The Greek island of Lesbos is notable for it’s Petrifed Wood forest, a protected national monument. The forest is located on the western portion of the island and was formed from the Late Oligocene to Lower–Middle Miocene and consists of silicified remnants of a sub-tropical forest that going back 20–15 million years ago.
Recent discoveries in the rich Petrified Forest have been electrifying. First was the rare discovery of a spectacular 19.5 meter long log , with accompanying roots, branches, and trees, the only found to date in over 25 years of excavations. Weeks later, the excavators uncovered over 150 more petrified wood logs and petrified wood stumps including conifers, fruit producing trees, sequoia trees, pine, palm, cinnamon and oak trees. The finds were all discovered in the same pit.
The excavation team has been working since 2013 excavating along a 20km stretch of highway and have made 15 major finds, but these all pale to this most recent discovery, which was actually the result of a lucky accident. One the excavators notices a leaf in a stretch of the highway about to get asphalted, and halted the road work.
The park has been designated a UNESCO Global GeoPark. There is an excellent museum well worth visiting. If you visit the park, remember that the removal and transfer of fossilized material is prohibited by law. The forest includes six parks. The fossilized trees include mainly huge sequoias and primitive pine trees in an ecosystem closest to the coniferous forests of North America.
Top image is of Petrified Forest on the Island of Lesbos, Greece, by C messier – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8926168
Petrified Wood near Sigri, Island of Lesbos, Greece. Photo By Rutger2 at nl.wikipedia, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3222318
Petrified Wood, Island of Lesbos, Greece. Photo by Signy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11642494
Unstable temperature and relative humidity, different rates of expansion and contraction, salt movement, living plant roots and other factors cause cracking in fossil wood. In order to prevent dirt and contemporary vegetation from accumulating into the cracks, and prevent breakages, solutions of especially prepared consolidants are injected in surface cracks. [Kyriazi, E. and Zouros, N. (2008) ‘Conserving the Lesvos Petrified Forest’, Studies in Conservation 53 (Supplement-1 – Conservation and Access: Contributions to the 2008 IIC Congress), London, p. 141-145] The beautiful rose colours of the silicified fossil wood in this picture are due to the presence of manganese ions. Photo by E.Kyriazi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44800562
In northeastern Arizona lies a region named El Desierto Pintado or The Painted Desert by Spanish explorers. In its midst is a 346 square region that is the Petrified Forest National Park. Part of the late Triassic Chinle Formation (which is formed of mudstone, siltstone, sandstone, and conglomerate deposited into channels and floodplains of a large river system) the park is part of a broader area famous for petrified fallen trees from forests that date to the Late TriassicEpoch, about 225 million years ago. Pushed upwards starting around 60 million years ago the upper layers were eroded away by wind and rain exposing fossils. A humans in the area only began about 8000 years ago, when migrants entered the region eventually growing corn, and building pit houses and pueblos. Changing climate conditions eventually drove the descendants of these settlers out of the area and into the Hopi and Navajo regions.
Early Tourist Guide for the Petrified National Forest
Ever since the early 20th century, scientists have been unearthing and examining the rich fossils deposit in the Painted Forest. Giant reptiles called phytosaurs, large amphibians, and others have been discovered here, but the most famous fossils are those of plants of the Late Triassic Mesozoic period including ferns, lycophytes, cycads, gingkoes and others. At the time these plants and creatures lived, the park was part of the super-continent Pangaea, and located much further south, near the equator in fact, and the climate of the region was humid and sub-tropical, far different from the barren and arid deserts of today.
A view at Petrified Forest National Park, a site managed by the National Park Service in Arizona.
By AndrewKPepper – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83635779
The most famous of plant fossils and the namesake of the park is petrified wood. These fossils were created when downed trees accumulated in river channels flooded by tropical rainstorms became buried by sediment containing volcanic ash from nearby volcanic that erupted periodically. The quick burial of these plants in an ash mineral rich, low oxygen environment proved ideal for fossilization as low oxygen inhibits the decay of organic matter and deters the presence of many hungry critters (from bacteria on up). Over time silica (silicon dioxide) from the ash dissolved into the water began to form quartz crystals (also a form of silicon dioxide) on edge of the logs eventually replacing the organic matter as it slowly decayed. Iron oxide and other substances in the ash created different colors in quartz minerals creating over a very long period of time beautiful, (sometime brilliantly) colorful plant fossils. There are rare specimens of green petrified wood fossils that also stand out, the green coming from chromium. These tree fossils are sometimes monumental in size, feet in diameter and sometimes the length of (broken) tree logs.
By Brian W. Schaller – Own work, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29628344
Green Petrified Wood from Holbrook, Navajo County, Arizona, USA Size: 3.8 x 2.1 x 1.6 cm. The bark on both sides is very well preserved. This is a polished slice from petrified tree limb
By Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10175980
Green Petrified Wood fromSize: 4.0 x 2.0 x 1.5 cm. The bark on both sides is very well preserved. You can see the distinct knots, where smaller limbs were once attached and the corrugated nature of the bark.
ByRob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10176074
This fossilization process typically preserves details of the external shape and structure of the woody material including sometimes the bark, but in a small number of specimens the fossilization process penetrated into and preserved the cellular structure of the plant or animal bone. Paleologists and Paleobotanists can sometimes study these special fossils under a microscope to understand their cellular structure and this has brought a wealth of knowledge about species with no known relatives alive on the surface of the earth today.
At least nine species of extinct tree have been identified among the park’s fossils some growing up to 9 feet in diameter and up to 200 feet high. Perhaps the most famous of all is a conifer tree named Araucarioxylon arizonicum that grew from the Early Permian period through the Late Triassic. It’s closest living relatives are the Monkey Puzzle Tree and the the Norfolk Island Pine tree both of which only live in the southern hemisphere.
Artistic reconstruction of the plant Araucarioxylon arizonicum according to the descriptions given for the species from its Triassic fossil remains. The maximum height estimated for the species is 60 meters and its diameter is 60 centimeters. The columnar trunk with monopodic branching is observed and the lateral branches grow at an angle of 90º with respect to the axis and present negative geotropism. The structure of the leaves is unknown.
By Falconaumanni – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37304138
Fossil Araucarioxylon arizonicum (petrified wood) outside the National Museum of Natural History, USA, in Washington, DC, USA.
By Daderot – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27276482
There are other fossils as well, preserved through what is known as compression fossilization, which been preserved by being flattened by the weight of sediment accumulated above it until only a thin film of fossil remains. These types of fossils have preserved leaves, seeds, pine-cone, spore, fish, insects, pollen grains and sometimes animal remains.
Recently scientists in the park retrieved a quarter mile deep core sample to understand the history of the earth better. One of the questions they trying to answer is whether three the impact of at least three mountain sized asteroids created a tectonic movement leading to the eruption of chains of volcanoes could have been the key cataclysmic event that ripped apart Pangaea – the earth’s single supercontinent at the time. It turns out the core provides evidence of two different potential story arcs: the change in the fossil record at the time could be connected to powerful asteroid impact in Canada which left behind a 62 mile wide impact crater, or that no single catastrophic event was responsible for the.
Incidentally, Petrified wood is not limited to Arizona. It occurs anywhere the conditions are right. For example, we’ve previously written about the petrified forest in the protected national monument on the Greek Island of Nesbos. Namibia too, has an exceptional petrified forest national park. Discovered by a pair of farmers in the 1950s, the enormous fossilized tree trunks in this case did not originate in the area where they were found, but instead were washed downstream of a river by a great flood. These trees date back to about 280 million years ago.
Typical Veld Landscape near Petrified forest in Namibia
By Olga Ernst – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72029500
Petrified Wood in Namibia
By t_y_l – P9133880, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76429571
Petrified Wood in Namibia
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1274653
Closeup view of Namibian Petrified Wood
By Lidine Mia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99649068
Petrified wood is found all around the region in Arizona including outside the Petrified Wood National Park, but don’t forget when visiting the park itself that it is both illegal and unethical to take fossils from public land! Do the right thing and enjoy the fossils in their natural place in the park and go home with beautiful memories and photographs.
Originally built with agatized wood blocks and mud mortar, Agate House likely housed a single family sometime between 1050 and 1300, during the Late Pueblo II – Pueblo III Periods. The scarcity of artifacts suggests a relatively brief occupation. Due to its relatively large size, Agate House may have served as a central gathering place. Indeed, Agate House was a part of a much larger community. When first recorded by archeologists in the 1930s, the petrified wood construction of Agate House was thought to be unique. Since then, hundreds of similar petrified wood structure sites have been found in the park, indicating a history of humanity as colorful and diverse as the building blocks of Agate House. Agate House @ Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
By daveynin – https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/49518910517/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=88114729
We have our own petrified forest of sorts at Georarities! Visit our Petrified Wood category to find samples of Arizona, Indonesian, green chromium petrified wood, and other varieties that you can buy for your collection!
Moss agate is an un-banded (and therefore not a true) agate. It is a chalcedony with dendritic inclusions of other, typically green, minerals forming filaments and patterns that are suggestive of moss. Occasionally brown coloration or red spots due to iron oxide will also be found in moss agate.
A cabochon of moss agate from Australia with black dendritic manganese oxides embedded in milky-white chalcedony (quartz). Moss agate is a semi-precious gemstone. It is a variety of mineral quartz.
Photo By Tiit Hunt – Estonian Museum of Natural History, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81096800
A cabochon of moss agate from Australia with black dendritic manganese oxides embedded in Australian Moss Agate cabochon
Photo By zygzee from Coarsegold, US – Australian Moss Agate Opus01, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84652497
Moss agate can be found in India, Brazil, Uruguay, central European countries, and the United States (mostly Montana), although some of the best examples are found in India. It is often tumbled and sold as beads or cabochons for jewelry. The city of Mocha in Yemen was once a source for the this stone, lending the alternate name ‘Mocha Stone’.
Those who believe in crystal healing and that stones and minerals have spiritual properties believe it has the properties of stability, persistence, grounding.
Moss agate has been used for art and jewelry since ancient times. Several examples are below.
A moss agate ring stone portrait bust of a bearded man facing a larger portrait bust of a woman. Roman, 2nd century A.D. Most interesting about this piece is that the woman’s coiffure can be used to date the item, pointing to the time of the Younger Faustina, the wife of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
A moss agate ring stone of a man riding a tortoise. Roman, 1st century B.C. – 3rd century A.D.
A chatelaine made of gold and moss agate stones. A chatelaine hung from the waist and was designed to hold sewing, writing, or toilet implements. British 1750-1760.
A beautiful stem cup made of enamel, silver and gorgeous moss agate. South German, probably Augsburg
A nécessaire containing moss agate panels mounted in gold and set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The moss agate in this piece very strongly resembles moss or ferns. These examples of the stone likely came from Central Europe. A nécessaire usually contained various toilet implements, but this one, made by watchmaker James Cox, also contains a watch and automaton on the inside.
A recent study in Frontiers in Earth Science reveals that researchers discovered quartz crystals in the stomach of a bird that lived alongside the dinosaurs. The bird, a member of the Enantiornithes clade of fossil birds, appeared to be a sensational discovery, as previously there had never been a find which preserved any traces of food in the fossils stomach which would clue researchers in to the diet of the animal. Many modern birds have what’s called a gizzard, a thick and muscular portion of the stomach used to help digest food. Often birds swallow small stones know as gizzard stones, which make their way to the gizzard itself where it helps to crush tough or difficult to digest food. These stones are know as gastroliths and have been found in some dino and bird fossils providing hints as to the diet of those animals. The presense of stones in the stomach, though isn’t defiinitive as to the purpose of the stones. There are some modern birtds of prey that swallow rocks to help move material through their digestive tract, cleaning it out, and it’s hard to differentiate between a gastrolith and a gastrolith that is a gizzard stone without knowing anything about the diet and habits of the animal using the stone. In the end, the reesearchers determined that the quart material found where the birds stomach would have been probably was a gastrolight at all. After exposing the supposed gastroliths to X-rays and a scanning electron microscope it was determined that the rocks were actually chalcedony crystals, quartz that grew in sedimentary rocks. There is evidence of chalcedony crystals forming with a clamshell, or replacing minerals in fossil bones. Furthermore, the crystals in this case were all connected in a thin sheet rather than separate rocks. The rocks were also much larger than would be expected of rocks swallowed by a bird that size. In the end there just wasn’t enough evidence, and some negative evidence against the idea that the rocks were in the birds stomach. Just goes to show, never count your gastroliths before they’s been swallowed.
We don’t have any examples of Enantiornithes, but you can check our our collection of fossils for sale here.
Top image is a photograph of the holotype of Zhouornis hani, a type of Enantiornithes, By Yuguang Zhang, Jingmai O’Connor, Liu Di, Meng Qingjin, Trond Sigurdsen, Luis M. Chiappe – https://peerj.com/articles/407/, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33060650
If the mineral is green and gorgeous there is a good chance it’s malachite. Like its copper cousins Turquoise, Azurite, and Chrysocolla, Malachite is found in copper deposits. It first became useful to humans as an ore used by the ancients to produce copper metal. Today, its primary use is decorative: bracelets, necklaces, pendants, as a gemstone and cabochon, and other types of jewelry. It’s also popular as a tumbled stone and as a standout display specimen for rock and mineral collections.
North American deposits include Mexican deposits in Milpillas; American deposits in Bisbee, Morenci, Bingham Canyon and others; African deposits in Namibia, Gabon, Zambia, Uganda, and The Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire). Russia was at a one a major source of Malachite, particularly gem quality stones, however most of these deposits have been mined out and eclipsed by the quantity and quality of the African deposits. African mines product spectacular massive malachite specimens as well as gem quality malachite, and plancheite, cuprite and carrollite are also present in these deposits.
Malachite from a Smelter’s Crucible, Egyptian, Joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III, ca. 1479–1458 B.C., 18th Dynasty
Copper deposit don’t typically yield huge amounts of malachite. Previously, Russia was the only significant source of a large volume of gem-grade malachite, but as the Russian mines have declined and the African mines became available the African finds have far exceeded Russian production. African banded layers malachite is sometimes over a foot thick with very tightly packed submicroscopic needle crystals. Since the opening of the African mines, the mineral market has great cutting-grade malachite with bands of very light green to almost black- green.
Malachite was well known to the ancients. It’s Latin name, “Molchitis” derives from the Greek “molochites lithos” whose meaning is “mallow green stone” due to the mineral’s resemblance to the mallow plant’s leaves. Some evidence exists o Malachite mining in Britain at the Great Orme Mines perhaps as far back as the 3rd and 4th millenia B.C. There is also archaeological evidence of Malachite mining and smelting to produce copper 3,000 years ago in the Timna Valley, associated with King Solomon’s Mines in modern day Israel, where it is still mined to today to produce copper.
Lapidary, work with malachite requires a facemask. The copper carbonate dust from Malachite is poisonous. Most lapidaries use water to cut down on the dust in the air. Undercutting is often a problem during polishing, since each malachite band has a slightly different Mohs hardness, however experienced lapidaries shouldn’t have a problem. Banded malachite is always beautiful no matter how it is used.
Qing Chinese Malachite Carving, Late 18th – Early 19th Century. Seated Luohan With Servant
Above is an outstanding example of carved malachite. A Qing era Chinese art work originating in the late 19th through early 20th century, it depicts a seated luohan, or one who has achieved enlightenment. This particular luohan is identified as Nakula who sits in meditation with a rosary; a boy-servant attends at his feet. From his long eyebrows and position beneath a tree. Carved writing in the upper right corner is a poem of praise for Nakula in the upper right was authored by the Jiaqing emperor (r. 1796–1820) and inscribed in the hand of his elder brother Yongxing (1752–1823).
French Monumental Malachite Vase. Lapidary Work Early 19th Century, Pedestal And Mounts By Pierre Phillippe Thomire
The monumental vase above is crafted from Russian malachite, bronze, gilt bronze and a filling material. Malachite grows in layers of tiny crystals its colors correlating with different crystal sizes, creating the pattern. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, most malachite came from Russian mines by the noble Demidov family. The family exploited hardstone quarries and metal deposits located on their estates in the remote Ural Mountains. In the 1820s on of the great discoveries in the history of semiprecious stones happened when an enormous malachite boulder around five hundred tons was unearthed there. Malachite is extremely brittle, so only small display objects can be cut from single blocks of the material. Large objects require a core structure, to which the malachite can be attached in thin pieces, effectively a veneer. Russian craftsmen developed a method to use the stone’s natural pattern and a precision cutting technique to form a continuing or “endless” ornamentation. This type of veneering appears nearly seemless and is called “Russian mosaic”.
The Demidov family used the flashy appearance of malachite to improve their social status, filling their palaces with the material and even decorating an entire room with the green stone, which inspired Czar Nicolas I to commission the famous Malachite Room in the Czar’s Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.
The monumental vase above is modeled on an ancient Roman bell-shaped krater, the most famous example of which is the first-century Medici Vase, now in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. This shape was quite much admired through the early nineteenth century. Count Nikolai Demidov commissioned this particular malachite vase for his villa at San Donato, near Florence. Unlike with the Russian mosaic technique, large areas of this vase’s surface is composed of small malachite particles mixed with filling substance in the same way as modern terrazzo. This raw malachite was probably transported from one of his mines to Florence to be shaped and finished by local artists not trained in the specialized Russian technique. The vase would then have been sent onwards to Paris to be fitted with its mounts and pedestal.
The gilded bronze winged female figures on the body of the vase represent Fame. Their trumpets are shaped like handles, although the vase is too heavy to be lifted like a loving cup. A gilded bronze laurel garland of laurel (Laurus nobilis) runs under the lip mount. The laurel had been adopted by Lorenzo de’ Medici (who was also a lavish patron of the arts) as an emblem of his house with the motto “Ita ut virtus,” or “Thus is virtue”— that is to say, virtue is evergreen. It’s use here implies that the Demidov’s hoped that their fortune would also be evergreen.
The mounts and bronze pedestal were made by Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751–1843), known throughout Europe for his bronze decorations and ornamental sculpture. He established a reputation before the French Revolution with beautiful mounts for Sèvres porcelain vases. In 1804 he founded a workshop that produced furniture as well as luxury bronzes.
Malachite with Azurite
Description of Malachite
3.5 to 4.0
3.6 to 4.0
Perfect in one direction, fair in a second direction
Most examples are opaque while crystals are translucent
Polishes to a very bright luster. Large specimens tend to be dull and earthy. Silky luster in fibrous examples. Unusual crystals trend from vitreous to adamantine.
Even though chyrsocolla and azurite are both copper based minerals, malachite is a better indicator of the presence of significant copper deposits. The Copper Queen mine in Brisbee was created on the basis of malachite deposits.
Malachite Copper Crescent from Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Image of Malachite Taken Under a Stereoscopic Microscope
Malachite has a number of different cultural meanings and associations. For the Chinese, Malachite is a lucky stone for those born in the Year of the Rabbit or Year of the Tiger. For the ancient Egyptians, the color green was associated with death and the power of resurrection – as well as new life and fertility. They believed that the afterlife contained the “Field of Malachite”, an eternal paradise resembling their lives but with no pain or suffering. They also used the material in powder form for cosmetics, particularly to try to resemble Horus, the falcon headed god Those who believe in crystal healing, crystal spirituality believe the stone has any number of healing, or metaphysical properties on the body, spirit or chakra.
View our collection of beautiful malachite specimens for sale, perfect as display piece on your table or mantle, for your collection, or for use in spiritual or crystal healing.
This week marks the 152nd anniversary of the discovery of Welcome Stranger, the largest alluvial gold nugget ever found. Discovered 1869 in Moliagul, Victoria, Australia, the Welcome Stranger nugget had a calculated refined weight of 3,123 troy ounces and measured 2 feet by 1 foot in size.
The mid 1850s in Australia was a period of great excitement. Just as in California, gold had been discovered, and thousands traveled to Victoria looking to make their fortune. In September of 1852 gold was found in the area of Moliagul – an area which would later become famous for the discovery of Welcome Stranger.
One of the William Parker re-enactment photos. William Parker was a photographer who had a studio in Dunolly.
Pictured are Miners & Their Wives (Including Richard Oates, John Deason & His Wife) Posing With a Replica of the Welcome Stranger Nugget
Image by William Parker – http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?vid=MAIN&reset_config=true&docId=SLV_VOYAGER1719441, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34745693
John Deason, a former tin dresser, and Richard Oates were two of the many miners who rushed to the area to make their fortune. Originally from Cornwall, England they had both staked claims in the area of Moliagul and set up small farms to support their operations. Deason was breaking the soil on his claim plot around the roots of a tree in Bulldog Gully near Moliagul in February of 1869 when he struck something hard about 3 cm below the soil. Originally thinking it was a rock, he hit it a second, then a third time. Finally clearing away the soil he discovered the massive gold nugget. Deason’s son quickly ran to the farm of Oates, his father’s partner, who was plowing his nearby paddock. Oates came over and helped cover up the nugget and they waited until dark when it would be safer to remove it. After they dug out the nugget, they held a party in order to reveal Welcome Stranger to their friends and neighbors.
Deason and Oates took the nugget into the town of Dunolly protected by a bodyguard composed of friends and sold the nugget at the London Chartered Bank of Australia for 10,000 pounds, or around $3-4 million in todays money. At that time there weren’t any scales capable of weighing this large of a nugget, so they had Dunolly based blacksmith Archibald Walls break the nugget into three pieces. The nugget was then melted down and the gold sent to Melbourne as ingots to be forwarded on to the Bank of England, leaving Australia on February 21st. The original nugget is believed to have weighed 241 lbs before being trimmed.
A story detailing the discovery was run in the Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express February 12th 1869, excerpted below:
The Dunolly district after having turned over a multitude of nuggets that puts every other goldfield in the Colony in the shade has at length, in the words of the Melbourne journals “beat the world” in producing the largest mass of gold on record. The ‘Welcome Stranger’ was found by two men, named John Deason and Richard Oates, on Friday last, February 5, 1869, near the Black Reef, Bull-dog Gully, Moliagul, a short distance from Wayman’s Reef, and only about a mile from the celebrated Gypsy Diggings. Deason and his mate have been working in the ground for several years past, and as is well known, had got, in digging parlance, so ‘hard up’ as to have been refused credit for a bag of flour a week or so ago, and we believe the very day before the discovery, were reminded by a tradesman that they were indebted to him for a few shillings. Still they persevered, until on the daynamed, Deason in working round the roots of a tree, at about two inches below the surface, struck something hard with a pick, and exclaimed, “D—n it, I wish it was a nugget” and had broken the pick. On stooping down to examine the obstacle, he found that the object of his dearest wish was lying at his feet, and it seemed as if the monster was so large as to be immovable. It was, however, at length released from its virgin soil, and carefully removed. The question then arose as to what was to be done with it, and the first intention was to convey it to Melbourne. When the men got to Dunolly with their prize, they were advised to take it to the bank and forthwith carried it to the London Chartered. The news of the discovery soon spread, and the bank was crowded with eager spectators, amongst whom was a number of Chinamen; and a constable was sent for to guard the prize. The weight in the gross was then found to be two hundred and ten pounds troy, and preparations were at once made to break the mass to pieces and smelt it. The appearance of the ‘Welcome Stranger’ in its pristine state was something wonderful, and it seemed impossible to realise the fact so great a mass of gold could be collected in one lump. But so it was. Many efforts were made to lift it, and many exclamations of surprise expressed at its immense weight and compactness. A sledgehammer and cold chisels were brought into requisition and several of the latter broken in the attempt to reduce into fragments the ‘Welcome Stranger’. It was found to be as solid as it looked, and as chip after chip and piece after piece was dissevered from it, its appearance was as clean as a well-cut Cheshire cheese. At length, after no less than five hours hammering, the monster was pounded up and smelted, the result being 2268 oz. 10d wts. 14 grs. of solid gold, exclusive of at least a pound weight, which was given by the delighted finders to their numerous friends, who were each anxious to retain a piece of the largest mass of gold the world has yet seen. Over nine thousand pounds were advanced on the nugget by the bank, the final value awaiting the result of assay. Some interest has been manifested as to the comparative size and value of the ‘Welcome Stranger’ and the ‘Welcome’ nugget found at Ballarat, to set which at rest we give the following particulars: -‘Welcome Nugget found in the claim of the Red Hill Company, Bakery Hill, Ballarat, on the evening of the 9th June, 1858. Weight 2,217 oz. 16d wts’. It will thus be seen that the ‘Welcome Stranger’ whose total weight (inclusive of the pieces distributed, and retained as referred to below, before being smelted) was in round numbers 2,300 ounces, being over 80 ounces heavier than the ‘Welcome’. Henceforth the almanacs, which have hitherto chronicled the Ballarat monster nugget, as the largest piece of gold on record will have to change the name to the ‘Welcome Stranger’, found in the Dunolly district, near Moliagul. Several interesting incidents might be published in connection with the finding and finders of the nugget. Oates has, we believe, neither kith nor kin with whom to share his prize, but probably soon will have. Deason has a wife and family at Moliagul, where he holds 80 acres of land under the 42nd section, which we believe he intends to settle down upon and cultivate. Oates, we understand, intends shortly to visit his home at Lands End.
Excerpt from Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express February 12th 1869, by gracious permission of the Dunolly Museum, Victoria, Australia
The Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express February 12th 1869 continued…
Since writing the above we have visited the locality to be henceforth rendered world wide in its fame. The spot where the nugget was found is marked by a post, and was pointed out to us by the two fortunate finders of this truly ‘Welcome Stranger’. Messrs. Deason and Oates inform us that they came to the colony in the year 1854. On the 19th February in that year they reached Bendigo, and from that time have been engaged as working miners, with the varied successes and difficulties appertaining to digger life. On the whole they have just managed to make a living by dint of hard work and thrift. About seven years ago they settled down at Moliagul, and have been steadily working there ever since chiefly, washing about nine inches to a foot of the surface soil in an old fashioned horse puddling machine. Mr Deason informed us that they had many times washed a whole week for half an ounce of gold, while at other times they were very fortunate. Within about a hundred yards from the spot where the ‘Welcome Stranger’ was unearthed they, some time ago, found two other nuggets, one weighing 108 ounces, and the other 36 ounces. They have stripped and washed the surface soil from several acres of land and their working are easily traced by the red clay they have bared. They informed us that this red clay contained a little gold, but not enough to pay, consequently they do not wash it. They pointed out to us a peculiar kind of red clay similar to half burnt brick, which they regard as indicative of gold, and which has always been found associated with their larger finds, and particularly so with the immense mass of gold found by them on Friday last. It is much to be regretted that this, the largest mass of gold ever found, at any rate of which there is any record, should have been melted before any model of it was made, and the fortunate owners expressed to us their regret that such had been the case. But when they discovered it the mass, as may be supposed, was unwieldy, so much so that it had to be forced from its bed by a large lever, and the place is a very solitary one, anything indeed but such a place as one would care to keep ₤10,000 worth of gold, or to risk making its discovery known until it could by surrounded by the necessary protection. The mass when found was taken to Mr Deason’s hut and placed in the fire for the purpose of rendering the quartz friable, and Deason sat up the whole of Friday night burning and reducing the mass into a somewhat manageable shape, and the debris containing it is estimated about a pound and a half weight of gold. This done, they took it to Dunolly, as previously stated, and it was at their request that the nugget was at once broken up and smelted. Some golden stone was also broken out of the Black Reef itself, specimens of, which are preserved. It is worthy of remark that at the time of our visit, Deason and his mate were working away in their shirtsleeves at the claim as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary. We are glad that the monster has fallen to the lot of such steady and industrious men.
Excerpt from Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express February 12th 1869, by gracious permission of the Dunolly Museum, Victoria, Australia
Wood Engraving of Welcome Stranger Published March 1st, 1869 in The Illustrated Australian News for Home Reader
Image by Unknown author – http://sinpic.slv.vic.gov.au/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&BBID=49297 [dead link]http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/MAIN:Everything:SLV_VOYAGER1690285, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15058593
There were other large nugget found in Australia, including the Holtermann Nugget discovered at Hill End, New South Wales in 1872, which weighed 290 kg. The Holtermann nugget is the single largest gold mass ever discovered, but whether it is technically a nugget remains a bit controversial. One characteristic of a nugget is that it left the lode at some point in the past and is no longer within the host rock, in other words it has broken off from the original lode of gold and has been carried away by water or erosion. The Holtermann was what was called “reef gold” after the quartz reefs often sought ought by the hard rock miners. The hand of Faith gold nugget was found in 1980 near Wedderburn, Australia and weighs in at 875 troy ounces (61 lbs, 11 oz). Other famous nuggets have been discovered in California, Alaska and Montana in the United States.
Deason returned to live in Moliagul and his descendants are still in the region,, but Oates later returned to Cornwall.
A monument consisting of a large stone obelisk surrounded by a fence was erected near the spot of the discovery of Welcome Stranger in 1897. The top image above is a replica of the nugget. A replica of the nugget is located in today in Melbourne, Victoria in the Old Treasury Building. The descendants of Deason own another replica now on display in the the town of Dunolly.
Top image by photographer:Rodney Start, Museums Victoria, https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/articles/3019
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