In the simplest terms, a gold nugget is a fragment of gold that is weathered or eroded from an original deposit. Watercourses often carry nuggets to placers where they settle down along with finer gold.
For this reason, they are mostly recovered by placer mining—but other prospectors can also find them in residual deposits where metalliferous ore deposits used to be before they were weathered. Some also find them in piles of mining and extracting leftovers.
Considering all of these, the formation of this naturally occurring piece of native gold is still a question to many prospectors and even genuinely interested individuals. This is because many nuggets are formed from extremely hot water in cracks in igneous and metamorphic rocks; they get weathered and carried in streams. However, there are also gold nuggets found in areas where no other signs of hard rock gold can be found.
If you’re curious about this as well, you’ll find this article entertaining, as we will be going through some of the most popular theories of gold nugget formation in the sections below.
Gold Nuggets are Gold Particles Squeezed Together
Gold is malleable, bendable, and sticky. This first theory revolves around these characteristics and muses that as gold particles get transported, there are chances of them sticking together and being fused as they travel down a slope.
In essence, they snowball together and collect more gold particles, as it continues to go down and farther away from the gold source. Interestingly, this is very different from platinum, which tends to get smaller as it descends.
There’s a Placer in a Placer
Another theory about the formation of gold nuggets say that the placers where gold nuggets are found today have come from older placers—otherwise known as paleoplacers—which could be millions of years old.
Gold Gives Rise to Gold
This theory explores the possibility of gold nuggets arising from groundwater that is rich in dissolved gold particles. These particles accumulate and precipitate in soils and gravels, which, in turn, leads to the formation of nuggets.
Aside from this routinary condensation of gold particles, theorists also claim that special bacteria are involved in the process.
The Source is Simply Gone
Some also propose that the reason why gold prospectors cannot find the hard-rock gold source anywhere near the area is that it’s just completely worn away!
How to Find Gold Nuggets
While the origin of these nuggets is still being debated on, you will usually be able to find them in places that produce coarse gold, such as residual deposits—where deposits or lodes have been weathered—or tailings piles from previous mining operations.
The practical way to find them is by using a metal detector scanner, which is also used to find other forms of gold. However, you should know that these metal detectors will not be able to pick up minute traces of gold or fine particles sprinkled through sand and gravel, which are common in some areas of Australia.
Gold nuggets are naturally occurring fragments of native gold with the highest possible degree of purity, which make them a really interesting topic for enthusiasts and a thrilling find for gold prospectors. There are many speculations about where these nuggets originated, but one thing is for sure—if you’re off for an expedition to find some of these precious gems, you’re going to need the best equipment!
At the Prospectors’ Patch, we specialise in gold mining prospecting equipment in Perth. We have been providing prospectors and explorers with the most up-to-date and scientifically proven prospecting equipment and technologies for over 20 years. Get in touch with us and let us support your exploration!