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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions



Why is gold so precious?

When was gold first found in Australia?

When did Australia’s gold rushes begin?

When was gold first found in the state of Victoria?

When did the Ballarat gold rush start?

What was the effect of the discovery of gold in Victoria?

How much gold was found in Ballarat?

How was gold first mined? What mining techniques were used?

What were some of the biggest nuggets found around Ballarat?

What was Eureka?

Who was Peter Lalor?

What was the impact of the gold rush on Victoria’s population?

What was life like for the Chinese on the Goldfields?

Q. Why is gold so precious?
Gold, the only yellow metal, has the chemical symbol Au, which is derived from the Latin word for gold - Aurum. It has a density nearly twice that of lead, is a good conductor of electricity and heat, and is so malleable that it can be rolled thin enough to allow light to pass through.
Common acids will not dissolve gold …
(Source: Gold Fact Sheet, Minerals Council of Australia and Bureau of Resource Sciences)
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Q. When was gold first found in Australia?
In 1823, James McBrien, a government surveyor, thought he saw gold near Bathurst in New South Wales. The explorer, Strzelecki, also found small specks of gold in the late 1830s. William Clarke, a clergyman, collected gold specimens and showed the best of them to Governor Gipps in 1844. Governor Gipps’ response was “Put it away, Mr. Clarke, or we shall all have our throats cut.”
The discovery of gold by Edward Hargraves near Bathurst in 1851 sparked off the first gld rush.
For more details see our research notes The Discovery of Gold In Australia.
(Source: Geoffrey Blainey, The Rush That Never Ended: A History of Australian Mining, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp 5 - 8)
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Q. When did Australia’s gold rushes begin?
The discovery of gold at Ophir, near Bathurst, in New South Wales in early April 1851 triggered the first Australian rush. For more details see our research notes The Discovery of Gold In Australia.
(Source: Geoffrey Blainey, The Rush That Never Ended: A History of Australian Mining, Melbourne University Press, 1969, Chapter 2)
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Q. When was gold first found in the state of Victoria?
It is difficult to say who found gold first in Victoria. James Esmond found gold at Clunes in June 1851. At almost the same time, gold was discovered at Anderson’s Creek, near Warrandyte, by Louis Michel, a Melbourne publican. Both towns now lay claim to having the first gold discovery in Victoria.
(Source: Geoffrey Blainey, The Rush That Never Ended: A History of Australian Mining, Melbourne University Press, 1969, pp. 28 & 29)
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Q. When did the Ballarat gold rush start?
In late August, 1851 James Regan was walking from the goldfields of Clunes to see his mate, John Dunlop in Buninyong. His stopped at a place the aborigines called “Balla arat” and tried his luck. He discovered what was to become one of the richest alluvial goldfields the world had ever known.
(Source: Weston Bate, Lucky City: The First Generation at Ballarat 1851 - 1901, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1978 pages 7 & 8)
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Q. What was the effect of the discovery of gold in Victoria?
In the early days, men left the cities in droves and rushed towards the diggings. On 21 September, 1851 the Melbourne Argus reported,
The whole town of Geelong is in hysterics, gentlemen foaming at the mouth, ladies fainting, children throwing somersets (somersaults) with excitement. All the ruffians and rogues from Melbourne and the “scum of convicts from Van Dieman’s Land” (later Tasmania) moved in a surge towards Ballarat.
(Source: quoted in Valmai Phillips, Gold Bay Books, Kensington NSW, 1984, p. 16)
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Q. How much gold was found in Ballarat?
It is hard to be accurate as some miners may have decided to keep their finds quiet. Weston Bate quotes the following figures:

Year ………….Ounces

 

Year ………..Ounces

1853 …………319,099 oz

1854 …………584,957 oz

1855 …………769,429 oz

1856 …………920,351 oz

1857 …………686,236 oz

 

1858 ……….502,984 oz

1859 ……….467,233 oz

1860 ……….267,288 oz

1861 ………..244,631 oz


(Source: Weston Bate, Lucky City: The First Generation at Ballarat 1851 - 1901, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1978 pp. 77 and 86)
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Q. How was gold first mined? What mining techniques were used?
See the research notes entitled “Gold Mining Technology” on this web site. Try the Australian Geological Survey Organisation’s web site which has a section on Gold Rush Technology.
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Q. What were some of the biggest nuggets found around Ballarat?
The Largest Gold Nuggets Found Near Ballarat

GROSS WEIGHT

NAME OF NUGGET

LOCALITY

DATE

2,520

The Welcome Stranger

Black Lead, Moliagul

5.2.69

2,217

The Welcome Nugget

Bakery Hill, Ballarat

9.6.58

1,619

The Canadian

Canadian Gully, Ballarat

31.1.53

1,177

The Lady Hotham

Dalton’s Flat, near Canadian Gully, Ballarat

8.9.54

1,117

The Sarah Sands

Canadian Gully, Ballarat

20.1.53

1,011

Unnamed

Canadian Gully, Ballarat

22.1.53

834

The Koh-i-noor

Ballarat

August, 60

627

Unnamed

Kitty’s Gully Ballarat

15.2.71

625

The Lady Barkly

Eureka Lead, Ballarat

7.2.54

606

The Lady Don

Ballarat

12.11.66

571

Unnamed

Bakery Hill, Ballarat

6.3.55

540

Nil Desperandum

Native Youth Flat, Black Hill, Ballarat

29.11.57


Numerous other nuggets were found during the 1850s; however, the exact number will never be known. Owing to the conditions of life on the early gold-fields, many diggers concealed their good fortune to avoid attracting thieves. It could be safely assumed that less than half of all nuggets found were recorded. Large nuggets were often broken into smaller pieces to make them easier to carry and many nuggets were found by Chinese and unrecorded.
(Source: Dunn, E.J. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Victoria No 12 “List of Nuggets Found In Victoria” paper printed in 1979 by The Dept. of Minerals and Energy, Victoria.)
For information on more modern nuggets try the Perth Mint’s web site.
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Q. What was Eureka?
On Sunday, 3 December, 1854, military and police attacked a rude stockade erected by disgruntled miners on the Eureka Lead at Ballarat.
When the sun rose twenty-two diggers and six soldiers lay dead …(but) the full toll will never be known.

(Source:B & B Strange, Gold - Graft and Grievances, B & B Strange, Ballarat, date unknown
See our research notes entitled “Eureka”
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Q. Who was Peter Lalor?
Peter Lalor was the Commander-in-Chief of the diggers who fought at Eureka.
... it seems he became commander-in-chief almost by accident…He was 25 years of age, six feet tall and impulsive by nature.
(source Bert and Bon Strange, Eureka, Gold Graft and Grievances, B&B Strange, Ballarat, 1973)
Peter Lalor, an Irishman, a Eureka digger, a positive, independent thinker, but no democrat, mounted the stump and proclaimed “Liberty”, and called for volunteers to form (military) companies. His initiative declared him leader.
(source: Weston Bate, Lucky City: The First Generation at Ballarat 1851 - 1901, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1978, page 67)
There are two things connected with the late outbreak (Eureka) which I deeply regret. The first is, that we should have been forced to take up arms at all: and the second is, that when we were compelled to take the field in our own defence, we were unable (through want of arms, ammunition and a little organisation) to inflict on the real authors of the outbreak, the punishment they so richly deserved.
(source: Peter Lalor, A Statement to the Colonists of Victoria, reprinted in Bob O’Brien, Massacre at Eureka: The Untold Story, Sovereign Hill Museums Association, 1998)
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Q. What was the impact of the gold rush on Victoria’s population?
Victoria’s Aboriginal Population

Date

 

Population

1834

 

11, 500 (or more)

1857

 

1,768 (or more)

1861

 

2,341


(Source: Curriculum Branch, Victorian Education Department, Investigating Settlement in Nineteenth Century Victoria, 1985)
Victoria’s European Population

 

Date

 

Population

1836

 

224

1841

 

11,738

1846

 

32,879

1851

 

77,345

1854

 

236,776

1857

 

408,998

1861

 

538,628


(source: Wray Vamplew, Australian Historical Statistics, Fairfax, Syne and Weldon Assoc. NSW, 1987)
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Q. What was life like for the Chinese on the Goldfields?
Look up our Research Notes on The Chinese
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