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Mystery Nugget


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Just a little back story...

I don't have a truck, just a car and a mini van.

I really wanted to know if I could carry all my metal detecting stuff in a backpack while riding a mountain bike.

I did a test run today in to the Simi Valley mountain (hills) area, and although I was huffing and puffing I was able to go places where I could never get to by car.

The best thing is I found some weird metal nugget that I can't identify. Please help if you have ever seen this before.


I did a short video to show you how some internal facets shine.

Here are a couple of pictures.

I found a total of over 8 grams of this stuff. Some of it was rounded and some not so.

The info on the round nugget in the pictures are as follows.

1.65 grams

0.245 ml

Density about 6.7 g/ml


Highly conductive

At first I thought it might be casted aluminum, because it can have that crystal look to it, but it's much too heavy for aluminum.

I always seem to find the strange stuff!

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks Mike F. for the tip on using Whink. That stuff really worked well on cleaning up what I found today. I can't believe that it did nothing to that other nugget though.





Edited by HagenT
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Looks like lead to me.

Black Powder Balls?

Lead it twice as heavy, and really soft.

This stuff is can be scratched (very shiny) with a knife but it's not malleable like lead.

The darker photos I did not use the flash because I wanted you to see the shiny facets. I've never seen facets in lead before.

Thanks for the comments!

I wonder if it's worth going back to check for more.

Just a note: I did find what I think was a carbon rod out of an old batter near by, but I have no idea if this metal was part of a battery or not. I don't think so....

Edited by HagenT
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It is aluminum from a camp fire.


In most spots they are worth a lot more than the gold you will recover.

Aluminum has a density of 2.7 g/ml

I've found my fair share of aluminum !

Do you get this type of stuff from a deteriorated nickel metal hydride battery?

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What you have there are ALIEN EGGS I wouldn't leave them in the house over night. :2mo5pow:

No just kidding , the one in the video looks like earth rock I have come across similar pieces here in Mohave County AZ.

And don't feed them after midnight :)

It does look very much like a rock in that the facet shines at certain angles and just under the skin, and it's quite grayish in color but some of that is because the acid was eating it away, but it detects well, and I put a multi meter on it and it's very conductive like copper.

On some of the more ugly pieces I could put a torch to it and see what happens.

Edited by HagenT
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That appears to be babbit, the tin/lead mixture used for sealing pipes and pumps ... I've found a good bit of it over the years ... Cheers, Unc

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I think Ron has it right. Babbitt metal. Specific gravity is close to tin. Obvious and often seen gray tin oxidized surface. Obviously been melted. Soft bright white tin alloy interior.

You will find this stuff in the most out of the way places. It has been used since the 1840's and was a familiar and valuable addition to the tools of westward expansion. It is still used today for engine bearings. It was common even into the 1950's for mechanics to cast their own crankshaft bearings. I cast quite a few bearings myself from this metal while maintaining my farm equipment in the 1970's.

Having been the main go to metal for bearings from wagon wheels to steam engines to 4 stroke engines for nearly 200 years it's not surprising that you can still find dribbles of this cheap casting material all over the western landscape.

To me it is a fascinating mental exercise to discover the reason for any particular babbitt metal spill. If you look closely you can sometimes find the shavings and trimmings from where the babbitt over pour was cleaned up with chisels or knives around the bearing shell. Some of the pieces you have in your first picture might be trimmings. Sometimes you can find the sprew "button" where the babbitt filled the lubrication holes in the bearing shell. All of these, along with the physical location, can be clues as to what the age, and purpose, of the pour was.

In the early 70,s I found pounds of this stuff in a remote location on a bench above the upper Merced river. It seems someone was trying to keep a gas powered water pump going by supplying it with a steady supply of new bearings. Whether it needed those new bearings because it was worn out or if it was the lack of skill of the bearing maker I never determined. They left the pump and some other stuff behind. It looked like the stuff was from the 30's. I hope they found some good color.

Tin crystalizes readily. That's part of why it works so well for an alloy in bearing metals. Here is a close up photo of a modern babbitt metal.


Recognize the obvious tin crystal structure? This particular modern babbitt is composed of about 85% tin, 10% antimony and 5% copper.

Not surprisingly this metal alloy would have a specific gravity very close to the one you derived for your mystery nuggets. :)

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Hi Clay,

Thanks for the great in depth response.

I found this in a wooded ravien, not too far from where a dwell once stood. I found old pipes next to the almost dry stream, so this could very well have been used in a pump of sorts. I did not find any junk near it, except what looked like a single carbon rod that may have come out of an old battery. I might just have to buff it out a bit and see what she looks like. Thanks for the help :)

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