Gold. Its story is our story. Its discovery drove, inspired and expanded America, paving a brilliant path to modern society, ingenuity and industry. Its place is equally prominent when it comes to our treasured jewelry pieces.
When you hear the term “Gold Nugget” today, you might think of a classic Las Vegas casino. And in fact, the largest intact gold nugget currently in existence, the Hand of Faith, is now on display at the Golden Nugget Casino.
But for the purposes of this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the three largest gold nuggets ever discovered – not just in America, but throughout our mineral-rich planet. In fact, as “luck” might have it, each of these three beauties was unearthed in one particular exotic locale: Australia.
To get a sense of just how large and rare these nuggets are, consider that around 98% of the gold that’s been mined from Earth didn’t come in the form of a placer gold nugget, since the vast majority of gold is typically recovered by forcefully blasting it out. The most common size of gold is so fine that it’s called “gold dust” — and it might take thousands and thousands of gold dust pieces to compile a single ounce of gold. While there’s no official breakdown or classification of sizes between dust, flakes, pickers and nuggets, a piece of gold is often considered a nugget when it exceeds one gram in weight.
With that in mind…get a load (and a lode) of these historic nuggets, and the unique and colorful stories behind each of them.
Welcome Stranger Nugget
Weighing in at a staggering 3,524 ounces, or just a shade under an even 100 kilograms, it would have been hard to miss the welcome — and would have surely required a wagon or two to haul — provided by this beast of a gold nugget back in 1869. Prospecting in the wilds of Moliagul, Victoria, Australia, Englishmen John Deason and Richard Oates came across the mammoth, record-setting nugget, which was soon broken up into three pieces — each of which was later melted down. If still intact today, it’s estimated that the Welcome Stranger would be worth at least $3 million. Of course, legend also holds that some of the excited miners broke pieces off before it even arrived at the smelters, so who knows just how much it would have been worth in its original incarnation. As for Deason and Oates, they were paid £9,381 by the London Chartered Bank of Australia for their discovery. If you’re ever in Melbourne, Australia, you can view a replica of Welcome Stranger in the City Museum.
RNC Minerals’ 1 Nugget
While representing a major dropoff in naming flair from the world-record-holding Welcome Stranger, this goliath isn’t far off in size and weight, clocking in at 3,351 ounces (or 95 kilograms). It also hails from Australia, where miners working for (you guessed it) RNC Minerals unearthed this nugget at the Beta Hunt mine in September 2018. It’s estimated that this much more recent find contains around 2,400 ounces (or 68 kilograms) of pure gold, valued at over $3 million. The interesting story here is that RNC Minerals was mining not for gold, but for nickel, at the time of this amazing discovery.
A contemporary of Welcome Stranger Nugget, the more simply named Welcome Nugget was unearthed in gold-rich Ballarat, Victoria, Australia — 11 years prior to Welcome Stranger Nugget, in the summer of 1858. Also discovered by English miners (but in this case, a group of over 20 men working together as a newly arrived team), the horsehead-shaped Welcome was originally sold in Melbourne for £10,500, roughly equivalent to $1.7 million today. The Welcome was exhibited at London’s historic Crystal Palace before its 1859 purchase by the Royal Mint, who then melted it down into gold sovereign coins.
OK, we know we’ve already covered The Big 3. But there’s another nugget worth noting here. While Welcome Stranger is the largest gold nugget ever unearthed, the biggest single gold specimen ever discovered is, in fact, the Holtermann “Nugget” — also discovered in Australia in the late nineteenth century. Claimed by German-born miner Bernhardt Holtermann at Hill End in New South Wales in late 1872, the gold-embedded-in-quartz behemoth weighed in at a gargantuan 10,229 ounces, or 290 kilograms. Valued at £12,000 pounds (or around $1.7 million today) upon its discovery, the “nugget” was crushed, with its gold extracted. The Holtermann is also known by many as “reef gold” — after the quartz reefs sought after by the hard rock miners.
Here at Zillion, we’re not overly obsessed with size (or weight). In fact, we believe deeply that every piece of gold jewelry, no matter how large or small, is special — and certainly worthy of insuring with us. We encourage you to take a moment or two to read about the values and particulars of purchasing jewelry insurance — and invite you to go ahead and get a free quote for your own insurance policy today.
Oh, and if you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy our recent look at the seven largest diamonds ever unearthed — and the colorful stories behind them.