SCARCITY - Just how rare are gold nuggets?

 

    The first step in getting a handle on how rare gold nuggets are is to realise how rare gold itself is. Try this on for size: the world’s entire stock of gold across all ages - every gold ring and necklace, every gold bar in every bank vault, every ounce ever produced by every gold mine current and historical, every piece of gold treasure made by Egyptians, Lydians, Incas, everyone - could be melted down and fashioned into a single cube measuring a little over 20m on each side. That’s it; all the gold ever produced, giving a single cube of around 20m per side.


    Then combine that with the estimation that only three to five percent of the world's gold is found in nugget form, and that the vast majority of those nuggets have been destroyed for the sake of the melting pot (see the History section for more details), and you start to get an idea just how rare gold nuggets are.


    And there’s no doubt that gold nuggets will become even more scarce as the remaining ones are found. This has to do with the way gold nuggets are formed. Although there are some competing theories on nugget formation, the most widely accepted one is that gold nuggets are formed from the near-surface precipitation of enriched solutions from below. That is to say, it’s the chemical conditions present at a certain near-surface boundary that cause gold particles to precipitate out of solution into nugget form. This means that most gold nuggets will be at or near the surface, just where they’ll most likely have been found already (especially the larger ones). Remaining nuggets are a diminishing resource with every one that’s unearthed by a prospector. And of course, due to the large geological timeframe involved in their formation, no ‘new’ nuggets will ever be ready for our enjoyment.


    Gold nuggets are now considered rarer than diamonds. This can be seen from comparisons of global output, as well as the fact that more diamonds can be produced by mining deeper and deeper into solidified volcanic pipes, unlike nuggets which seem to be surface restricted. And adding to this comparison of their relative scarcity is the undeniable historical fact that the huge bulk of gold nuggets ever found have been melted down to be lost forever, whereas diamonds have been preserved.


    And when you think about it, gold nuggets have the greatest scarcity possible: a scarcity of one. Each gold nugget is a highly unique individual. Like a snowflake, no two are ever the same. Looking at a gold nugget is like looking at a cloud: shapes and forms and moods and characteristics jump out, so that you’ll sometimes see animals and other objects. It’s fun. Take a look at the Nugget Gallery to see what I mean. And if one really jumps out at you and becomes yours, you know that it truly is one of a kind.