natural gold

What Are Gold Nuggets and Where Do They Come From?

Humankind has always been fascinated by gold. Whether because of its value, its aesthetics or its conductive properties, humans have coveted gold for centuries. When presented in fiction, it is usually shown to be in the form of gold nuggets specifically. But where do they come from? What are they? Read on to find answers to all of these questions.

Gold Nuggets

Gold nuggets, one of the purest forms of natural gold, are basically fragments of gold that were weathered away from an original deposit. Water from a stream or from the rain carries these sediments down where they settle. Since they tend to settle in streambeds and the like, placer mining is the primary method to gather these. There are some prospectors, however, who manage to find them in some residual deposits.

Even though scientists already know all of this, there is actually still some mystery about how gold nuggets form. The primary source of this mystery is the fact that while gold nuggets are primarily found in places with signs of hard-rock gold, they can still show up in places without any sign of hard-rock gold at all.

There are a few theories as to how this can be:

Gold particles stick together, resulting in nuggets

One theory states that gold, as it gets transported in rivers or streams, sticks together and fuses. This happens sort of like a snowball. The further away from the stream, the bigger the nugget.

There is gold in groundwater

This theory states that gold could be precipitating from gold-rich groundwater. The gold particles in the groundwater gather together, precipitating in soil and gravel. This then leads to the formation of gold nuggets as more and more gold precipitates.

The source is all used up

Another theory, which is quite simple, states that the hard-rock gold source has completely worn away and thus isn’t discoverable. This would explain the nuggets that are found in areas without any hard-rock gold source.

Where can a person find gold nuggets?

The origin of them may still be up in the air, but you can still find them in lots of different places. Check places that produce coarse gold like residual deposits, or areas where there have been previous mining operations.

The fastest way to find them in these areas is to use a metal detector scanner. These devices will also detect other forms of gold, should you be looking for them. What it won’t detect, however, are fine particles of gold scattered in dirt or sand or gravel.

Of course, if you don’t want to do all the legwork yourself, you could always just visit a local gold shop. Try to find a reputable one, as others will likely try to sell you knock-offs.


Gold nuggets make for an interesting topic of conversation for both beginners in prospecting and enthusiasts as well. Besides being pretty and shiny, they also have mysterious origins that we can only theorise about. Gold fascinates us, and will continue to fascinate us for many centuries to come.

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