The value of gold lies in its demand and scarcity. The oldest gold artifacts date from nearly 7,000 years ago, discovered in the ancient Varna Necropolis in Bulgaria. Although widely used by the Egyptians and Nubians, its first known use as currency did not occur until around 600 B.C.E. in the Middle East.
Along with its distinctive shine, gold’s other physical properties have been prized throughout history. Gold is soft enough to be drawn into thread, used in embroidery, and hammered into gold leaf for art and religious objects. In ancient times gold was revered for its healing powers; today, it is used in modern medicine such as arthritis treatments and experimental anti-cancer drugs.
Gold was discovered in Tuloumne County, California in 1848, the beginning of the now-famous California gold rush of 1849. Tuolumne County has produced large quantities of crystalline gold in the past, although relatively few specimens remain today considering the vast number of mines that were worked in the area.
The Crystalline pit, where spectacular gold lead specimens were found, lies near the historic California Mother Lode. Dating indicates that the gold was deposited 127 million years ago. The Jamestown Mine briefly became the third largest gold producer in California before mine operations ceased.
The de Monmonier Collection contains a gold specimen from the Jamestown mines that is the size of a dinner plate, one of the largest known specimens from that location.
Gold Throughout the World
Eagle’s Nest Mine, Foresthill, Placer County, California
Mining of the rich deposits of Placer County began in the early 1850s by placer mining (processing sand and gravels) and drift mining (using tunnels and shafts to reach gold-bearing gravels).
The habit of crystallized gold from the area can vary widely. The most common forms are flattened octahedrons and thin plates of dendritic crystals. Solid gold plates are less common. The Eagle’s Nest Mine is expected to continue to be a source of fine crystallized gold specimens in the future.
Icabarú, Bolívar, Venezuela
Gold is mined near Icabarú from a half dozen mines and by thousands of freelance miners who recover the precious metal through dredging and panning.
Porgera, Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea
The large surface and underground mine in the tropical Porgera Valley is one of the world’s top ten gold producing mines.
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, Australia
In 1893, gold was discovered in southwestern Australia by a pair of traveling prospectors. The original placer deposits were found in an area known as the Golden Mile. It was known as the richest square mile on earth.
Rosia Montana (Verespatak), Alba, Romania
The gold and silver deposits of Rosia Montana have been mined for more than 2,000 years, producing some of Europe’s most famous gold specimens.