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Dan Fagnan's friends think he's "a fruit loop" for panning for gold near his home in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, but when the amateur prospector recently scooped up a 1.22-carat diamond, his unusual hobby finally paid off.
As Fagnan told the Pierce County Herald, he initially thought the irregularly shaped transparent stone was a piece of glass. He found it in a wet pile of sand and rocks excavated from 120 feet below the surface by a friend who was digging a well and invited him to sift through it. Fagnan had hoped to find a few tiny flakes of "Wisconsin gold," which isn't worth much. When he found the interesting stone instead, he took it to jeweler Karen Greaton in New Richmond, to find out what he had dug up.
Greaton thought it might be moissanite, or silicon carbide, but after tests and a consultation with a mineralogist, she was convinced it was indeed a diamond.
“My dad told me it’s unlikely to find a diamond here, but diamonds can actually be found anywhere in the world,” Greaton told the newspaper, noting that what was once considered nature's hardest substance is often formed near volcanoes. She said it's possible the Wisconsin rock was pushed south from Canada during the Ice Age.
Fagnan has asked Greaton to set the stone in a necklace for his soon-to-be-born child.
Gold Trails, a new TV show produced by the Gold Prospectors Association of America, promotes the lifestyle of the prospector. Host Kevin Hoagland travels the country working with local prospectors and equipment manufacturers in search of the next big gold strike.
Information on gold prospecting in Wisconsin from the DRN
Panning for gold and rock collecting on the Chequamegon-Nicolet
The collection of minor amounts of rock samples and gold panning as a recreational activity is allowed on National Forest land, but is strictly limited in the type of collecting activity and intensity of activity allowed. Recreational rock collecting and gold panning activities do not grant any rights to any discovered valuable mineral deposits. The 1872 General Mining Law does not apply to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest lands.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest authorizes recreational mineral collecting, such as panning for gold or rock collecting without the need for a permit. Gold panning is only allowed with the use of small hand tools (pan, small shovel, and hand pick). Occasional recreation panning, for an individual or group is limited to extremely small areas of stream disturbance: A few scattered areas of less than 1 square foot and totaling less than 40 square feet within a 500 foot segment of a stream and would occur less than 5 days per year. The Forest does not issue permits for more substantial recreational collecting. The use of suction dredges, any type of motorized equipment, mercury or any kind of chemical, and sluice type devices is prohibited.
Gold panning activity is not permitted in classified trout water before April 15th and after September 15th. You must also avoid disturbing fish spawning nests. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has the responsibility and jurisdiction concerning water quality. Past contacts with the WDNR have indicated that occasional recreational panning with no equipment other than small hand tools (pan, small shovel, and hand pick as defined in Wisconsin Administrative Code NR 345.03(8)) would not have substantial effects on water quality and a permit would probably not be required.
Recreational rock collecting or "rock hounding" means the collecting of surface rock samples without the need for digging tools or surface disturbance. Rock hammers or geo-picks are allowed for use to break off small hand samples from larger rock outcrops or surface boulders.
Digging for Quartz Crystals is prohibited at a specific historical quartzite crystal collecting area known as "Quartz Hill", located in Oconto County, north of Townsend and a 1/4 mile east and northeast of the junction of FR 2123 and State Highway 32. This area has had unauthorized digging activity that has resulted in adverse visual and environmental impacts. You may collect small amounts of surface rock samples but may not do any kind of digging or other surface disturbance.
The Forest Service needs to know the locations and dates of your proposed recreational panning or rock collecting. Please contact the individual below in advance of this activity. Contact Greg Knight, Forest Geologist, Medford-Park Falls Ranger Station, 850 N. 8th, Hwy. 13, Medford, WI 54451, 715-748-4875, ext. 26, or email email@example.com
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