicity. This model does not combine coils, thus creating a wide variance in frequencies. It is the least expensive of the three.


VFO detectors have discrimination circuits that cancel or identify specific targets. Circuits that analyse targets determine if the object is a piece of gold or something like a nail. VLF detectors designed specifically for gold prospecting, operating at a higher transmitting frequency, can locate gold targets deeper in the ground. Treasure hunters use PI more often because of their extreme sensitivity. They are, however, less capable of discrimination. A BFO detector sends steady pulses from an oscillator to each coil, resulting in radio waves. Metal objects emit an audible tone when detected.


Gold prospecting metal detectors utilise precisely calibrated discrimination, which eliminates false readings. Most of these detectors designed to find gold nuggets, float and ore veins require manual ground balance controls. Consider detectors that feature automatic ground tracking, which require less adjustment. A general-purpose detector works well for finding jewellery or coins, but consider the benefits of a detector optimised for nugget detecting for serious gold prospecting. Successful prospecting comes from understanding the workings of the metal detector.


Quality headphones are an important accessory in electronic prospecting. Personal preference dictates the type of headphones to use. Heavy headphones cover the ears completely and work well in cooler climates, but lighter ones are more practical for warmer weather conditions. Use headphones to detect the slightest tone change when gold prospecting, as this can make a difference in finding the small nuggets. Other necessary accessories for the gold prospector are a nugget scoop, a trowel, a digging tool with a sheath, a pick and an equipment belt for carrying tools.

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