If Ed didn't already have his name engraved on the Contributors tile, this would definitely have gotten him on it. I estimate it's about an ounce, but the real value is in the fact that it's a natural gold nugget, obviously very well handled. It came from Ed's grandfather who was a shoe trader in Alaska. It is a great honor to be the temporary custodian of this object, which is all anyone can be to a nugget that will outlive us all by a wide margin.
I remember once in grade school, when we lived in Australia, visiting a gold panning river. The guide let the class pass around a gold nugget not unlike this one. The only thing I remember from that trip is holding the gold. That, and the texture of the walls in the room, the scrape of the floor, the voice of the guide, the coat I was wearing, how we were sitting, everything about the instant that the gold passed through my hands. I couldn't tell you what river it was, how we got there, how old I was, nothing, just one instant of gold from a long time ago.
Maybe some day an old man or woman, now only a child, will remember the moment this nugget passed through their hands on a visit to the Periodic Table. They'll see in their mind the sand pendulum, smell again the beeswax finish, unnoticed by adults but close to the nose of a child, and feel as if yesterday the incredible weight of this tiny thing in their hands.
Gold is like that.
Analysis by x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy at the Center for Microanalysis of Materials, University of Illinois (partially supported by the U.S. Department of Energy under grant DEFG02-91-ER45439) indicates that this nugget is 88.7% gold and 10.6% silver, which makes it about 21 caret gold. That's pretty typical for native gold, I believe.
I chose this sample to represent its element in my Photographic Periodic Table Poster. The sample photograph includes text exactly as it appears in the poster, which you are encouraged to buy a copy of.
Source: Ed Pegg Jr
Contributor: Ed Pegg Jr
Acquired: 3 September, 2002
Text Updated: 4 May, 2007