In the United States and Canada prospectors were lured by the promise of gold, silver, and other precious metals. They travelled across the mountains of the American West, carrying picks, shovels and gold pans. The majority of early prospectors had no training and relied mainly on luck to discover deposits.
Other gold rushes occurred in Papua New Guinea, Australia at least four times, and in South Africa and South America. In all cases, the gold rush was sparked by idle prospecting for gold and minerals which, when the prospector was successful, generated 'gold fever' and saw a wave of prospectors comb the countryside.