Special Exhibition
Cluster of octahedral hopper gold crystals - “The Eagle”
Cluster of octahedral hopper gold crystals - “The Eagle”; 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.0 inches. 154.5 grams (4.97 troy ounces); mined in the 1850s in Placer County, California. Photo by Harold Moritz
Crystallized leaf gold - “The Little Flame”
Crystallized leaf gold - “The Little Flame”; 405.9 g (13.05 troy ounces); Eagle’s Nest Mine, Forest Hills, Michigan Bluff, Placer County, California. Photo by Harold Moritz
Gold plates on and in quartz
Gold plates on and in quartz; octahedral gold crystals along with dendritic gold – “Colorado Quartz 1”; 7.0 x 5.5 x 5.0 inches. 1825 g (58.68 troy ounces); Colorado Quartz Mine, Mariposa County, California. Photo by Harold Moritz

California Gold

Modern Marvels from the Golden State

April 14, 2018 – Ongoing


The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is having a gold rush. This very special collection showcases 23 stunning pieces of California gold, including unusually large examples as well as smaller ones featuring extremely rare crystallographic forms.


Leaves of gold overlap, intersect, and form jagged branches. Other pieces resemble gilded coral formations, while the largest specimen measures about a foot across.  Most were mined over the past 25 years, though two specimens of crystallized gold were mined in the 1850s during the California Gold Rush.


“This is one of the finest collections of gold specimens ever put on display anywhere in the world,” said Jay Ague, the Peabody’s curator of mineralogy and meteoritics.


The exhibit also features a collection of historical instruments and artifacts related to gold mining in California, including a mining pan filled with gold dust, a balance for weighing specimens, an instrument for measuring the velocity of air in mines to ensure proper ventilation, a field chemical lab called a “blowpipe kit,” and a silver candlestick decorated with mining-related symbols that miners used for illumination while underground.


Looking further back in time, the display provides an opportunity to recall a Yale connection to the Gold Rush: Seven years before gold was discovered in the American River at Sutter’s Mill, Yale professor James Dwight Dana had completed a tour of California’s Sacramento Valley. A pioneering geologist and mineralogist, Dana identified the region as a potential source of gold, remarking that the rocks there “resemble in many parts the gold bearing rocks of other regions: but the gold, if any there be, remains to be discovered.”


The gold specimens and artifacts are on loan to the Peabody from The Mineral Trust.