Block of the Week: Gold Ore


In 1848, carpenter James W. Marshall was helping to construct a sawmill in the town of Coloma, California, when he came across something rather strange in a nearby stream - small flecks of a "bright, yet malleable" metal. After performing some tests, Marshall quickly identified the substance as our block of the week - gold ore.

Word quickly spread, and soon all able-bodied men in the area had abandoned everything to go gold-hunting. More and more prospectors arrived - about 300,000 in total, forcing Native Californians off their land and into slavery, disease and starvation. But the effects on California were transformative - the state went from being poor and sparsely populated backwater to a global reputation as the "golden state" in just a few short years.

Image credit: Bobak Ha'Eri // CC BY 3.0 (this is the exact spot where Marshall found his gold)

A few of the miners in the "gold rush" (as it became known) stumbled onto huge fortunes, but most didn't. On average, only about half ended up in profit. Instead, the real money was made by traders who sold supplies, entertainment, housing and transportation to the miners. Food, sewing and laundry were also in great demand. Among the merchants who did well for themselves was a German-American named Levi Strauss, who invented a style of "riveted denim pants" that we know today as "jeans".

As for Marshall, who started the gold rush in the first place, things didn't go so well for him. After finishing the sawmill, he was forced off the land by the arriving hordes of prospectors and fled the area. He started a vineyard, which failed within a decade, and then became a partner in a gold mine which yielded nothing and left him bankrupt. He died in 1885 in a small cabin, penniless.

Uh, we should probably talk about Minecraft, shouldn't we? That's kind of my job. So, um... gold ore is pretty nice. It's been around basically forever - it was added very early on in Minecraft's development, at the same time as sand, logs and last week's block - gravel.

You get gold out of it, which you'll know all about if you read our Block of the Week for gold a while back. Gold's ore usually shows up in veins of 4-8 blocks in the lowest parts of the map making it pretty rare, but you'll have an easier time tracking it down if you go hunting in a mesa biome, just like the Californian prospectors did.

Once you track some gold ore down, you'll need an iron or diamond pick to mine it or it'll crumble into useless little tiny bits. Then you can smelt it into gold bars at a handy furnace. Which is... well, let's just say that gold in Minecraft isn't really worth as much as gold in real life. It's mostly just for decoration.

And that's fine, because otherwise you'd have a gold rush on your hands. And if we've learnt anything from James Marshall, it's that that would be a very bad thing indeed.

Written by
Duncan Geere

Share this story

Block block block...