The world’s biggest gold nugget ever found is the Welcome Stranger nugget. It was found by John Deason and Richard Oates at Black Lead, Bulldog Gully, near the town of Dunolly in Victoria, Australia. It was found on February 5, 1869.
Both men were working miners, and had been gold mining in this area for several years. They had various levels of success, some weeks they only produced a small amount of gold, although they had previously discovered several large nuggets in the general area the Welcome Stranger was eventually found. The story goes that Deason was working near the root of a tree with his mining pick and struck something hard. Upon bending down to examine the obstacle he thought was in his way, he unearthed the massive nugget from its resting place.
The two men took the nugget to the nearby town of Dunolly, where they further transported it to the London Chartered Bank. Word had spread across the local area, and crowds of people had gathered at the bank to catch a glimpse of the huge nugget. As was so commonly done in those days, the Welcome Stranger was quickly broken apart so it could be more easily transported and smelted. A sledge hammer and cold chisel made quick work of the nugget, and it was soon broken down into three chunks that were more manageable to handle.
There are various different reports of the actual weight of the Welcome Stranger nugget. The most common size claims that the total weight was 2,284 troy ounces, while a publication from the Department of Mines in Victoria titled “Gold Nuggets of Victoria” states that the actual weight was 2,280 troy ounces. It was also reported that while the nugget was being broken apart, several pieces of the nugget were handed out to friends and onlookers. This may be part of the reason for the variations in the recorded weight.
Regardless, it is without a doubt the largest solid gold nugget ever known to be discovered in history.
Sadly, not only was this huge gold nugget broken apart and smelted, but no casts were made of the actual nugget itself. Casts made of the largest gold nugget ever found are based purely on memory and hand drawn sketches of the original nugget.