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A lump of native gold in the form of a water-worn mass washed from the rock-bed and deposited in a river or stream, usually weighing from 20 grams to 50 kilograms. Small nuggets are sometimes mounted as decoration on some articles of jewelry, especially a brooch, occasionally with added decoration in the form of a shovel and a pick.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson
A gold nugget is a naturally occurring piece of native gold. Watercourses often concentrate the nuggets and they are recovered by placer mining, but they may also be found in residual deposits where the gold-bearing veins or lodes have decayed. Nuggets are also found in the tailing piles of previous mining operations, especially those left by gold mining dredges. They are never pure 24K in composition but rather about 20 to 22K (~about 83% to 92%). Nuggets are also referred to by their "fineness", for example "865 fine" means the nugget is 865 parts per thousand in gold. The common impurities are silver and copper.
Gold nuggets are rare, and even a small nugget will fetch 1.5-2 times the spot price of gold. Very large nuggets are extremely rare, and sell for very high prices.
The largest gold nugget ever found was the Welcome Stranger, found in Victoria, Australia in 1867. It weighed over 2,100 troy ounces (65.2 kg). The largest gold nugget in existence is the Hand of Faith, found by Kevin Hillier in Victoria in 1980 using a metal detector.