The Bealiba gold nugget was found near the town of Bealiba (70 kms west of Bendigo, Victoria) on 26 June 1957 by Arthur Stewart, the owner of a small nearby grazing property. Mr Stewart had stopped at the side of the road to repair the chain on his bicycle, which he was riding because his car had earlier broken down.
His bad luck ended, however, when he noticed gold glinting from a clod of earth alongside the road. He dug the 22-ounce nugget out with his hands, then washed it in a nearby stream to confirm he had discovered gold.
The next day Mr Stewart formed a syndicate with mail contactor Gordon McDowell and a farmer and his son both named Tom Wright. They called their syndicate ‘Stewart’s Surprise’, took out miner’s rights and pegged a claim around the spot where the nugget was found.
The discovery caused a minor gold rush with people arriving from surrounding areas eager to find more gold. On 1 July, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that hundreds of people were fossicking around Bealiba with picks, shovels and pans.
Although the Victorian goldfields were famed for the gold nuggets that they yielded, including some of the largest ever discovered, very few of these survive in their original form. Soon after being discovered most nuggets were melted down so that the gold could be weighed and sold.
A few months after the Bealiba nugget was discovered it was 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’.
The National Museum of Australia purchased the nugget in 2011. It helps tell the story of the impact that gold had on Australia and Victoria.