A Nugget of a 44-pound gold nugget leads to a museum, a jewelry store and hopes for a tourism industry in Murphys, Cal.

Most jewelers open a jewelry store first and then use an attention-getting piece of jewelry to create traffic. John Kautz did just the opposite – he acquired a 44-pound gold nugget and then created a jewelry store. Kautz owns Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, Cal., a community in the middle of California’s gold country. He bought the 44-pound nugget, believed to be the largest specimen of crystalline gold in the world, and made it the centerpiece of a museum and jewelry store at his winery. Sonora Mining Co. discovered the nugget in 1992 encased in quartz in a mine near Jamestown in Tuolomne County, about nine miles from the winery. The French government offered to buy the nugget, but Kautz felt it’s such an important part of California history that he bought it in 1994 for an undisclosed price. Its appraised value: $3.5 million. Many people advised Kautz the nugget would end u
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