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He became consumed by his passion in 1995, when he and his family began working the historic Shooting Star mine northeast of Sacramento. It includes 43 acres of private property and 320 acres of surrounding legal gold and mineral claims.

Between the Shooting Star mine and a syndicate of other local miners in the 30 square-mile area in the heart of the Mother Lode region, Todd has secured enough heavy metal to start his "California Gold" jewelry collection featured in this website.

Gold from Leftovers

Every year, during the spring runoff from rains and melting snowpacks in the High Sierras, rivers and streams become raging torrents. Millions of tons of gravel and rocks--including ten-foot boulders--come thundering down. The floods wash down fresh gold and gold-bearing rocks that come to rest at the bottom of streambeds, often embedded in sand and sediment.

Todd finds some of his gold in the "tailings"--gravel from which the gold has been extracted-- left behind by the 49ers. Modern recovery techniques permit a much higher yield. But he finds most of his gold by dredging the very high-altitude streams that were depleted 150 years ago.

To scour the creek bottoms and riverbeds, Todd dons a skindiving suit and first performs a visual check, hoping to get lucky and find a couple of rare, large nuggets to add to his collection. Then he uses a floating dredge that acts like an underwater vacuum cleaner. The dredge sucks up mud, sand and compacted gravel.

Separating the Gold

Letting water and gravity do the work, the material is run though a sluice box that traps the heavier materials. This concentrate is then run through a series of screens to filter out the water and sand.

Most of the gold is so tiny it's invisible, but Todd eagerly checks for the glitter of any nuggets. Then he 'pans' the material, swirling it around in a large pan that sloshes out the water and lighter material. The heavy, black residue at the bottom will then refined to separate out the actual gold he will use to make into jewelry. By then it's almost sundown, and Todd picks up his fishing rod and tries to catch some nice trout to cook over the campfire.

Making Jewelry

First, Todd uses any of the larger gold nuggets recovered during his latest exploration to create rare, one-of-a-kind nugget jewelry. Each piece is carefully designed around the unique characteristics of the individual nugget.

Then, using the lost wax casting method, he meticulously hand-carves the design of each jewelry item. If it is to be a one-of-a-kind piece, he casts it directly into gold, which is then painstakingly hand-finished.

If the design is to be used for more than one piece, he makes a mold of the wax. In the final step, hot wax is injected into the mold and it is then cast into gold jewelry. Whether one- of-a kind or part of a multiple design, each piece of jewelry is stamped inside with a hallmark authenticating it as genuine California Gold -- a tiny Grizzly Bear, the state symbol.

Handcrafted Look of 1850s

Todd's special aged finish includes his own artistic impression of jewelry that might have been created in the gold fields. He uses hundreds of hammer strokes, one of the hand-crafted methods employed in ring-making during that period. The result is a gold band, made from the original material, which looks to be hundreds of years old.

Aside from the aesthetic and historic value of using gold recovered from the actual Mother Lode, there are practical advantages that make Todd's California Gold superior to other forms of gold jewelry. Traditional gold is alloyed -- mixed with nickel or silver to dilute it. Most gold jewelry is diluted to 14-karat or less. Higher-priced gold items costing thousands of dollars at exclusive stores on Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive usually top out at 18-karat.

But Todd's California Gold is never diluted. It remains in its natural state, just as it is formed by nature in the Mother Lode 20-karat. The higher the karat, the purer the gold.