This discovery in the Ted Smithson Collection and a previous entry by Mike Brooke led me to look into the background of these microscopic grains of gold from Sutherland in Scotland.
The sheer amount of time - 24 hours - required to pan 100 or so flakes of gold, or as Mike's item suggests 1cwt (50+Kg) of silt suggests wonderful dedication and concentration!
The story goes that gold was first prospected back in 1868 by a Roberl Gilchrist a native of nearby Kildoan after his return from gold prospecting in Australia; having gained permission from the Duke of Sutherland.
In fact he was able to find ?economic quantities in a number of stream beds in the area, and in early 1869 following the publication of his findings in the Illustrated London News the gold rush started.
At its height 600 prospectors had arrived but quickly dwindled by the end of 1869, with finds being on such a small scale no one "got rich".
The real death knell was the conflict between the interests of the prospectors, who wanted permission to extend the area being exploited, and those engaged in shooting, fishing and farming sheep in the area.
The Duke of Sutherland worked out he was getting less for licencing his claim than he was gaining from the other users of his land; so he announced that all exploration for gold would cease with effect from 1 January 1870.
That was the Strath Kildonan gold rush over.
Gold panning is still actively pursued at Kildonan purely as a pastime/tourist attraction and licences available to purchase.
For mineral collectors I think the evidence here on e-Rocks is that it is a lot of work for little gain - but it is conducted in a particularly beautiful place!