Can you imagine the excitement you would feel at the sound of your shovel hitting something solid and metallic in the ground or your metal detector beeping loudly, jumping off its shaft? And then you discover that you, literally, struck gold – it’s a giant lump of this precious metal.
Gold finds are rare. Gold nuggets, or naturally occurring pieces of native gold, however, are still being found during mining or sometimes by chance by lucky individuals.
As gold remains a safe-haven asset throughout the rocky economic changes, let us take a look back through the decades at the most momentous discoveries of giant gold pieces.
Check out the following list to learn about 10 of the world’s biggest and most famous gold finds:
1 Holtermann ‘nugget’
This is the single biggest mass of gold ever found. Strictly speaking, it’s not a gold nugget, but a giant piece of gold specimen embedded in quartz and slate. It was discovered in October 1872, in the Star of Hope mine in Hill End, New South Wales, Australia and named after Bernhardt Holtermann, the mine manager.
Resembling an enormous surfboard, it measured 144.8 cm high x 66 cm wide x 10.2 cm thick, weighing a massive 285 kilogrammes. When extracted, the weight of its gold content was 93.2 kilogrammes. That would be worth more than USD 5 million today. A replica can be found in the Australian Museum in Sydney.
Image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales via Wikimedia Commons
Holtermann posing with the nugget
2 Welcome Stranger
This 78-kilogramme gold fragment is considered the largest gold nugget discovered in the world, and, beyond doubt, it’s the most legendary. Celebrations organised for the 150th anniversary of the discovery sparked international attention. It was discovered at Moliagul, in the state of Victoria, Australia, in February 1869 by two English prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates, during a gold rush in the area.
It was near the surface, held in place by the roots of a tree. It was broken into three pieces to make it easier to weigh and eventually melted down. The nugget yielded more than 2,284 troy ounces (71 kg) of pure gold, which would be valued at USD 3.8 million today.
Troy ounces are used as a unit of measurement used for precious metals. A troy ounce is 31.10 grams.
There is no photograph of the nugget. Replicas based on a sketch about the original nugget can be found in the Dunolly Museum and the Rural Transaction Centre in Dunolly, Victoria.
The Welcome Stranger is not to be confused with the similarly named, but slightly smaller, Welcome nugget that was found in the gold rush town of Ballarat, Victoria, 11 years earlier. The 'Welcome' nugget weighed 2,195 troy ounces, nearly 69 kilogrammes, and was sold to Royal Mint in London, and melted down.
Image courtesy of the Dunolly Museum, Australia
Replica of the Welcome Stranger in the Dunolly Museum
3 King Henry, or RNC Minerals 1, ‘nugget’
The most valuable gold specimen in existence and on display in the world today is the King Henry, weighing 93 kilogrammes with an estimated gold content of 45 kilogrammes. Its precious metals content would be worth about USD 2.4 million at today’s gold price. This is, again, not a gold nugget, but an enormous gold encrusted rock, made up also of quartz and slate.
One of the most recent gold discoveries, this giant specimen was found in in 2018, in the Beta Hunt mine, near Kambalda in Western Australia, by RNC Minerals employee Henry Dole. The impressive block of gold found a new home as the centrepiece of the Perth Mint’s gold exhibition showcasing the history of Australian gold to the rest of the world. Canadian mining company RNC Minerals, which has since changed its name to Karora Resources, received USD 3 million for the gold-covered specimen.
Image courtesy of the Perth Mint
The King Henry displayed at the Perth Mint in Western Australia
4 Canaã nugget, or Pepita Canaã
This giant lump of gold, also known as the Pepita Canaã, at 60.8 kilogrammes, is the world's largest surviving gold nugget. It was the largest gold nugget unearthed during Brazil's Serra Pelada Gold Rush in the early 1980s.
It’s on display at the Banco Central Museum in Brasília alongside several others found in Brazil’s Serra Pelada (Naked Mountain). It contains 52.3 kilogrammes, or 1,682 troy ounces of pure gold, valued at USD 2.8 million at the current gold price.
5 Monumental nugget – the biggest gold nugget ever found in the US
The ‘Monumental’ was the largest gold nugget found in the US. It was discovered in 1869 in the Sierra Buttes Mine in Sierra County, California, an area associated with the California Gold Rush of the 1800s.
That historically significant gold rush began when workers at Sutter's Mill discovered gold in a river in 1848.
Spotted by miners on their way to work after heavy rainfall, the 'Monumental,' this huge chunk of gold weighed about 48 kilogrammes when extracted from the ground. The nugget was shipped to San Francisco and sold to R.B. Wood, the owner of the Woodward’s Garden and displayed there, before USD 20 gold coins were minted out of it. You can see its replica in the Kentucky Mine Museum, in Sierra City.
6 Lady Hotham nugget
Found by nine miners in the Canadian Gully of the Australian mining town of Ballarat in September 1854 during the Victorian Gold Rush, this lump of gold was named after the wife of the governor of the State of Victoria, Sir Charles Hotham, who was on a trip to the area at the time of the discovery.
Weighing 44.7 kilogrammes, it was the third-largest gold nugget to have been found in Australia.
7 The Great Triangle nugget
One of the gold discoveries outside Australia was made in the Urals mountains in Russia. Found in 1842, the Great Triangle is believed to be the second largest gold nugget that still exists today. The Great Triangle weighs 36.2 kilogrammes and contains about 32.9 kilogrammes (1,059 troy ounces) of gold, which would currently be valued at USD 1.7 million.
Owned by the Russian state, the nugget is on display in the Kremlin as part of the Diamond Fund Collection alongside impressive historical artefacts, gemstones, and jewellery.
8 The Golden Eagle nugget
Found in January 1931 by 17-year-old Jim Larcombe near Larkinville during the Western Australian gold rush. The 32.2 kilogramme slab of the precious metal got its name for its resemblance of a bird.
The largest gold nugget discovered at the time of the Great Depression sparked a gold rush in the area. It was sold to the Western Australian government and melted down. A replica of the nugget can be found Western Australian School of Mines’ Mineral Museum in Kalgoorlie.
Image courtesy of WA Museum Boola Bardip; photograph by Rebecca Hackett
A replica of the Golden Eagle nugget
9 The Hand of Faith
The Hand of Faith, named so for its shape, holds the record for being the biggest gold nugget found using a metal detector. Weighing 27.2 kilogrammes, it was found by prospector Kevin Hillier in September 1980 in Wedderburn, in the state of Victoria in Australia.
It’s also one of the biggest gold nuggets still in existence . It’s on display in the lobby of the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, which bought it from its finder for USD 1 million.
Image source: Alizada Studios / Shutterstock.com
The Hand of Faith
10 You Wouldn’t Believe It nugget
Weighing just 2 kilogrammes, this block of gold is not one of the largest nuggets ever discovered, but it deserves a mention on our list for the most imaginative name. It was found using a metal detector in June 2019 in old pasture land on the outskirts of the gold rush town of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia by a local pensioner, who wished to remain anonymous.
The retiree is also keeping the exact spot where he unearthed the treasure a secret, according to Mark Day, who operates the shop where the lucky prospector bought the metal detector, and who told the world media about the discovery.
At the prevailing gold price at the time, the find was estimated to be worth about USD 130,000, with collectors said to have been offering a premium for the nugget’s rarity. There are no news reports available about its eventual sale.
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