Learn What Makes a Nugget Unique and How They Are Mined - APMEX (2024)

Nuggets are lumps of Precious Metals found in the Earth’s crust. The most common nuggets today are made of Gold and Silver. Named for their nugget-like shape, they are a more concentrated form of these Precious Metals, making them even more valuable. Nuggets come in many shapes and sizes. They can be small, like a grain of sand; medium-sized, like a penny; or large, like an apple. Regardless of their size or shape, all are valuable treasures to behold.

The value of the nugget depends on the Precious Metal it is made of. Gold nuggets are worth more than Silver because Gold is rarer. As the name suggests, Gold nuggets are made entirely of Gold, while Silver is wholly made of Silver.


For many years, scientists and miners wondered how the nuggets formed, but research suggests they formed at high temperatures after years of speculation. Since these temperatures do not occur at the surface, the nuggets originated deep underground. Their presence near the surface results from the geological processes and weathering over vast periods of time.

The geological process of nuggets begins with the formation of a Precious Metal deposit. This can happen in two ways: through the cooling and solidification of a molten magma body or as a result of geological processes that occur when rocks are weathered and eroded.

Once the metal has been deposited, it is subjected to various geological processes. The most common process is weathering, which is the breakdown of rocks by physical and chemical means. Erosion is also a geological process that can move metals from their original location to another part of the Earth’s crust. Over time, as more and more rocks are weathered and eroded, the Precious Metal deposits are moved closer to the surface, in some cases bringing them to the Earth’s crust.

Once at or near the surface, geological forces will move and shift the deposits around. These geological forces can be caused by Ice Ages, plate tectonics, Earthquakes, Volcanoes and many other geological processes. The movement of the nuggets can cause them to break apart and form smaller pieces or even dust-sized particles.


Mining is a complex process because the Precious Metal deposits are often hidden beneath rocks, soil and other materials. To find a nugget, miners must first remove these obstructions. This can be done through various methods, including blasting with explosives, digging with shovels and bulldozers, or using sophisticated equipment like ground-penetrating radar.

Once the deposit has been located, miners must remove the surrounding material to get to the nugget. This is often done by hand, using picks and shovels. In some cases, miners will use heavy equipment to remove the material.

After the nugget has been located and removed from the ground, it is cleaned and weighed. The nugget is then sold to a Precious Metal refinery, which is melted down and turned into coins, bars or other objects. The remaining material from the nugget is then sold off for industrial purposes.

History of Precious Metal Nuggets

The history of nuggets starts with ancient civilizations, who mined the Earth searching for these precious deposits. Gold has been found worldwide and is thought to date back to around 6000 BC. On the other hand, silver nuggets are not quite as old, with the first recorded discovery dating back to around 1300 BC.

The history of Precious Metal nuggets is a long and storied one, with miners searching for them for almost 2,000 years. The history of mining for nuggets does not solely include Precious Metals; in addition to Gold and Silver, many other Precious Metal elements like Platinum and Palladium are also found in nuggets.

This speaks to the longevity it requires to create the nugget, one of the many reasons the California Gold Rush in the 1800s was such a big deal, drawing people from all parts of the country. The value of Gold nuggets and Silver nuggets is high because of the time it takes to form and how rare they are compared to industrial Gold and Silver.

Nuggets that have been exposed to weathering will usually be rounded off, while those that have been protected will retain their sharp edges and original shape. The bigger the nugget, the more history it has since reaching its final form requires millions of years.

History Highlights

  • In 2012, a Gold nugget called the “Kimberley Octavius” was found in Western Australia by a man raking a beach with his daughter. It weighs 95 kilograms or about 209 pounds. This nugget is now part of the Western Australian Museum collection.
  • Also, in 2012, a Silver nugget called the “Butterfly nugget” was found in Australia by a man metal detecting. It weighs in at 6.35 kilograms or 14 pounds.
  • The largest nugget of Gold ever found is called the “Welcome Stranger.” It weighs in at a whopping 2,260 troy ounces, about 71 kilograms or 157 pounds.

Other Precious Metals Nuggets

Other nuggets of Precious Metals found on the Earth consist of Platinum and Palladium. Platinum nuggets are rarer than Gold nuggets and hold tremendous value. The largest source of Platinum in South Africa, but Platinum nuggets have also been mined in Russia, California, British Columbia and even Montana.

The history of Palladium nuggets is a bit shorter than that of Platinum, as the metal was only discovered in 1803. Palladium is found in platinum ore and is often extracted in platinum mining. The largest source of Palladium is Russia, though it has also been found in South Africa, Canada, the United States and other countries.

Expand your collection today and shop our assortment of Gold nugget coins from the Perth Mint today.

Learn What Makes a Nugget Unique and How They Are Mined - APMEX (2024)
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