A Metal Detectorist Stumbled Upon the Gold Nugget of a Lifetime

a man finding treasure using metal detector
This Is the Largest Gold Nugget in English HistoryTahreer Photography - Getty Images
  • In May 2023, a British detectorist discovered what's believed to be the largest gold nugget ever found in England.

  • Unearthed in Shropshire Hills, a natural area west of Birmingham, the nugget came in at an impressive 64.8 grams, beating the previous England gold nugget record holder by a comfortable margin.

  • The nugget is currently at auction as is likely to fetch its lucky discovered at least $38,000.

While nuclear fusion in the heart of stars is responsible for a variety of elements, these stellar engines can’t make gold. To create that highly sought-after Au on the periodic table requires the most cataclysmic events in the universe, whether an exploding supernova or the collision of two neutron stars. Then these gold-laden stellar corpses traveled through space until they eventually met a young Earth some four billion years ago. The resulting asteroid impacts buried this precious material into the Earth’s crust and mantle.

Over the course of billions of years, soil erosion and seismic processes have brought some of that gold to the surface, and in May 2023, into the lucky hands of Richard Brock. Brock is a detectorist, one of a currently growing group of hobbyists who hunt for precious metals using sophisticated metal detectors, and last spring he traveled hours from his home to Shropshire Hills in the U.K. located west of Birmingham.

“I actually arrived about an hour late, thinking I’d missed the action,” Brock told The Guardian. “Everyone there had all this up-to-date kit and I bowled up with three old machines…at first I just found a few rusty old tent pegs with this back-up detector, which had a fading screen display.”

But then 20 minutes later, Brock stumbled upon the discovery of a lifetime: a 64.8 gram golden nugget, which he nicknamed Hiro’s nugget. Not only was this impressive hunk of gold forged in the cataclysm of dying stars billions of years ago Brock’s greatest discovery, it might also be the biggest piece of gold ever found in England. However, the British Isles have produced larger ones. A 97.12-gram nugget washed on Welsh shores back in 2016, and in 2019, a whopping 121.3-gram nugget — named the Reunion nugget — was found in Scotland.

All of these pale in comparison to the Welcome Stranger, a staggering 159-pound gold nugget found by two Cornish miners in Victoria, Australia. Today, that impressive chunk of gold is still considered the largest ever discovered.

Although pinto-sized in comparison, the discovery of Hiro's nugget was part luck but also part determination. Although the metal detector hobby exploded in popularity during the pandemic—there's even a popular U.K. TV show called Detectorists—Brock has been a detectorist for 35 years, and even during the gold hunt Shropshire Hills, Brock faced some technological adversity.

“The machine I was using was pretty much kaput—it was only half working,” Brock told The Guardian. “It just goes to show that it doesn’t really matter what equipment you use. If you are walking over the find and are alert enough to what might be lurking underneath the soil, that makes all the difference.”

Brock’s dedication and determination finally paid off as the nugget, which is being put up for sale through the auction house Mullock Jones, is expected to fetch a price of around $38,000 (possibly even more) at auction.

This hunk of gold’s 4 billion-year-old geologic journey is finally at an end.

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