It’s not everyday that someone chances upon a 22-ounce gold nugget glinting out of the earth, but it certainly was the case in 1957 with Arthur Stewart, the owner of a small nearby grazing property in Bealiba, Australia. In a serendipitous moment, Stewart had stopped at the side of the road to repair the chain on his bicycle when he found the gleaming gold nugget.
Within a day, Stewart had formed a syndicate dubbed “Stewart’s Surprise,” which took out miner’s rights and claimed the spot around which the gold nugget was found. Bealiba soon morphed into a gold rush town, as people were eager to get a cut of their own. While the Victorian goldfields were rife with some of the largest nuggets around, very few survived in their original form as many people melted down the gold to be sold.
Victoria far surpassed New South Wales as a main producer of gold in the Australian colonies and it didn’t take long for the rest of the world to catch wind of the auspicious discoveries. This period heavily influenced all aspects of life in Australia, especially in terms of population, demography, economics, social hierarchy and popular culture.
The Bealiba nugget was eventually purchased by the Australian Amateur Mineralogist, a magazine that “advocated for the retention of more of Australia’s magnificent specimens for the sake of future generations.” In 2011, the nugget was acquired by The National Museum of Australia.