Gold Nugget Distribution - Just How Much Gold is in That Gold Nugget Patch?

Knowing the amount of gold available and the gold nugget distribution in a patch will help you sleep better at night.

Why, because you will know how much you have found and how much is left for you to find with your metal detector.

You wont be guessing or have concerns that you have left any behind for the next person.

So How DO You know How Much Gold Is In A Gold Nugget Patch?

This page is aimed more at the thinking metal detectorist that doesn't just wander around, find a nugget and leave satisfied.

It is a quick way to estimate roughly how much Gold is in a patch and the likely gold nugget distribution in the patch using Zipfs Law

Gold Nugget Distribution in a Virgin Gold Patch

Zipfs Law

Exactly... What the??

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Definition of Zipfs Law, if you want to read some more about it.

"Zipf's law, an empirical law formulated using mathematical statistics, refers to the fact that many types of data studied in the physical and social sciences can be approximated with a Zipfian distribution, one of a family of related discrete power law probability distributions."

Basically if you get bamboozled by all the mathematics what Zipfs Law means relating to gold is that if you take the largest nugget in a gold nugget population then the available Gold nuggets left will range downward in a mathematical progression.

The Second largest nugget will be 1/2 of the largest nugget, the third 1/3 of the largest nugget and so on continuing down the scale.

Here is a graph to show the relationship of gold nuggets in a population of nuggets where the largest nugget is 27grams.

Gold Nugget Distribution in a Patch Utilising Zipfs LawGold Nugget Distribution in a Patch Utilising Zipfs Law

Is This a Scientifically Proven Method to Calculate Gold Nugget Distribution in a Patch?

The short answer to that is no, we dont have sufficient data to prove it conclusively.

However, the theory was first introduced to us at an Amalgamated Prospectors and Leaseholders Association conference by Dr Bob Fagan. Dr Bob Fagan is a Senior lecturer in Structural and Metamorphic Geology at Curtin Uni in WA.

Not long after that we had a chance to field test the theory because we happened to find 7 nuggets in a patch with the largest one 27.5 grams.

Using the Zipfs Theory we were able to roughly estimate how much gold was in the patch and the distribution of nuggets, assuming the 27.5 gram nugget was the largest.

Here is a graphic representation of Day 1 gold nuggets found, the Zipfs Distribution and the final nugget count after cleaning out the patch.

Day 1 Gold Found and Estimated Distribution of Gold Nuggets Using Zipfs Law

Zipfs Law - Gold Nuggets found The First Day and Estimated Distribution in The Patch

Total Gold Nuggets Found and Distribution of Gold Nuggets Using Zipfs Law

Zipfs Law - Total Gold Nuggets Compared to Estimated Distribution in The Patch

Your Very Own Gold Nugget Distribution Calculator

Here is a very basic calculator that you download and use to estimate the gold nugget distribution in the next patch you find.

We are building a graph that will be embedded in this page and it will be available soon, but in the meantime just download and unzip this Excel file gold-nugget-distribution-graph open it in Excel.

Then simply insert your biggest gold nugget weight.

..... The spreadsheet will then estimate;

  • Total Gold in the Patch.
  • Possible nuggets sizes ranging downwards by weight in the patch.
  • Enter gold nuggets found and then you will see how much gold and the approximate nugget sizes left.

Dont be slavish about using it and try to find every last 0.5 gram piece of gold, it's just a guide, and remember our friend we discussed earlier,

....He may have found a few nuggets already and wandered off to greener pastures leaving you with the rest, but at the same time messing up your Zipfs distribution graph.

Want to Help Research and Understanding About Gold Nugget Distribution?

Dr Fagan of Curtin Uni is studying this and the more data he can get about your finds the more he can test his theories on Gold Nugget Distribution in a patch.

A significant amount of data is required to assess whether this theory is correct or not so any information you can provide to Bob would be very helpful.

That sort of proven knowledge helps everyone with their prospecting.

Bob would like you to send him;

List of Nugget weight sizes from any patch you have found. (must be gold weight not specimen weight)

If you have one a single photo of the 10 or 20 largest nuggets arranged by size it would be helpful

His email address is

If you would rather post the information his address is;

Dr Bob Fagan
Dept of Mineral Exploration and Mining Geology
WA School of Mines
Kalgoorlie WA 6430

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