Call it beginner's luck: A novice treasure hunter in Australia, equipped with a high-end metal detector, discovered a massive nugget of gold worth more than $300,000.
Weighing a whopping 12 pounds (5.5 kilograms), the rock was discovered in the Ballarat region of Victoria in southeastern Australia. The prospector, who chose to remain anonymous, rushed his find to the astounded staff at the Ballarat Mining Exchange Gold Shop, according to PerthNow.com.au.
"It's unheard of," Cordell Kent, owner of the gold shop, told PerthNow. "It's extremely significant as a mineral specimen."
''If you are silly enough to melt it down, it would be worth just under $300,000 on market value, but as a nugget at this size and shape, it's worth significantly more than that,'' Kent told the Ballarat Courier. ''I can't remember a nugget this big ever being found locally.''
With gold prices currently over $1,600 per ounce, some observers believe a new gold rush is occurring around the world. Not only are people prospecting in areas formerly considered played out, many others are taking old coins and jewelry to be appraised and sold.
The German government this week announced plans to move a significant portion of its gold reserves — some 674 tons of pure bling — back to Germany from an underground vault in New York City, where it was stashed during the Cold War amid fears of a Soviet invasion, the New York Times reports.
Kent credits the recent Ballarat gold discovery to a high-quality metal detector, the Minelab GPX-5000. "There has been many prospectors that have walked past the exact place where the nugget was found and have missed it with an ordinary detector," Kent told PerthNow. "That’s why this guy found it."
As large as the recently discovered gold nugget is, similar findings from the Ballarat area are not unknown: Three prospectors hauled in a slightly smaller gold nugget, weighing 8 pounds (3.66 kg), from the same region last year, according to the Courier.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.