Today in History

History: Largest single piece of reef gold ever discovered

The largest single piece of reef gold ever discovered in the world is found at Hill End, in New South Wales.

Holtermann Nugget facts

The mass of gold, quartz and slate known as ‘Holtermann’s Nugget’, is not really a ‘nugget’ as such. It is a mass of gold with attached rock broken from a quartz reef, a ‘specimen’ not an actual water-worn nugget of gold. It was the largest single mass of gold ever found.

It was discovered at 2 a.m. on the 19th October 1872 in the ‘Star of Hope’ mine, on Hawkins Hill, Hill End, New South Wales, after a midnight firing of explosives revealed a ‘wall of gold’. The discoverers, Ludwig Hugo Beyers and Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, were partners in the Star of Hope Gold Mining Company, which had struck rich seams of gold at Hawkins Hill in the previous year, 1871.

The Gross Weight (gold + quartz + slate) was 285 Kg, and the weight of gold was 93.2 Kg (3,000 Troy ounces). It measured 144.8 cm high x 66 cm wide x 10.2 cm thick. The gold value today would be about 5.2 million dollars.

Soon after its discovery, the specimen was crushed in a stamper battery and melted down to extract its gold. It made Holtermann a rich man, and he built a palatial mansion (now part of Shore Grammar) in St. Leonards, Sydney. It had a square tower fitted with a 45 cm round stained glass window showing the famous picture of Holtermann posing with the ‘nugget’.

The famous photograph of Holtermann and the ‘nugget’ is a goldfields icon. However it is actually a montage of three superimposed images – Holtermann with his hand resting on an iron support, the verandah of Holtermann’s house, and the ‘nugget’.