The earth is nothing more then a giant magnet as attested by its magnetic poles that attract a magnetic needle to magnetic North and South. The same phenomenon of magnetic attraction can be used to detect magnetic minerals even as small as what are termed micro-mounts, or for that matter large masses of magnetic mineral like magnetite below the surface of the earth. Although gold itself is not magnetic that often occurs in the company of different minerals that are; one example is granular magnetite.
This deceptively simple magnetometer can be used both at home or in the field. Its materials are also simple consisting of a very few parts that are obtainable anywhere. The core of this magnetometer is nothing more complicated than an ordinary soda straw with a small magnet glued on one end. There is a needle shoved through the straw at approximately its balance point with the magnet attached. The needle rests on two parallel sides are far enough apart to allow the straw to present up and down.
The best kind of magnet that you can use as a so-called rare earth magnet that is far more powerful than an ordinary magnet. Small maintenance of this type can be found in auto parts stores, sources say are part of an automobile alternator they can also be found in your local junkyard. The best kind of soda straw to use is one that has a flexible joint near its upper end, so you can bend the straw to get it perfectly balanced.
At home your magnetometer is used to detect magnetic minerals that is accomplished by passing the near the magnetic tip to see if the magnet is attracted. If it is you know immediately whether or not the mineral is magnetic, conversely if the magnet is not attracted to the specimen then it is not magnetic. This is important because many minerals look alike and the magnetometer test is one step in identifying the mineral.
In the field; all you have to do is walk a straight line while watching the straw, if the magnet is attracted to a magnetic mass in the ground the straw will move up or down. This is also important because many different mineral deposits are magnetic and have other minerals that are associated with them including gold. A simple method of measuring the amount of dip is by placing a quadrant next to the straw allowing you to measure the amount of dip the straw undergoes.
A simple magnetometer of the type described can be seen by following this URL: