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On this day, 19 October 1872, the world’s largest piece of reef gold was discovered at Hill End NSW. Reef gold is the gold found in quartz, as distinct from alluvial gold (found in water). Prospectors Bernhardt Otto Holtermann and Ludwig Beyers and their workers discovered the gold at Hawkins Hill. As the caption in the photograph above shows, the record-breaking piece of gold weighed 630 lb (286 kg), stood at 4ft 9in (150cm ) high and 2ft 2in (66cm) wide. Its value then was £12,000.
Using his share of the wealth, Holtermann built a mansion in St Leonards, Sydney, and invested wisely. This allowed him to pursue his hobby of photography. Holtermann funded photographer Beaufoy Merlin’s project to document cities and towns in New South Wales. Many of these beautiful photographs survive in the Mitchell Library as the Holtermann Collection.