Gold nuggets are not like crystals, which form when molten minerals cool or when they precipitate from fluids moving through cracks and fissures in the Earth's crust. Instead, gold nuggets, whose impure composition typically contains 10 to 20 percent silver or copper, are shaped by what are known as hypogene processes, meaning they form deep beneath the Earth's surface at high pressure. Thus, what we see when we admire a gold nugget is a weathered shape, its fractured surface usually smooth and rounded, with pits and even holes showing where softer materials that were once nestled against the precious metal have eroded away.

While most gold nuggets in circulation today are no bigger than your thumb and no wider than a quarter, some notable gold nuggets are on the scale of fair-sized boulders, weighing as much as 150 pounds. Australia seems to be especially fertile ground for some of the world's largest gold nuggets, the biggest of which is known as The Welcome Stranger, which was discovered in 1869 in the southeastern state of Victoria. Measuring almost two feet across at its widest point and weighing more than 158 pounds, the prize was found only an inch or so below the surface, the roots of a tree holding it in place. A nugget named The Welcome, which weighed almost as much and tested out as 99 percent pure, had been found in the same state just 11 years earlier, only it was secreted 180 feet under ground.

Though most gold used in jewelry is melted and then formed into rings, bracelets, pendants, and earrings, sometimes small gold nuggets are left in their natural state, their irregular forms producing unique shapes that even an experienced jeweler would be hard-pressed to imitate. Often these pieces were made and marketed during some of the many gold rushes around the world. In the United States, strikes in California in 1849 and in Alaska in 1898 prompted jewelers to create souvenir pieces, often pairing a gold-miner's pick or shovel with a small nugget. Most expensive were gold nuggets encased in polished quartz, since hard-rock mining was the most expensive way of mining gold. By the time the Alaska gold rush had passed its peak, native Eskimos were routinely carving walrus ivory into good-luck figurines, which were often adorned with a small gold nugget.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Legendary Coins and Currency

Legendary Coins and Currency

This online exhibition from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is a great way to get an overview… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Australian Natural Gold Nugget Victorian 95.66 Grams31.17 Grams (1 T Oz+) Gold Nuggets Alaskan 1.002 Toz Natural Placer #14-20 90%1 One Troy Ounce+ Gold Nuggets Alaskan 31.21 Grams 1.005 Oz T Natural Placer #1020.088 Grams Gold Nuggets Alaskan .6458 Oz T Natural Placer Gold King Creek #148.146 Grams (1/4 T Oz.+) Gold Nuggets Alaskan .2619 Oz T Natural Placer #8 Mesh(7) Seven Gold Nuggets 4.339 Grams .1395 Oz T Ak Natural Alaska Placer Ophir(1) One Alaskan Placer Gold Nugget Alaska 4.463 Grams .1435 T Oz. Ophir DistrictSimilkameen River Gold, Four (4) Nugget/s, 18.2 Grns = 1.179 Gram, N-3663(2) Two Gold Nuggets Natural Alaskan Placer Ak 4.236 Grams .1365 Ozt Ganes Creek~rare Chunky Alaska Gold Nugget ~ Solid 2.93 Gram Placer Gold Piece ~ NuggetsSimilkameen River Gold, One (1) Gram Size #1 ( 30+) Sm Nuggets/flakes , N-40002 Grams Of 18 Screen, Natural Alaska Placer Gold Nuggets Beautiful Bright 22k10.655 Grams (1/3 Troy Ounce+) Gold Nuggets Alaskan .341 Ozt Natural Placer #1010.2 Grams (1/3 Troy Ounce) Gold Nuggets Alaskan .3279 Ozt Natural Placer #8Natural Gold Nuggets 4,476 Grams. Lot F 241/4 Ozt Shiny Gold Nugget Assortment ! 7.8 Gram Natural Alaska Placer Nuggets2.5093 Gram Alaska Natural Gold Nuggets - (#0324)Approx. 4.02 Grams Natural California Gold Nugget15.721 Grams (1/2 T Oz+) Gold Nuggets Alaskan .5055 Oz T Natural Placer #14-2018k To 24k Natural Yellow Gold Nugget 35.3 Grams 1.13 Ozt (105850)8.022 Grams (1/4 T Oz.+) Gold Nuggets Alaskan .2579 Oz T Natural Placer #14 MeshNatural Gold Nuggets5,289 Grams. Lot F 23Natural Alaska Gold Nuggets 6.35 Grams (4 Large Nuggets)(1) One Alaskan Placer Gold Nugget Alaska 1.527 Grams .0491 T Oz. Ophir District(3) Three Gold Nuggets Natural Alaska Placer 2.163 Grams Ak .0695 Oz T(8) Eight Ak Gold Nuggets Natural Alaska Placer 4.759 Grams .153 Oz T Ophir DisSmooth Chunky 1.48 Gram Alaska Gold Nugget ~ Natural Shiny Placer Piece~ NuggetsAlaska Gold Nuggets 1.277 Gram 20 -22 Karat A Super Nugget (6) Six Gold Nuggets Natural Placer Alaska 5.213 Grams Ak .1676 Oz T Ophir Dis.Similkameen River Gold, One (1) Gram Size #2 ( 30+) Sm Nuggets/flakes , N-3850Natural Gold Nugget Earrings Retired Jeweler Selling 1.70 Grams Australia~3 Smooth Alaska Gold Nuggets ~ Natural Solid 3.51 Gram Placer Nugget SelectionNatural Gold Nuggets 3,371 Grams. Lot F 22Pay-dirt From Porcupine Creek Alaska As Seen On Tv's Gold Rush Alaska 2.0076 Gram Alaska Natural Gold Nugget - (#0352)Gold Nuggets - 1 Gram 24k .9999 20.092 Grams Gold Nuggets Alaskan .6465 Oz T Natural Placer Ganes Creek #85.022 Grams Gold Nuggets Alaskan .1615 Oz T Natural Placer Ak #8 Ophir Dist.Chunky 1/8 Ozt Gold Nugget Assortment ! 3.9 Gram Natural Alaska Placer Nuggets(9) Nine Gold Nuggets Natural Alaska Placer Specimen 3.611 Grams .1161 Oz T5 Big Coarse Alaska Gold Nuggets ~natural Solid 2.32 Gram Placer Nugget Variety21k Natural Yellow Gold Nugget 4.5 Grams 0.14 Oz (107233)3 Grams Gold Nuggets Placer Gold Pickers Natural #351(1) One Alaskan Placer Gold Nugget Alaska 1.97 Grams .0633 T Oz. Ophir DistrictNatural Gold Nugget Awesome Retired Jeweler Selling 2.33 Grams AustralianCrystalline Gold In Quartz Specimen -gold Bullion,gold Nugget Samples!!!!Natural Earrings ? 2 Chunky Alaska Gold Nuggets ~ 0.55 Gram Placer Nugget Set~ 28.94g Calaverite In Quartz, Cripple Creek District, Teller Co., Colorado ~~8 Coarse Alaska Gold Nuggets ~ Natural Solid 3.98 Gram Placer Nugget Selection24k Gold Pure 999 5.16 Grams Real Pure Gold No Reserve Jewelry Making InvestmentTwo Gram Shiny Gold Nugget Variety ~ 30+ Natural Alaska Placer Nuggets Flakes~Vial Of Yukon Nuggets 4.0 Gram +20 (108)Pendant ? Rare Big Alaska Gold Nugget ~ Solid 0.98 Gram Placer Piece ~ NuggetsAlaska Gold Nuggets .777 Gram 20 -22 Karat (1) One Alaskan Placer Gold Nugget Alaska .78 Grams .0251 T Oz. Ophir DistrictCivil War Era Gold & Silver Mine Smelter Slag Gem Ore Treasure Nugget Nevada 5 To 6 Ounces Alaska Gold Concentrates Super Rich Golden Christmas Cons #2Gold Paydirt : Bidding War #15.018 Grams Gold Nuggets Alaskan .1613 Oz T Natural Placer Ak #14 90% Assay(1) One Alaskan Placer Gold Nugget Alaska 1.893 Grams .0609 T Oz. Ophir District