Largest Gold Nugget Ever Found Weighed as Much as an Adult Man

"Welcome Stranger" gold nugget replica

Replica of Welcome Stranger Nugget (Photo: Rodney Start / Museums Victoria, CC BY 4.0 DEED)

John Deason was the son of a fisherman. Much like his future business partner Richard Oates, a fellow tin miner, he was not seen to be destined for future greatness. Yet in 1851, an Australian Gold Rush that started in New South Wales changed both of their fates. Hundreds of thousands of prospectors immigrated to the country hoping to be among the lucky ones to discover gold. Deason left for the Down Under in 1853, and a year later Oates joined him.

While the men found small gold nuggets here and there, they were struggling to get by and relied on their small farms to fund their prospecting operation. Reportedly, the men didn’t have enough credit to even get a sack of flour the week prior to their big break. After 15 years of toiling, Deason broke his pick on what was to become known as the “Welcome Stranger” nugget. At a whopping net weight of 192 pounds 11.5 ounces, the gold behemoth was encased in quartz and found tangled in the roots of a tree. The men decided to wait until nighttime to uncover the entirety of the nugget and then threw a party for their friends to reveal their history-making find.

With these very friends acting as a bodyguard, the men took their nugget to the nearby town of Dunolly. They attracted a crowd to the London Chartered Bank, requiring a constable to be called. However, the Welcome Stranger was too big to fit on the bank’s scale. Before a photograph could be taken, the nugget was broken apart to be weighed. It took five hours to get small enough pieces.

The nugget drew comparison to the previously largest found “Welcome Nugget,” from over a decade earlier in Ballarat, Victoria. The Welcome Stranger was larger by 6 pounds, and was purer gold. While Deason and Oates generously gave bits of the nugget to their friends, eager to have a piece of history, they earned over £9,400 ($11,863). That would be equivalent to a little over £1.3 million (roughly $1.64 million) today. However, a similar amount of gold would fetch around £3 million ($3.8 million) today.

The nugget was melted and sent to England by the end of February 1869, and Deason and Oates went back to work their land as if little had changed. The local paper Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express noted on a visit after their discovery how little changed the men were and started, “We are glad that the monster has fallen to the lot of such steady and industrious men.” Deason and his family stayed in the area, with descendants still residing in what is a quiet agricultural area today. While Oates returned to his homeland for some time, finding a wife and starting a family, he later returned to Australia.

It’s unclear whether the men’s lives changed drastically after their newfound wealth; however, the Welcome Stranger continues to hold the public’s historical imagination. In the 1980s, Australia released pure gold bullion coins, with the largest denomination depicting the Welcome Stranger. Despite no photographs existing, several replicas have been made. In 2019, the prospectors' descendants gathered to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the precious discovery.

Even today, tourists looking for adventure can head to Victoria to dig for gold. No one has yet managed to find a nugget of gold larger than the “Welcome Stranger” in Australia or anywhere else. The largest fully intact nugget still in existence is the “Pepita Canaa,” weighing 134 pounds. Julio de Deus Filho found the piece in Brazil in 1983. The Museu de Valores do Banco Central do Brasil has it on display. If you want to check out an Australian nugget of gold, the “Hand of Faith,” discovered in 1980 by a metal detector, is fittingly on display at the Gold Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. At only 60 pounds, though, it is just over a third of Oates and Deason’s mammoth.

One hundred fifty-five years ago, two humble miners, John Deason and Richard Oates, discovered the largest gold nugget ever that was the size of an adult man.

Miners and their wives posing with the finders of the nugget, Richard Oates, John Deason and his wife.

Miners and their wives posing with the finders of the nugget, Richard Oates, John Deason, and his wife. (Photo: William Parker via Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Before a proper photograph could be taken, the “Welcome Stranger” nugget was melted down, leaving only drawings to base replicas upon.

A diagram of the Welcome Stranger Nugget

Photo: Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

h/t: [IFL Science]

This article has been edited and updated.

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Elizabeth Beiser

Elizabeth Beiser is a Contributing Writer and Project Coordinator at My Modern Met. She has a background in American Cultural History with a special focus on Modern art and democratic community building. She received her B.A. in history, with a minor in Studio Arts, and her M.A. in history from the University of Rochester. She has worked on multiple political campaigns, as well as in non-profit operations and direct service. When she’s not writing, she’s experimenting with all varieties of arts and crafts. She also enjoys spending time with four-legged friends and exploring her hometown of Boston.
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