best areas for finding gold nuggets are those which are known
for producing coarse gold. The term "coarse" is used to describe
gold pieces which range in size from a wheat grain to many
grams. Scanning with a metal
detector is the most common, practical method for finding
gold nuggets and other forms of gold.
Coarse gold did not occur in all gold fields, even when some
were considered especially rich. In some areas of Australia
the gold is fine and concentrated in crevices in bedrock and
any gravel wash overlying this. A metal detector cannot pick
up this fine gold sprinkled through sand and gravel, nor can
it detect minute traces of gold still enclosed in quartz reef
Miners were supposed to register the weight and location of
all gold nuggets found over a certain size, although this
requirement was often resented by the diggers who probably
avoided the directive whenever possible.
There were usually several phases of activity for finding
gold nuggets on an alluvial (gold) field. Following the initial
discovery, the area was 'rushed' by diggers from near and
then far. These early arrivals would work with great speed,
sinking hundreds or even thousands of shafts as long as possible
to the place of the first finds. Sometimes only a small proportion
of shafts dug would produce gold nuggets or any other gold.
Those which did indicated the direction of the rich lead,
or perhaps the reef from which the material was shed.
Hundreds of holes were sunk by pick and shovel until gold
yields dropped or lack of water made it impossible to remain
on the field. When either or both of these things happened,
the digger population packed its meager possessions and 'rushed'
to the next discovery.
Following the first rush to the nuggety areas where men worked
with feverish speed, there were those with some skill and
better equipment. They searched for the reefs, the sources
of the alluvial gold. Some built puddlers and with a horse
and water they processed gold wash for themselves and others.
Some puddlers were built after the rush to reprocess the mullock
heaps abandoned on the field.
The Californians in particular were skilled at building dams,
diverting streams and building sluices. They had a better
water supply to process the wash and feed the crushers that
separated the quartz or slate from the gold and broke up the
The Chinese introduced an effective method of processing large
tracts of especially rich ground. They 'surfaced' or stripped
all of the soil and rock above bedrock and carted it to a
puddler to be washed. A 'surfaced' area indicates that once
the ground was particularly rich.
On some Victorian gold fields where the ground was literally
a bed of large nuggets, the first diggers simply dug up a
shovel full of ground and bounced it up and down. If they
did not hear the clang of gold they tossed the dirt aside.
Sometimes the weight of the shovel full indicated the presence
of a nugget. This method, adopted at Kingower on what were
called 'potato diggings' obviously missed small pieces of
The gold fields of Western and central Australia and northern
inland Queensland are some of the driest and remotest areas
in Australia. Early miners suffered incredible hardships and
many died in their efforts to survive the droughts and isolation.
Special techniques had to be adopted so that the rock and
clay could be separated from the gold without the use of water.
'Dry blowers' developed in Mexico were used extensively in
Western Australia. These consisted of a 'hand shaker', which
jiggled the pay dirt down through a series of sieves.
The largest nuggets found were usually within one meter (3')
from the surface. The Welcome Stranger, the largest gold nugget
ever found, was lying only inches from the surface at Moliagul,
Australia. Legend has it that the top was exposed by the wheel
track made by a cart. Some of the first discoveries made in
each area were large nuggets lying on the top of the ground.
Deep leads are ancient river gravels or silt beds that thousands
of years ago received particles and nuggets of gold, washed
down from nearby reefs. The riverbed was eventually silted
over or covered by volcanic material. When relocated under
basalt or soil, these olds beds can be dug up and their gold
Sometimes the gold has been cemented into stiff clay; sometimes
it is encased in conglomerate, or loose gravel and sand. When
cemented into a conglomerate (a rock of assorted river pebbles,
sand and rock) the material has to be crushed or smashed up
to extract the gold.
Because of the amount of overburden to be dug through, and
the often-small quantities of gold contained in the deep lead
(or wash) it took great skill to remove every particle of
gold by sight alone. Without a regular water supply however,
miners sometimes had no option but to simply 'look' for the
gold. Small nuggets were often missed, or alluvium was tossed
onto the mullock heap and covered by worthless material before
it was noticed. When you recover your own nuggets you will
be amazed at how similar in color they are to the surrounding
Wedderburn township is 225-km northwest of Melbourne. Gold
was first discovered by Europeans there in August 1852, at
the site of the old policy camp in Golden gully. The gold
field now covers an area of 17 km by 66.5 km, with coarse
gold being recovered from most gullies, hills and flats within
the field. Between September and December 1852, 6000 to 7000
diggers rushed to the locality. With very little rain falling,
by June 1853 only 100 or so men remained to work without water.
The rains allowed 800 diggers to return in 1855.
In 1856 Capt. Smith discovered gold at what he called Smiths
Gully. In 1859 and 1861 other small rushes occurred, but in
August 1869 Alexander Clelland sank a shallow shaft outside
John Paddock and found a 40 oz nugget at the bottom. The Government
rewarded him 100 pounds for the discovery of what he called
"Bervie" Gold field. This name was spelled incorrectly and
became Berlin in the official register. By September 1868,
500 miners were at work, in October a 24-lb nugget was found
at Fortunate Gully, and thousands rushed to the area.
In 1876 the Berlin Rush was renamed Rheola after a town in
Wales. The Rheola area became famous for its beds of large
nuggets scattered through the gullies. These nuggets carried
in appearance from one patch to the next, some were bright
and angular, with little evidence of abrasion, others were
plate like, or smoothly eroded with iron staining.
The townships of Berlin Rush,Tylers and Johnstown quickly
grew up to serve the diggers drinking and other needs. In
1870 it was estimated that a further 40 grog shanties were
scattered through the various diggings.
On February 5, 1869 Richard Oates and John Deeson found the
Welcome Stranger nugget, the largest ever recovered gold nugget
in the world. It was resting upon red clay, rubbly rock and
quartz, just below the surface, 55m on the down hill side
of the black Reef. It was rumored at the time that the nugget
was exposed in a rut made by a digger's cart. The nugget's
gross weight was 2520 ozs, its net weight 2284 oz 16 dwt 22
gr. A monument now marks the place of the discovery. Much
of the area surrounding the nugget produced gold and the Black
Reef immediately above the Welcome Stranger was exceptionally
rich. Crushing produced as much as 14 oz per tone of rock.
In 1867 Nicholas McEvoy and a boy went searching for his horses
in the gully named No. 1, containing the Matrix reef, and
situated above the town. They stumbled upon nuggets weighing
810 ozs, 805 ozs and 782 ozs. Fourteen days later they consigned
gold parcels under escort from this place weighing 3324 ozs.
Possum Hill was rushed in 1875. Twenty-nine liquor stores
were amongst the street of shops built, three were Chinese.
In 1876 rains had failed and dysentery amongst diggers was
common. Water for puddling always hampered the fields development,
as the coarse gold was cemented into a hard matrix. In that
year 4000 miners were at work. Chinese formed nearly half
of the population at Possum Hill; antagonism towards their
greater digging success led to riots against them in May 1876.
In October 1877 the Possum Hill gold was diminishing and miners
The Burnt Creek valley was one of the richest nugget producing
areas in Northwest Victoria. As many as 100,000 diggers and
their followers rushed to the area to become rich in a day,
or to face the drought conditions and lawlessness that made
robbery and violence common place. In 1853 the lack of water
forced diggers off the Burnt Creek diggings. In 1855, with
rains bringing water supplies, diggers were able to puddle
their stockpiled wash dirt and round it rich with coarse gold.
On Melbourne Cup Day, November 1906, J. Porter sunk a 19'
(6m) shaft onto a 7 oz nugget. Immediately after an 88 oz
nugget was found near the surface and a new rush was on. Porter
named it Poseidon. After the winning horse that day. A canvas
town appeared. On December 12 the Poseidon weighing 953 oz
was found. This nugget was 10" (25 cm) from the surface and
2' (60 cm) from the bedrock. In this same patch, within a
strip of ground 84' (25 m) long, and to a depth of 12" (30
cm) nuggets weighing a total of 3000 oz were found. Almost
every nugget contained quartz and was angular, indicating
that the reef shedding them was close by.
Mr. E. H. Hargraves announced on the 3rd of April in 1851
that he had found payable gold at Lewis Ponds (ophir) and
Summer Hill Creek, and the Macquarie River in the districts
of Bathurst and Wellington. By the 25th of May there were
over a thousand diggers on a square mile area at Summer Hill
Creek. The largest nugget found at that time was 4 lbs in
In the 1850s Louise Creek produced several nuggets weighing
in the vicinity of 6 lbs each, while in 1860 at Kiandra on
the Snowy River, nuggets weighing up to 33 lbs or 400 ounces
were found. A party of four found a mass of gold and quartz
weighing 107 lbs, which yielded 1,127 oz of gold at Burrandong
near Orange. This specimen was at a depth of thirty-three
feet. An Aboriginal shepherd found another huge specimen on
the surface at Meroo Creek on the Turon River. The blocks
of quartz yielded 60 lbs and 106 oz troy of gold. Later more
large, rich specimens were found nearby, as well as two nuggets
weighing 157 ounces and 71 ounces.
The western gold fields on the Turon River attracted the first
rushes in New South Wales, and perhaps the little town of
Sofala produced the biggest and most plentiful nuggets. Sofala
was rushed three weeks after the Ophir strike. In one of the
first washes three hundred ounces were taken. A man named
Crosswell sheltered in a cave during a severe storm at the
junction of Big Oakey Creek and the Turon, found a 120 ounce
nugget just at the cave entrance. Chinese diggers found a
nugget at Spring Creek that took three men to lift. It was
shipped back to China.
Two hundred and fifty pounds of coarse gold and nuggets were
discovered by two men, named Knight and Gale, under an old
German miner's hut. The nuggets came from just above the bedrock
3.3 m (10 feet) below. Nearby, Hill End also produced numerous
fine nuggets, some of exceptional size.
In 1860 an 11 lb 8 oz nugget was found at the Tooloom diggings.
Nuggets of 7 to 8 pounds were found at Parkes-Dubbo goldfield.
Many pounds of coarse gold and nuggets weighing up to 6 lbs
were found in the gullies at Gulgong and at Stuart Town.
At Gulgong a rich alluvium of quartz pebbles was overlaid
with clay and in some places with basalt also. Within five
years of its discovery in 1871 13 tons of gold had been sent
away from the field. The greatest depth of sinking was about
200 feet. The Happy Valley lead was especially rich, with
one pay full of wash producing 35 ounces of gold.
Pretty Gully, some 24 km (15 miles) from Drake, has alluvial
gold derived from conglomerates concentrated in its gutters.
Nuggets up to 5 oz have been recovered from Tallawang, to
the north of Gulgong. The gold was in sparse patches of conglomerates
associated with coals.
On the New Diggings two boys in July 1861 found a 5 lb 4 oz
nugget. Many other nuggets were found in the vicinity.
Teetulpa Gold field
Teetulpa is situated 24 km east of Waukaringa. Gold was first
discovered in the area by Brandy and Smith in October 1886.
These men were successful in claiming the 1000 pound reward
offered by the South Australian Government for the discovery
of a major gold field there. A rush from Adelaide soon occurred
and eventually 5000 miners were working the field. The first
nugget of any size was found by McDougall and Opperman and
it weighed 8 ounces 14 dwt. The largest nugget reported from
the field weighed 29 ounces 15 dwt.
Queensland gold fields did not produce the quantity or size
of nuggets that made fields in Victoria, Western Australia
and New South Wales world famous. However, there are records
of at least fifteen Queensland nuggets weighing over 100 ounces
and quite a considerable number of smaller specimens.
Nuggets were found at Gympie in 1867-68, and the largest ever
discovered in the state was taken from Gympie Creek in February
1868. Its gross weight was 975 ounces and it contained 906
ounces of gold. The second largest nugget came from Sailor's
Gully at Deep Creek. It weighed 804 ounces.
A flat oblong nugget weighing 258 ounces was also found in
1868 at Mount Wheeler near Rockhampton. Many smaller nuggets
were also taken from this place at the time. A 336 ounce nugget
was found at Top Camp at Cloncurry, as well as a 17 ounce
and 10 ounce specimen. From that same field on the Two Mile,
they discovered an 88 ounce nugget.
In the 1880s a number of nuggets ranging from between 7 ounces
and 80 ounces were taken from Nuggety and Moonlight Gullies
at Mount Britton. Some sixty nuggets ranging in size up to
180 ounces were taken from the alluvial deposits of Green
Hills west of Forsayth.
On the 15th of May 1851, the Sydney Morning Herald carried
the sensational news that a rich gold-bearing area had been
found near Bathurst. Since 1849 Australians had been tantalized
by the news of unthinkable quantities of gold being daily
found in California and many had sailed away to join Americans.
Of the 40 nuggets weighing over 18 kilograms recorded in Australia,
32 of those nuggets were discovered in Central Victoria.
The "Welcome Stranger" the largest nugget ever recorded in
the world, was found just a few centimeters below the surface.
It had a gross weight of 2520 ounces or 78.4 kilograms.
Nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees Ranges the Avoca gold
field was discovered in 1853. A year later the population
had swelled to 14,000. The names given to some of the leads,
such as the Strip Me Naked Lead and the Linger and Die Lead
will arouse the curiosity of visitors.
Years of experience have shown that there are certain formations
which can safely be excluded from the search for finding gold
nuggets. Such areas include the Great Artesian Basins of the
interior of Australia and other sedimentary basins of varying
depth in which coal, oil shale, and opal constitute the more
likely items of mineral wealth. It is also possible to eliminate
areas covered by unbroken sheets of volcanic rocks of Tertiary