One of the biggest gold nuggets ever found has been put up for sale in Dallas, Texas for $1million, 23 years after it was first discovered.
The Alaska Centennial Gold Nugget, which weighs in at a staggering 21lbs, is over 90% gold and is the size of a child’s head, was unearthed by gold miner Barry Clay in Alaska, US, in 1998.
He made the incredible find 100 years after the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush – hence the name ‘Alaska Centennial’ – while pushing dirt with his bulldozer along the shores of the Swift Creek Mine.
It is said that Clay, realising he had hit the jackpot, buried the nugget under an Alaskan tree to buy time while he decided what to do with it.
Clay eventually decided to show the nugget to experts, who ultimately recorded it as the second largest gold nugget ever found in the Western Hemisphere, and the largest ever in Alaska.
It is only just smaller than the ‘Boot of Cortez’ nugget found in Mexico in 1989, which weighed 24lbs.
The vendor, who acquired the nugget from Clay over 20 years ago, is now selling it with Heritage Auctions in Dallas alongside a host of other precious pieces.
The Alaska Centennial Nugget, which measures 6.75ins by 5.75ins and weighs 21lbs, was discovered by gold miner Barry Clay on Swift Creek in Alaska in 1998. It has been recorded as the largest gold nugget to be found in Alaska, and only smaller than the ‘Boot of Cortez’ nugget found in Mexico.
Craig Kissick (L), director of nature and science at Heritage Auctions, and Joe Maddalena (R), Executive Vice President, showcase the gold nugget (pictured in Maddalena’s hands) as part of the auction of gold, gems and precious items up for sale December 8
The nugget was discovered by prospector Barry Clay in 1998 in Swift Creek, Alaska (left).He made the incredible find 100 years after the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush – hence the name ‘Alaska Centennial’ – while pushing dirt with his bulldozer along the shores of the Swift Creek Mine. The interest in mining in the region was sparked in 1896, when Skookum Jim Mason found gold near the Klondike river in the Yukon in Northwestern Canada (right)
The Alaska Centennial Gold Nugget (centre) is the main lot in a gold, gems and fine minerals sale in December in Dallas Texas, via Hermitage Auctions. Several of the pieces are expected to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars on December 8.
How Klondike Gold Rush was one of the most frantic in history
In August 1986, Skookum Jim Mason his family found gold near the Klondike River in the Yukon Territory in Northwestern Canada.
The discovery sparked one of the most frantic gold rushes in history, as around 100,000 miners descended on the region in search for riches.
Boom towns sprang up to accommodate the influx of miners, and Dawson City grew from a population of 500 in 1896 to approximately 30,000 in the space of two years.
Very little gold was discovered however, and the area was quickly dropped in favour of new gold mining fields in Alaska.
Source: National Parks Service (nps.gov)
Gold nuggets are weathered from their original host rock, transported by streams or rivers and deposited with sediment.
Fewer than 50 of them weighing over 15lbs are known to exist as the majority of mined gold is refined, making the Alaska Centennial Nugget one of the largest ever examples of a very rare stock.
A Heritage spokesperson said: ‘The Alaska Centennial Gold Nugget is the largest gold nugget ever found in the State of Alaska.
‘It was discovered in 1998 along Swift Creek near the town of Ruby, Alaska by Barry Clay, who unearthed this seminal discovery and instantly made history.
‘The Alaska Centennial Nugget was sold to a private collector, where it has remained in his collection until now. This offering represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’
But the famous gold nugget is just one part of an extensive line-up of precious crystals, artefacts and even ‘gold geysers’ at the Heritage auction in Dallas.
The sale also features two native gold crystals discovered in the Venezuelan jungle in the 1980s which are tipped to fetch $300,000 and $600,000 respectively.
Meanwhile, an intricate ‘frozen geyser of gold’ found at the Eagle’s Nest mine in California, US, has been valued at almost $200,000, alongside a crystallised gold leaf thought to be from Mexico is valued at $150,000.
An intricate ‘frozen geyser of gold’ found at the Eagle’s Nest mine in California, US, has been valued at almost $200,000 (Hermitage Auctions picture)
The sale also features two native gold crystals discovered in the Venezuelan jungle in the 1980s which are tipped to fetch $300,000 (L) and $600,000 (R) respectively
This crystallised gold leaf, thought to be from Mexico, is valued at $150,000 and will be sold on December 8 in Dallas Texas with Hermitage Auctions
The Heritage Auction house, founded in 1976 in Dallas by two rare coin collectors, is one of America’s largest auction houses and sells all kinds of artefacts and items ranging from precious metals and artefacts to rare comic books and sports memorabilia.
Craig Kissick, director of nature and science at Heritage, said: ‘The majority of gold mined is refined.
‘A one-ounce gold nugget is even more rare than a five-carat diamond, and a rare group of gold specimens such as this has never been featured at auction.
‘I mean, it’s big, it’s beautiful. It’s going to check every possible box but the sheer fact that it is the seminal luggage ever found in the state of Alaska. What else can you say?
‘A grouping of this breadth and calibre is not likely to be seen again.’
In the summer of 1896, over 100,000 people descended upon north-western Canada after Skookum Jim Mason and his family found gold near the Klondike River.
The sale takes place on December 8.
HOW IS GOLD FORMED AND FOUND?
Gold is extraterrestrial, created inside massive stars when they explode into a supernova. It is present on Earth because of stellar explosions in space.
It’s though gold travelled to Earth via asteroids when our planet was still fairly young, according to a 2011 study.
Today, gold may occur as deposits called lodes, or veins, in fractured rock. It may also be dispersed within Earth’s crust.
Most lode deposits form when heated fluids circulate through gold-bearing rocks, picking up gold and concentrating it in new locations in the crust.
Chemical differences in the fluids and the rocks, as well as physical differences in the rocks, create many different types of lode deposits.
Over millions of years, gold flakes and nuggets worn away from veins are swept into bodies of water.
Since gold is relatively heavy, it then sinks to the bottom of streams, lakes and riverbeds, and on the sea floor, forming placer deposits.
Gold may occur as deposits called lodes, or veins, in fractured rock. Pictured is a gold quartz lodes formation in Phnom Kulen National Park at Cambodia
According to estimates, all of the gold ever mined in the history of humanity amounts to about 152,000 metric – only about enough to fill up 60 trailers.
Scientists believe that there is still eight times more gold in and under the oceans than has ever been mined close to the planet’s surface.
Like the gold that is probably floating in the Earth’s molten core, most of this supply of the precious metal is inaccessible or simply too expensive to mine.
Panning is one of the principal techniques of the individual prospector for recovering gold.
The typical pan is a light, circular metal dish with a flat bottom and sides and a smooth inner surface.
When panning for gold from streams, the pan is first filled halfway or so with gravel, soil, and rocks from places where the current is slower.
The pan, still under water, is then given a shaking and circular motion, allowing heavy particles to settle, bringing lighter material to the surface.
At intervals the pan is tilted, and the light surface material is washed off.
This process is continued until only heavy ‘black sands’ (such as ilmenite, magnetite, and pyrite) and gold remain.
The material is dried and the gold removed (perhaps after using a magnet to remove some of the black sand).
Source: SBC Gold/David Lunney/American Museum of Natural History/Encyclopaedia Britannica