Image: Paul Jacobs
An amateur prospector has discovered the UK’s largest gold nugget while lying face down in a Scottish river. The British man, who has chosen to remain anonymous, found the 85.7g lump of gold through a process known as sniping, in which a snorkel is used to search the riverbed. Named the Douglas Nugget, it is thought to be the biggest discovered in Britain for 500 years.
Leon Kirk, a gold panning expert based in Dumfries and Galloway, said the find was unprecedented and that the nugget’s rarity made it hard to put a price on it. He estimated that it was worth at least £50,000.
Dr Neil Clark, Curator of Palaeontology at The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, and author of Scottish Gold: Fruit Of The Nation, said it was difficult to say if the nugget had broken off from a larger chunk. He said that the rounded edges of the piece indicated that it had been in the watercourse for a while, but the size of the nugget suggested that it probably did not travel far.
Dr Clark also said:
"It is not just unusual, it is the largest nugget, by far, to have been found in Britain for more than 500 years, so it is also a very exciting find in a historical sense. Gold is not easy to find in Scotland. There are a number of places where licences can be readily obtained and you can prospect for small flakes of gold. If you find more than half a gram of gold after a day's work, you are doing well.
"Gold in Scotland can be formed by a multitude of processes. As the large nugget encapsulates pieces of milky quartz, it is likely that the gold accumulated in a quartz vein, possibly by deep hydrothermal activity related to mountain building over 350 million years ago.
"The source of the gold is from hot acid waters dissolving minerals accumulated in sediments and other rocks as they are put under pressure during mountain building, sometimes related to the emplacement of large bodies of molten rock (for example, granite magma)."