Those of us who take an interest in gems and mineral are often saddened to hear how many great specimens were destroyed by the early miners. At a time when most gold was only priced for its assay values, even large nuggets and crystalline gold specimens were often crushed and melted. Many of the largest pieces of raw gold have been lost forever.
Colorado is fortunate to have some exceptionally large gold nuggets that have been collected and saved! In fact, one of the best natural gold displays in the entire world can be found in the heart of Denver. It is located at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Along with a wide array of fossils, gems, and other natural wonders, visitors can see some of Colorado’s most amazing gold discoveries.
Crystalline Colorado Gold
Several of the largest gold and silver producing mines in the state are located within an hour or two from the capital city. Places like Central City and Idaho Springs were once the center of mining in the West.
Many of the samples that you will see at the museum come from Breckenridge, an area known for producing a unique type of wiry, leafy, crystalline gold. These pieces are usually very small, but the museum holds some absolutely stunning samples that certainly aren’t! Some of the best specimens clearly weigh several pounds. The biggest piece in the pictures below was roughly the size of a baseball mitt!
Big Placer Nuggets
Most of Colorado isn’t really known for big gold. There are many areas in the state where you can still pan for gold, but most prospectors today find tiny specks of gold dust these days. But not all of Colorado’s gold is dust…
The display also houses several large placer gold nuggets, including the largest known to have been found in Colorado weighing 12 troy ounces! Another piece on display weighs almost 8 troy ounces. Both were found in the Alma Mining District in Park County.
Additional nuggets are on display including several multi-ounce chunks.
One of Colorado’s “claims to fame” is the monster gold nugget known as “Tom’s Baby.” It got its name from the prospector who found it, who cradled the piece like a baby (because it weighed 13-pounds!) This is a large clean piece of raw gold with a rough crystalline shape. The rarest-of-the-rare, this nugget would be considered by most to be the centerpiece of the entire gold collection at the museum.
Although not as visually “flashy” as Tom’s Baby, the single largest piece of gold here is actually a specimen of gold in quartz. The entire piece weighs 114 pounds, with an estimated gold content of 316 troy ounces! It was found at the Little Annie Mine in Summitville.
Miscellaneous Gold Samples from around Colorado
The gold you will see at the display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is sourced from throughout Colorado, and most of the pieces are nicely labeled with their origin. In addition to the larger pieces already mentioned, there are a really nice variety of different gold samples found from different mines throughout the state. It is neat to take note of the various mines where each piece came from.
Keep in mind, this is just a small part of the mineral collection on display. You can also see some world-class samples of raw silver, tourmaline, rhodochrosite, and many, many other rare gems. Nearly every piece on display is sourced from Colorado.
For me, the natural gold display was easily the centerpiece of the entire museum. If you find yourself in Denver, make sure you stop and visit. You will be glad you did!