Are Gold Nuggets Rare?

The Rarity of Natural Gold Nuggets

It is generally believed that gold nuggets formed near to the earths surface. If that is true then it is easy to assume that almost all gold nuggets of a noticeable size at or near the surface would have already been found, especially when you consider that all known gold fields have been scoured clean by modern day gold detectors. Many gold nuggets are found in rivers and streams, but with the extensive panning, sluicing and dredging done during past gold rushes, the recent use of modern day dredges, and the current environmental restrictions on dredging in many rivers or streams, we must assume that most of the gold nuggets in rivers and streams have already been found or will never be found. Therefore gold nuggets of a noticeable size that have not yet been found are very rare indeed.

Most of the gold nuggets ever found prior to 1990 have been melted down. In ancient times almost all gold nuggets found would have been melted down and made into jewelry or artifacts. During historical gold rushes, the only value that raw gold nuggets had was for their gold content, so they were assayed and melted to determine their gold content and the miners received cash in exchange for their raw gold nuggets. Many of the gold nuggets that survived the early mining days and were held by governments, private collectors and museums were melted for cash during the Great Depression and the huge gold price spike of 1979-1980. Only since approximately 1990 has an appreciation for geological rarity and the uniqueness of natural gold specimens caused collectors to value gold nuggets as collectibles and valuable investments.

It has been said that a one ounce gold nugget is more rare to find that a five carat diamond. World annual diamond production exceeds 160 million carats, or 32 tons, and rises each year. Global annual gold nugget production is estimated at no more than 8.5 tons. Diamonds, unlike gold nuggets, are not found only in near surface deposits. While technological advancements in metal detectors has resulted in many gold nugget patches becoming exhausted, diamond reserves are limited only by the ability to mine still deeper. Therefore, present and future production demonstrates the relative scarcity of gold nuggets as compared with diamonds. Also, while all the diamonds ever found have been carefully collected and stored away, almost all gold nuggets found before 1990 have been melted down. These facts verify that in comparison to diamonds, gold nuggets are much more rare and, on a volume basis, the rarity of gold nuggets exceeds diamonds by more than 10 times.

The larger the gold nugget is, the more rare it is. The following figures are estimates of the number of gold nuggets that exist above 16 grams (approx. 1/2 ounce).

  • Above 1000 ounces – 1 or 2
  • Above 500 ounces – Fewer than 12
  • Above 250 ounces – Fewer than 50
  • Above 100 ounces – Fewer than 150
  • Above 50 ounces – Fewer than 300
  • Above 25 ounces – Fewer than 700
  • Above 10 ounces – Fewer than 3,000
  • Above 5 ounces – Fewer than 10,000
  • Above 2 ounces – Fewer than 50,000
  • Above 1 ounce – Fewer than 200,000
  • Above 16 grams – Fewer than 750,000
  • In conclusion, the rarity of gold nuggets has been clearly established, making investing in gold nuggets potentially much more profitable than investing in other forms of gold. You can see a great selection of jewelry and investment grade gold nuggets for sale at our website, as well as much more useful information on natural gold nuggets.

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