Gold might represent first place, be pooped out by bacteria, and be the plot line of every major treasure hunt movie, but silver might just have it pipped to the post when it comes to the largest nugget ever found.
Back in the 1860s, silver was found in Aspen, Colorado, USA. Of all the silver mines that sprung up in the area, Smugglers Mine was one of the most productive and at its peak was thought to be producing a fifth of all the world’s silver.
The largest nugget was found in 1894 – but the whole thing was too big to move, thought to weigh around 1,061 kilograms (2,340 pounds) in total, more than one adult bison, it had to be broken into three pieces to be removed from the mine. The largest piece was reported to weigh 834 kg (1840 lbs), more than an adult male moose, and over ten times the weight of the largest gold nugget ever found.
Unfortunately for the mine owner, the nugget was found after the Silver Panic of 1893, which dropped the price of silver dramatically. After two years of rapid growth, the price of silver dropped, forcing mines to close and workers to be laid off. Smuggler’s Mine was one of the only silver mines to survive the crash – and it was fortunate that it did since the giant nugget was found just a year later, and earned the mine a cool $21,000 (which was worth a lot more back then).
The nugget was found to be between 93 and 96 percent pure silver. As of today, the price of silver per gram is 0.74 USD, making the largest part of the nugget alone worth a whopping $617,160.
Almost all the nugget was melted down apart from a small 5.7 kg (12.5 lb) part which is on display at the Denver Museum. Across the world in Australia, the Karratha Queen silver nugget weighs 145 kg (319.67 lbs) and was found in the year 2000 in the Elizabeth Hill mine and is on loan to the Perth Mint for display. Estimated to be worth around $136,000 it can’t hold a candle to the Smugglers Mine nugget.
Moreover, Smugglers Mine is still said to contain large amounts of silver and the mountains around Aspen could hold even more. Before you head off though check that what you find actually belongs to you.