Gold is found in many places in Switzerland, as the following map shows. Often, however, only minimal traces of gold occur. Click on a yellow area in the map to get a description of the most promising localities for the recreational gold prospector:

The locations described below provide the best chances for the recreational prospector to unearth some gold flakes with simple tools, such as a goldpan and a shovel. The book "Gold in der Schweiz" (in German only) provides a much more detailed description of these locations plus many more. Additionally, an introduction to the geological types of Swiss gold occurrences and the techniqes of gold prospecting are provided.

Alluvial Placer Gold occurrence

Napf Area

Historically, the gold in the Napf area of Central Switzerland is supposed to be the first known gold occurrence in Switzerland. The "Napfgold" might have been known by the Helvets (a Celtic tribe living in the territory of today's Switzerland before Christ) and the Romans. Today, the creeks and rivers of the Napf area also are well known to recreational prospectors. The untouched natural scenery of the Swiss Prealps and the possibility of quickly finding a gold flake in the creek gravels make the Napf area a perfect gold locality. Because of the intense gold history and the affection people hold for prospectors, we have devoted the Napf area its own site (Placer Gold in the Napf Area).

Eastern Switzerland

Eastern Switzerland represents a big patch with alluvial and glacial placers. The gold placers of the Cantons of Appenzell, Saint Gall, Thurgau, and Zurich were unknown before the geologist Franz Hofmann of Schaffhausen did intensive field work there between 1965 and 1985. He sampled many rivers and gravel pits scientifically and discovered that placer gold was spread all over Eastern Switzerland. He identified three types of placer gold sources:Glaciers completely covering Eastern Switzerland during the Ice Ages moved the gold from the Alps.

Tertiary river deltas formed not only the Napf Area but also brought gold flakes from Central to Eastern Switzerland and from Austria to Eastern Switzerland.

Recent alluvial placers were formed after the glacial deposits eroded. Some promising localities for the recreational prospectors are found in the Rhine river near Schaffhausen, the creeks around Saint Gall (Glatt, Sitter, Steinach, Goldach), and some rivers in the Canton of Zurich (Töss, Kemptnertobel).

It is also Mr. Hofmann who was the first to search for gold following old tales and sagas. Sagas telling about rich unearthed gold deposits have existed all over Switzerland for many hundred years. Their sources are unknown. Mr. Hofmann was able to show that some of these sagas contain a bit of truth, however. Gold really does exist in some of these locations.


The Rhine between Basel and Mainz (Germany) has been a well known source for placer gold since the Middle Age. Professional gold prospectors were living off of the "Rhinegold" between the 14th and the 19th century on the German and French territory. There is no historical evidence for goldprospecting in or around the city of Basel (Swiss territory). Alluvial gold occurs, however, in the little creeks around the city. These small gold traces also go back to glacier material deposited during the Ice Ages.

Western Switzerland

Western Switzerland, similar to Eastern Switzerland, is a large alluvial gold patch. The gold comes from glacial sources of the Ice Age again. This time it was the Rhone glacier which eroded primary gold locations (lode gold) in the Canton of Valais and transported it to Geneva and Fribourg.

In addition to the well known old gold mines of Salanfe and Gondo, gold occurs in small veins near Verbier, Nendaz, Iserables, Naters, and in the valleys of Anniviers and Binn. Geologists (Nicolas Meisser of Lausanne, Stephan Ansermez of La Tour de Peilz, G. Della Valle of Geneva, and others) have discovered and recently described many of these small deposits.

Other than the Napf area, the placer gold around the city of Geneva is the best known gold location in Switzerland. Its history goes back to 1397 when a prospector applied at the city of Geneva for a concession to dig for gold. Many concessions have been granted in the 15th and 16th century. In the 1930s, J.J. Pittard researched the gold occurrence of the Geneva area scientifically. The renowned localities are:The river Allondon: A site of great scenery but in summer crowed by weekenders from the nearby city of Geneva.

River Arve: The river has its sources in France. The gold is not as easy to find as in the Allondon, probably because of the fine sand and normally high amount of water.

River Versoix: The scenery is similar to the Allondon, but smaller and wilder. Sometimes the sandstone bedrock is exposed. Pittard indicates that the gold flakes of the Geneva area are about 2 to 3 mm in size. The gold content of the Geneva rivers varies from 0.1 to 0.4 g/m3.

Disentis and the Surselva

The Surselva area around Disentis in the Canton Grisons is rich in minerals and ores. The gold occurrences of Disentis have been known since 1672 but never considered important. In 1982, the Swiss geologist David Knopf proposed that a Canadian exploration company, Narex International Inc, undertake test drillings in the area because he noticed a resemblance of the area to the rich Hemlo gold district. The drillings identified an auriferous area of 30 km2 along the Upper Rhine river. Gold contents of 0,7 to 3 g/t were found but no commercial mining operation was started. The activities of the mining firms attracted recreational prospectors and some nice exceptional nuggets have been found in the rivers since then.

öThe largest Swiss gold nugget was found in 1997 by Peter Bölsterli near Disentis (see picture). It weighs 123 grams. Previously, a 48.77 g nugget (found by August Brändle, 1996) and a 20 g nugget were found. Several nuggets of 1 to 10 g are known. The primary gold of Disentis occurs either as microscopic ore in the slate, as native gold in quarz veins, or very seldom as gold crystals.

Recreational prospector René Reichmuth found a large lode gold occurence in autumn 2000, the most extraordinary found known up to now in Switzerland. The discovery of these 15 pieces out of a quartz lode includes about 1.0 to 1.4 kg of gold.

Lode Gold occurrence

"Switzerland is rich in poor mines" a famous Swiss geologist once stated. Gold was mined mainly in four locations in Switzerland which are descrived below. All of those mines are abandoned today. Galleries, shafts, and ruins of the miners' buildings still remain and are an interesting cultural heritage of Swiss gold history.

Salanfe (Valais)

The auriferous arsenopyrite deposit of the mount Luisin near Martigny (Valais) was mined between 1904 and 1928. The mine is high up in the mountains (2157 m) and often covered by snow.

Gondo (Valais)

The main mining period in Gondo (Valais) was between 1890 and 1897. A totoal of 73 gold coins ("Goldvreneli") were minted from its gold. Gold occurs as microscopic inclusions in the pyrite of the granite belonging to the Monte Rosa district.

Astano (Ticino)

Gold occurs in the Malcantone area in arsenopyrite ores. Many little pits dating back to the Middle Age are found in this area. The gold mines of Astano operated between 1937 and 1961.

Calanda (Grisons)

The gold mine called "Golden Sun" near Chur in the Calanda mountain was operated between 1809 and 1856. A total of 70 gold coins ("Bündner Dublonen") were minted from this gold.