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Gold nuggets, long associated with the Klondike, become even rarer

Fewer of the larger gold nuggets are available while demand from collectors continues.

Fewer of the larger gold nuggets available while demand from collectors continues

Gold nugget jewelry, with a large nugget in the upper left, at Murdoch's Gems in Whitehorse, is an art centred in Yukon and Alaska. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Gold nuggets, almost synonymous with the Yukon, are becoming more rare in a territory where a gold panner is on the licence plates.

Tara Christie, who grew up on various placer mining creeks in the Klondike region, said it has always been the case that some creeks had nuggets while others had hardly any.

But she said the valley bottoms where nuggets are more likely to be found have been mined out or placer miners are now re-working those old claims collecting fine gold missed during the original go-over. They're also working new ground on higher up tributaries where there won't be many nuggets to be found.

Uta Reilly has owned and operated Klondike Nugget and Ivory in Dawson City for the past 30 years. (Submittted by Uta Reilly)

Uta Reilly, who has owned and operated Klondike Nugget and Ivory Shop in Dawson City for the past 30 years, said she sees fewer of the larger nuggets for sale.

"I know I have a couple from the Atlin (B.C.) area in the store right now, but again that particular miner had mined for a while and then finally put some bigger ones out for purchasing," she said.

Reilly said it's in part because the larger placer operations have set their screens to only separate fine gold out of the earth. Any nuggets would pass through the sluicing process without being noticed.

Murdoch's Gems first opened in Dawson City in the 1940s, but has long since relocated to Main St. in Whitehorse. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Murdoch's Gems on Main Street in Whitehorse has been making gold nugget jewelry since the 1940s, when the original store opened in Dawson City.

Manager Troy Ford said jewelry made with gold nuggets is mostly limited to Yukon and Alaska and a hit with tourists who visit the shop.

While the larger nuggets have become more rare, he said they're still available.

"There's always going to be the small miner, still operating, the one or two person operators," said Ford.

Japanese visitors Maho Koiso, left, and Chihiro Koiso get to see and touch a gold nugget. (Dave Croft/CBC)

He said miners and others occasionally bring gold nuggets into the shop to use as currency to purchase jewelry.

Christie said the demand is still there and with fewer nuggets available, they become more valuable.

"Nuggets are worth more money and I think they're increasing in value over time, there are collectors coming to Dawson specifically looking for nuggets," she said.

With files from Mike Rudyk

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