The largest surviving gold nugget found it the western hemisphere is a breathtaking nugget named The Boot of Cortez. Just as the name implies, it is shaped like the boot of a Spanish conquistador. This outstanding find measures a stunning 10 3/4 inches in height and 7 1/4 inches in width.
This truly remarkable piece of gold weighs a massive 389.4 troy ounces. To give an idea of this great size, the second largest surviving gold nugget in the Western Hemisphere, which was recovered in Alaska, weighs 100 ounces less the Boot of Cortez. All of the larger gold nuggets which may have been discovered earlier were long ago melted down and the content sold. Only the famous Boot of Cortez remains.
In addition to its great size, an exceptionally high purity and unusual shape combine to make the Boot of Cortez extremely valuable, called the finest gold nugget anywhere by many experts.
Unlike most of the famous gold nuggets, which were usually found back in the early mining days, the Boot of Cortez was recovered comparatively recently, in 1989. One might arguably say one of the reasons why its discovery is so fascinating was the ordinariness of the story.
Golden Discovery in the Mexico Desert
The Boot of Cortez was not found by some old-time prospector risking life and limb in a desperate search for wealth. According to the story, a local prospector from Senora, Mexico, went into a Radio Shack and purchased a cheap metal detector. After our very unremarkable prospector wandered around with his detector for days, recovering little more than nails and other assorted junk, he got a very large signal from his detector. To his complete shock, he discovered the truly incredible gold nugget which would be named the Boot of Cortez.
Hunting for Big Nuggets in Mexico
In addition to the justly famous Boot of Cortez nugget, Mexico has long been known as a source of gold and other precious minerals. All gold which reaches the earth’s surface was forced there by earthquakes and volcanic activity. Mexico has always experienced more than its share of both of these actions, which have left large gold deposits which may have been mined or found as placer deposits.
Like so many other people, pre-Columbian populations in the area considered gold, silver and other metals to be highly valuable. The history of commercial mining in Mexico dates back 500 years. In 1521, one of the most famous conquistadors, Hernan Cortez, arrived in the land which would become Mexico. As soon as the Spaniards defeated the Indians, they immediately set about searching for gold. He obviously never knew a huge gold nugget would someday bear his name.
Mines of Mexico
Over the last five centuries, more than 5 million ounces of gold was extracted from the area. After the 300 years of Spanish rule came to an end, a long list of Mexican governments tried to continue mining gold. Foreign corporations have also extracted a great deal of this valuable mineral.
However, their effect on the local population has been completely different than the Spanish who enslaved and robbed them. Now, the multinational corporations employ miners who belong to labor unions.
The lure of gold attracted many people to Mexico over the centuries. Certainly, nobody went there for the weather. Summer temperatures in the Mexican desert can exceed 125 degrees.