Australia has seen numerous gold rushes in its history, mostly in the latter half of the 19th century and just after nationhood in 1901. Notable strikes occurred in the states of Victoria and New South Wales, both in the southeast of the country, and later in the more isolated state of Western Australia.
Many stories are told of early miners picking gold nuggets off the ground, or finding them under just a few inches of soil. In fact, the largest alluvial gold nugget ever found, the “Welcome Stranger,” was buried just two inches deep at the time of its discovery.
The time of easy gold and the large nugget passed for Australia’s miners, and the decades wore on. Yet this nugget stayed hidden in the ground, waiting to be found. It was uncovered by utter chance when a heavy rainstorm washed away the soil around it and left part of the nugget exposed. Its discoverer tripped over it while walking down a dirt road — literally stumbling across the long-buried treasure.
The nugget weighs in at 82.4 troy ounces (1648 pennyweights, metric mass approximately 2.55 kilograms). When turned the right way, its shape suggests the continent of Australia, a fitting tribute to its origin. Like many nuggets, this example is not pure gold — one can see a handful of white quartz crystals, angular things embedded in the curves of gold — but a surface spectral analysis gave a reading of 91.6% purity or 916 fineness, a figure that past experience tells us may be on the low side.
Assuming the 916 fineness as a baseline, this nugget contains nearly 75.5 troy ounces of pure gold. As a display piece, of course, it holds more value than its mere metal content. The phrase “museum-quality specimen” is bandied about perhaps too casually, but it is absolutely appropriate here.