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The crown jewel

Those seeking gold inspiration need look no further than the Ironstone Heritage Museum, which is home to the largest crystalline gold leaf specimen ever found in the Mother Lode.

“The Crown Jewel” is 98 percent pure, making it a specimen of exceedingly high quality and value. The 44-pound specimen is on display at the museum inside Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys. 

The gold specimen was discovered on Dec. 26, 1992 by the Sonora Mining Corporation in a mine near Jamestown.

Ironstone founders John and Gail Kautz heard about the gold specimen find in a newspaper story.

“An article got our attention about a very large gold piece that Sonora Mining had found and that the French government was going to try to put together a group of investors/buyers to purchase the piece and place the piece in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The French government owns 30% of Sonora Mining. I said to Gail that gold piece is our history and we have to see how we can somehow keep that piece in the Mother Lode,” wrote Kautz about obtaining the specimen.

After much back and forth and a last-minute trip to the mining company with check in hand, the Kautz’s acquired the historic specimen and decided to put it on display for all to enjoy.

“It’s a great draw,” said Daniel Kushnir, director of marketing for Ironstone. “Thousands of people come in each year to see the gold leaf specimen.”

The Kautz gold specimen is the largest single piece of gold mined in North America since the 1880s. Between 1849 and 1880 several large masses of gold were found in California. None of them exist today.

Just before World War II, several miners in the Mother Lode encountered large pockets of gold weighing several thousand ounces, but none as single masses or crystallized. The Kautz specimen is unique in that it is not only the largest mass of gold specimen found in California since the turn of the century, but it is also the largest specimen of crystallized gold in existence today. Of equal importance, it is gold in the rarest form - crystallized. 

If you go

WHAT: Ironstone Heritage Museum

WHERE: 1894 6 Mile Rd., Murphys

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily