Throughout human history gold has been used as a display of wealth and beauty in coins, jewelry and art. Nothing else captures the imagination or the sense of adventure like a treasure hunt for natural gold nuggets. Keep reading to find out about some of the most dazzling gold nugget discoveries of all time!
Atomic number 79 on the Periodic Table of Elements. Aurum in Latin. Gold. Few words in the English language, or any other for that matter, capture the imagination and interest for people. When people are asked “what do you think about when you hear the word “gold?” invariably people think: Wealth, Fort Knox, Miner 49er, money, California, Krugerrand, Saint-Gaudens, pirate treasure, gold rush, FDR, banks, and doubtless many other things.
Gold can be found in a variety of ways. We’ve all seen prospectors panning for gold, searching for heavy gold particulate that has washed down the side of a hill or mountain and lodged in a riverbed. We’ve seen TV footage of miners and their heavy equipment moving large amounts of dirt and rock as they either dig a shaft into a mountain in search of a vein of gold or as they move the earth in an open-pit mine. What you may not know is that some of the most intriguing gold finds have happened with the use of a standard metal detector when someone has been out for a walk. Sometimes, people almost stumble over gold nuggets. Here are some notable gold nugget finds in history. Sometimes all that Glitters IS gold.
What is a gold nugget?
A gold nugget, as the name suggests, is a nugget of gold. These are pieces of gold that are found naturally. They can be found in the mining process or sometimes as left-over deposits of previous gold loads. Sometimes they are found in locations where there is no hard rock gold, perhaps the most exciting type of discovery! Generally found to be 85% and 95% pure, gold nuggets are formed by a group of gold crystals from extremely heated water in the fissures of hard rock like quartz. It is thought, that because of the high temperatures needed to form these gorgeous gold structures, they are formed deep underground where such temperatures are found. Eventually, geological processes and weathering, shift them up to the surface where they are found by prospectors and sometimes by happenstance by extremely lucky people, in various places around the world. They can vary greatly.
Largest Gold Nuggets Found in the United States
There were smaller gold rushes in the United States, notably in the early 19th Century near Charlotte, NC and Dahlonega, GA but the real show got started in 1848 when gold was discovered in Sutter’s Mill, California. This began a seven-year gold rush that changed the nation forever. San Francisco became a boom town, people learned that you could become rich selling picks and shovels to the miners instead of mining gold yourself and the population growth in California led, in part, to it becoming a state in 1850.
Monumental Nugget—this is the largest gold nugget to be found in the State of California. It was discovered in Sierra County on the Sierra Buttes Mine property in 1869. Rain had exposed part of the nugget which was spotted by miners on their way to work. The Monumental Nugget weighed over 103 pounds!
Replica Image Courtesy of MSN
Crown Jewel Nugget—was found in 1992! This is on display at the Ironstone Vineyards in California in a custom-made vault. The 44-pound crystalline gold leaf nugget is on display with artifacts from California’s legendary 1849 Gold Rush. Found by the Sonora Mining Company, the nugget was originally enmeshed with quartz rock. Hydroflouric acid cleaning eventually revealed the mostly pure, gold mass!
Centennial Nugget–bears the honor of being the largest gold nugget found in Alaska. It was found by Barry Lloyd Clay in 1998 on Swift Creek near the aptly named town of Ruby. The nugget itself weighs a whopping 294 oz.—that is 20 pounds!
Image Courtesy of www.swiftcreekmine.com
Largest Gold Nuggets Found in Australia
Even as recently as May 2019 people are still literally stumbling over large gold nuggets in Australia. Bendigo, Australia is home to a recent find when a young girl, out for a walk with her family and dog, literally kicked a rock and asked her father if it was gold. The exact location of the unnamed and roughly 20 oz. gold nugget find has not been disclosed because the family intends to more thoroughly search the area. One could be so lucky!
Little Hero—subject of the smallest issue in the first Perth Mint Australian Gold Nugget series. The coin honoring this 330 oz. natural gold nugget was 1/10 oz. The Little Hero was found in Australia in 1890.
Golden Eagle – This nugget was found in 1931 and weighed an incredible 1,235 oz. The nugget was found under a makeshift mining road by the son of miner Jim Latrobe. Sadly, it was sold to the Australian Government and melted. It also was the subject of the ¼ oz. issue of the first Australian Gold Nugget series.
Hand of Faith—This nugget has the honor of being the largest one in history to be found with a metal detector. It was found in Wedderburn, Australia by Kevin Hillier. This impressive nugget weighs 875 oz.—that’s 61 pounds! It was buried about 12 inches underground. Even now, you can see this magnificent specimen on display at the Golden Nugget Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was the subject used for the original Perth Mint Gold Nugget ½ oz. coin.
Welcome Stranger—this one is the largest nugget ever found weighing in at 72 kg which is a massive 158 pounds. It was found by prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates on February 5, 1869, in Victoria, Australia. To put this massive gold nugget into perspective, it would be worth over $2.6 million U.S. dollars in 2019 in melt value alone. The Welcome Stranger Nugget was ultimately sold for melt value in 1869 and was presumably struck into over 9,000 British Gold Sovereign coins at the Sydney Mint.
2019 is the 150th anniversary of the Welcome Stranger find which is being marked with the Perth Mint’s upcoming Welcome Stranger issues: a 1 oz. .9999 fine gold coin with an ultra-low mintage of 7,500; a 1 oz. .9999 fine silver coins with a low 30,000 mintage and a bronze-aluminum coin and stamp cover with a 7,500 mintage. The Perth Mint has been featuring famous nuggets on coins since 1986 when they transitioned from portraying kangaroos on the gold nugget series to incredible gold nuggets found in Australia. The series would eventually revert to focusing on the native marsupial again in 1989.
Honorable Mentions of Large Gold Nuggets
Pepita Canaa Nugget—this was found in Brazil. It is the biggest natural gold nugget that still exists today and it is currently on display at Brazil’s Banco Central Museum. It weighs a gross 134 pounds. Gold weight is estimated to be 115 pounds. It was found in the Serra Pelada region in Brazil in September 1983. The discovery of this historic nugget led to an eighties gold rush in Brazil.
Image Courtesy of MSN.com
Great Triangle Nugget–this nugget was discovered in the region of the southern Ural Mountains in 1842. The region was first mined as far back as 1814! The Big Triangle is sometimes called the largest nugget found on the planet but weighing in at 36 kilos (79 pounds) it is smaller than the Welcome Stranger and the Pepita Canaa nuggets. It is currently on display in Moscow as part of the Russian “Diamond Fund” which is a collection of Geological curiosities consisting of natural gold and platinum nuggets. The Great Triangle Nugget is the largest to be found in Russia.
The Boot of Cortez Nugget– One of the largest nuggets ever discovered in the Western Hemisphere that still exists to this day. Found in Senora, Mexico in 1989 by a prospector reportedly with the relatively cheap metal detector he bought at a Radio Shack. After searching with little luck for a few days, he eventually detected this gorgeous nugget. Its name comes from its distinctive, “boot-like” shape. This discovery outweighs the Monumental Nugget discovered in Alaska, which is described above, by 100 ounces.
Image Courtesy of MSN.com
Throughout human history gold has been used as a display of wealth and beauty in coins, jewelry, and art. Nothing else captures the imagination or the sense of adventure like a treasure hunt for natural gold nuggets. While many of these finds occurred during past gold rushes in history, nuggets are still being found today by lucky individuals.
In fact, in May of 2019, a man in Australia hit the big one when he detected a substantial nugget with this metal detector, hunting gold fields for well, gold. Weighing in at over 3 pounds, the nugget is estimated to be worth $69,000. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!