Natural Gold Nugget Information


Millions of years ago, molten gold was forced under pressure to the earth’s surface.  The molten metal found its way through the different sized fractures and fissures, creating veins of gold separated by a variety of rocks and minerals.  As streams and rivers eroded away the mountains, pieces of gold broke away from the vein.  As the pieces, both large and small, roll down the stream, they are broken and pounded.  This creates nuggets of many different sizes and characteristics.



It is estimated that since about 4000 B.C. little more than 125,000 tons of gold has been recovered worldwide.  In volume, that is roughly a 20-yard cube---8000 cubic feet.  8000 cubic feet of gold would fill 100 large moving vans!  Though this seems like a substantial amount,  a one ounce gold nugget is more rare than a 10 karat diamond.

Nuggets are valued for their gem quality.  As a result, a nugget will cost more than a similar weight of processed gold because they are so hard to find. Due to their increased scarcity, authentic gold nuggets will continue to increase in value at a much more dramatic rate than gold in any other form. In addition, the value of nuggets increases as the price of gold drops, because when there is less mining due to poor prices, particularly by small placer operations, fewer nuggets are found, so their scarcity drives up the price in the jewelry market.  Larger nuggets are becoming harder and harder to find.  Miners know this and won’t sell the few they discover.  There are fewer and fewer large gold nuggets available.


There are black, green, or brown highlights in nuggets.  These colors are caused by different minerals that are prevalent in the area of the gold’s origin.  Common minerals are copper, iron, zinc, nickel, clay, silver, platinum, and quartz.  To remove all of these colors from the nugget would jeopardize the integrity of the piece.  We refer to this as the character of the nugget.  The colors give the nugget depth. In nature, the gold content of most nuggets is 75-90% pure.  Some nuggets can be as pure as 96.6%.  

Nuggets also have characteristics of being smooth or coarse (what we call texture).  The smoothness of nuggets are caused by the nugget breaking away from the main source and traveling down stream bouncing off rocks until they are pounded smooth.  The smoother the nuggets, the farther from the source they have traveled.  The coarser the nuggets, the closer to the source they are found, i.e. closer to the “mother-lode”.

The nuggets have their own character and this is noted by different creeks and areas that they are found.  Many of us can tell where the gold comes from by just looking at it.  Only one percent of the gold mined in the world is in placer form.  Placer is the gold that we use to make jewelry.  Hard rock (which is still part of the rock), is mined, smelted and unusable for jewelry in its natural form.  When you think about this, gold nugget jewelry is truly a rare product!  It may be so rare that it is likely to become extinct in our lifetime.  Mining gold that is usable is a dying career for more than one reason.  Finding land to mine is difficult because the easy accessible land (off the roadside) has been mined out.  The hard to access land is left and the costs and risks are too high to try to mine it.
©Fishing for Gold 2000


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