the ultimate prize
|Of all the forms taken by gold, nuggets generate the
greatest excitement and, at times, the most discussion.
While nuggets have been found in gold fields in most
Australian states and in others around the world, those
from Victoria were particularly large and abundant.
From the time of the first gold rushes in the early 1850s, the discovery of large nuggets aroused such exhilaration that news spread far and wide. Thousands of people from around the world migrated to Victoria, dreaming of making their fortunes on goldfields dripping, so they hoped, with nuggets. The records are undoubtedly incomplete, but more than 1200 nuggets weighing over 620 grams (20 troy ounces*) had been documented up until about 1910. The largest of all, the Welcome Stranger nugget (2316 troy ounces or about 72 kg) was uncovered on a bush track near Moliagul in 1869. The second largest, the Welcome (2218 troy ounces or about 71.3 kg), was found in 1858 on Bakery Hill at Ballarat, in an alluvial gutter at a depth of 55 metres.
Many other magnificent nuggets weighing close to 1000 troy ounces were found but virtually none survived intact to be preserved in Australian museum collections. Most were sold and melted down almost immediately in order to minimise the chances of theft and so that the finder could realise on their good luck. A number of smaller nuggets found their way to Europe as gifts for royalty. The Victorian Mines Department made models of about 100 nuggets, mainly from sketches and photographs, but the resulting outlines are often distorted or greatly simplified. Credits: By Dr Bill Birch, Senior Curator, Geosciences, Museum Victoria