Gold Nuggets

Except for the first one on this list, these are among the top ten on Wikipedia's List of gold nuggets by size. But in the words of Bullion By Post ("the UK's No. 1 online bullion dealer") it's "more difficult than might first be imagined" to compile such a list.

The reason for the Beyers–Holtermann Specimen's absence from Wikipedia's list is that it isn't actually a nugget. It was found in solid rock, and the word 'nugget' is properly only applied to specimens found in alluvial deposits (loose material deposited by water). But it was the biggest gold specimen ever found – 59 inches (1.5 metres) long, weighing 630 pounds (290 kg) and with an estimated gold content of 3,000 troy ounces (93 kg). It was discovered in 1872 in Hill End, New South Wales, by the two eponymous prospectors, Louis Beyers and Bernhardt Holtermann.

The biggest actual nugget ever found was also discovered in Australia, but three years earlier. It measured 61 by 31 cm (24 by 12 in), had a calculated refined weight of 97.14 kilograms (3,123 troy ounces), and was discovered by John Deason and Richard Oates at Moliagul, Victoria. It was named the Welcome Stranger, in reference to the Welcome Nugget; this had been discovered in Ballarat, Victoria in 1858 and remains the second largest nugget and third largest gold specimen ever found.

Three of Wikipedia's Top Ten were discovered in 1983 at a mine in Brazil; and they include the third largest, which is also the fourth largest gold specimen ever found. Named the Pepita Canaã ('sugarcane nugget'), it was purchased in 1984 by the Banco Central do Brasil, and is now displayed in their money museum in Brasilia. Weighing 60.82 kg, it's the largest nugget still in existence (the three bigger specimens having been broken up and/or melted down). It's believed to have been even bigger when found, but was broken while being excavated.

The fourth biggest nugget on Wikipedia's list (which excludes the Beyers–Holtermann) was discovered in California in 1869, and the fifth and sixth are from the same Brazilian mine as the Pepita Canaã. The next four are from Australia, and the eleventh is the Fricot Nugget, from California.

Bullion By Post lists what it reckons to be the five biggest nuggets still in existence; as well as the Pepita Canaã (60.82 kg) and the Hand of Faith (27.66 kg) they include the Great Triangle (36.2 kg), the Normandy Nugget (25.5 kg) and the Ironstone Crown Jewel (16.4 kg). These were found in Russia, Australia and California respectively. The Hand of Faith is the tenth largest nugget on Wikipedia's list, and it's the largest nugget ever found with a metal detector.

© Haydn Thompson 2022