Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Memories of the gold rush days

Chinese miner's cottage, Arrowtown

They used to put it into teeth. They still use it to make jewelry. But today, an awful lot of the stuff sits in bank vaults in the form of ingots. It's gold, and it's looking more attractive with the passing of every day.

In my curio cabinet, I have some artefacts from the days of the 1860s gold rush in Central Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. One is a ceramic flask with Chinese characters on it that indicate it originally held some kind of liquor. Another is a tiny medicine bottle that bears the words "Miracle baby" , again in Chinese characters. Yet another - one of my most prized possessions - is a tiny opium bottle.

Many such items were brought to New Zealand by the Chinese gold prospectors who responded to the finding of gold at Gabriel's Gully in 1861. They were not the only ones who rushed to the area: prospectors also came from Australia and California.

And now, once again, we are seeing a surge of interest in the precious metal, as currencies enter a period of volatility. This has pushed its price to more than $US1000 ($NZ1268) an ounce, and prompted Heritage Gold to "look at further development" of the Talisman gold mine near Waihi. The Talisman mine comprises the Maria, Crown/Welcome and Mystery veins.

The latter, a new vein, has shown "significant gold intersections" during sampling operations, the company says. Maybe we should all go panning during our next holidays.

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