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The Largest of Their Kind: Record-Breaking Minerals
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

There are records of all kind covering the most mundane things to the outlandish and bizarre. While we find mining fascinating, we know that others don’t. But to make it an even more captivating subject, we’ve decided to share some mining records with you! As there are various minerals and elements mined all over the world, we’ll only touch on a few elements mined that were the largest of their kind.

Comstock Lode
Said by many to be one of the most important mining discoveries in U.S. history, the Comstock Lode is one of the largest silver lodes ever discovered. Much is disputed about the discovery of this lode: what year it was discovered in and who discovered it. Credit is given to the Grosh brothers, Ethan and Hosea, who are said to have first discovered the deposit in 1857, but died before they could claim it. Then it is said a friend who cared for the Groshs’ cabin, Henry Comstock, sought to locate the silver deposit. Along with Comstock setting out to discover the silver the Grosh brothers had found, other miners were searching the area as well. It wasn’t until 1859 the discovery of this deposit was made public, and it bore Henry Comstock’s name. It wasn’t just the size of this lode that was impressive, its discovery sparked the silver rush in the western United States and virtually ended the gold rush. After people learned of the Comstock Lode, there was a “Rush to Washoe” that spurred people to travel to where the lode was found (modern-day Nevada) to mine their own claim. The Comstock Lode makes this list for creating the silver rush that rivaled the California Gold Rush of the U.S. and for new mining techniques (such as the Washoe process and square-set timbering) that have helped develop tools and equipment used today. 

Welcome Stranger

Switching from one precious mineral to the next, the Welcome Stranger is the world’s largest alluvial gold nugget. Just how large is this nugget? Well, it weighs 71.018 kilograms (or 3,123 ounces, 6 pennyweight, 9 grains, to be exact). Though one may think this hunk of gold was discovered during the California Gold Rush, because it was discovered in 1869, it was discovered across the globe in Victoria, Australia. What may be surprising about this nugget is that is was found only three centimeters underground. (Don’t start searching for gold nuggets in your backyard just yet!) The Welcome Stranger was found by John Deason and Richard Oates, who were searching the land for gold, and with this nugget, they did. Though this nugget didn’t spark a gold rush for Australia, it did land a place among the pages of gold history. When brought to the bank, the duo was given an estimated 10,000 pounds (a mere 15,000 U.S. dollars in today’s economy) based on its weight. But in order for the bank to weigh this specimen, they had to break into two pieces, as it was too large to fit on any scale of the day. Unfortunately, no one can view this grand specimen as shortly after Deason and Oates sold it, it was melted down into ingots. Despite other large gold nuggets having been found, the Welcome Stranger still weighs in as the largest found.

These are just two of the many elements and minerals that have been discovered that set world records. With each item making an impact on history, all of these records are far from boring and are just downright fascinating!

Can’t wait to learn more about these records? Tune in for next month’s blog post where we highlight more records of elements that have been mined.


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