California has a rich history of Gold and Silver mining that stretches back to the mid-1800s, one that is integral to the telling of California’s story, without which we’d have far less history — or precious metals for wedding bands to speak of. The spotting of gold in California is credited to Johann Sutter and James Marshall, whose lumber-milling town Sutterville’s positioning to the American River led Marshall to the discovery in 1848, while surveying for an ideal location for their sawmill. This discovery led to the 1849 California Gold Rush, enticing people across the globe to travel to California, with the promise of fortune in staking out gold.

 

Californians, Oregonians, Native Americans, Mormons, Hispanic natives, European immigrants, Hawaiian immigrants, and Chinese immigrants were among the first groups of gold-seekers to rush toward San Francisco in 1848. Only once an American military surveil of the American River occurred did President Polk make an official statement on the gold strike of California that there was an influx of gold miners from the rest of the world. Nearly 100,000 people came to California through 1849, by boat landing through the port of San Francisco, or over plains and mountains by foot and horse. The Forty-Niners, were composed of mainly American citizens, and they brought with them a lot of infrastructure along with their desire for riches.

A mass of industry followed the many gold-seekers and gold-mining companies that immigrated west — entire towns were erected containing roads, churches, saloons and dancehalls, stores carrying various merchandise, and other businesses ran by individuals seeking reliable income from the mass migration. Farmers moved west to capitalize on the boom of population, expanding agriculture, and the development of ranches. Government was soon created to keep order in these newly settled parts of California, in 1850 California was given statehood by President Fillmore, but the need for order didn’t come soon enough — “Vigilance Committees” were created to bring law and order to these settlements in lieu of an official police force.

 

Sacramento was born out of the settlement of Sutterville by 1845, serving as Northern California’s gold mining capital where traders convened and operated, Sacramento’s importance in California was soon cemented by the establishment of the state’s first railroad station. Other settlements across the state grew in the same way, thanks to the boom of gold mining, with Tuleberg eventually becoming industrious Stockton in the south.

 

Northern Californian rivers were the main veins containing Californian gold that forty-niners took to panning, or sifting gold from water sources, in hopes of hitting it rich. This technique required miners to sift organic material through a pan that collected weighty gold ore at the bottom. Panning was replaced by more technologically advanced mining machines that required more labor to operate, and soon the stream beds of California were exhausted of gold-containing material.

When waterbeds ran out of gold, Miners were forced to take up different tools in their pursuit of finding gold. Forty-foot deep shafts were dug through hard rock by pickaxe in order to uncover precious quartz rock containing gold material. Mining was an extremely dangerous occupation, workers entered dangerous narrow tunnels in order to extract gold, with minimal light and protection. Many miners gave their lives in gold mines.

 

Gold was uncovered all along the rivers, waterways, and tributaries of Northern California, and mines were struck by joint-stock companies that employed miners skilled in operating hydraulic mining equipment by 1884. High-powered hoses sprayed water into gold-bearing rock, the earth and rock would be sifted through sluices, and gold was collected more efficiently in this way. 

 

Hydraulic mining was not without its hazardous effects on the environment — waterways were polluted, water levels rose leading to increased flooding, and debris created by the mines affected the surrounding areas. The environmental effects took its toll on Native Americans dependent on the ecosystem for nourishment — polluted waterways meant no clean water, disrupted ecosystems meant no fish, and many died during this time. The effects of hydraulic mining are still felt to this day, with hydraulic-mined land unable to support plant-life.

 

Gold may have become inaccessible for most with the introduction of hydraulic mining, but the promise of opportunity in California remained, with the ‘California Dream’ being a symbol of prosperity in the state. The new American dream was linked to California’s reputation as the “golden state”, where anyone can find luck, and the idea of an instant fortune continues to this day with California attracting generations of innovators in industry and burgeoning tech fields.

Without all the aforementioned history, we would have a severe lack of abundance in precious metals to utilize in our jewelry, and gold and silver wedding rings for men and women might not take as much importance in our culture. The process of making a gold ring might look a lot different without this history, would we use other materials, or wearable symbols other than unique wedding bands to represent our devotion?

Thankfully, the hard work of many has helped solidify gold as a standard of quality and beauty. We here at Bloedstone love getting the chance to work with this precious metal. We can't wait to make you a ring that is rich with so much history and one that will continue it's story in your life and future generations.

Piece written by Daniel Rockwell

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