Dawson,AK - c1898 - Spectacular Mathey Gold Nugget Watch and Nugget Chain :

Currency:USD Category:Antiques / Jewelry & Watches Start Price:20,000.00 USD Estimated At:40,000.00 - 75,000.00 USD
Dawson,AK - c1898 - Spectacular Mathey Gold Nugget Watch and Nugget Chain :
Over three to four decades of collecting, every few years a spectacular gold watch from the Gold Rush regions comes into the marketplace. We’ve seen perhaps a dozen great California gold quartz watches and one spectacular Alaska gold rush watch. Watches of this caliber were usually made by local jewelers for a mining client of substantial import – perhaps a mine owner or wealthy merchant. Only rarely are they ever identified on a personal basis. When this watch came in from one of the quintessential collectors, we lost our breaths.
It is a fully covered nugget watch from the Dawson gold rush of 1898, complete with a watch chain made of nuggets. The chain is 17”, weighing 2Troy ounces. At the center is a tie stud connected by a piece of gold with “Dawson, Y. T.” embossed. On the reverse side of the stud is the jewelers mark “Dawson 18k”, though no name is given. A 1” diameter gold medallion finishes the long chain with a three dimensional view of Dawson on one side, and two jewels (red [ruby]and white [a diamond replacement rhinestone added later) , nuggets, and a small ½” US Military insignia, clearly added after the piece was made. This is one of only three gold nugget watches we know in western collections, and is the finest quality watch of the three by far, though not necessarily the most ornate, yet it is truly spectacular.
The 2” in diameter watch was made by E. Mathey, one of the premier names in gold pocket watches from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s period, with the cover plate and reverse plate entirely covered with small nuggets. The inner works are 14kt, serial number 21152, of Swiss manufacture. The works cover plate has E. Mathey handsomely engraved on the outer plate along with the serial number. The watch appears in working condition, though there are only two hand engraved old jewelers marks inside indicating maintenance.
The wearing of bold, expensive, showy watch chains and expensive watches by wealthy mining men was commonplace in formal settings. The fancy gold nugget covered or gold quartz covered watches were an obvious sign of success and thus wealth, their trophy for all to see at important public gatherings. These watches would not have been worn in a normal business setting of day to day work, but rather on special occasions. In this manner, many ingots of gold or silver were also worn by mine owners on their watch chains, by superintendants and financiers as a sign of success, boldly hanging from the center of the chain. We have been fortunate to offer a number of these ingots in past sales.
Accompanying the watch are two choice Dawson gold souvenirs of the period – a wonderful, detailed gold shovel, nugget and sinking bucket stickpin with “98” attached on a gold chain (signifying 1898 as the year of the Dawson Rush), 2.5” long, with “Sept. 14, 1898” engraved on the back, a proud and meaningful date to the original owner, whose story is now lost to history. A second piece, a beautiful and fancy men’s gold ring embossed “Dawson” with figures of the mining industry all over, made of 14kt gold. This ring is similar in construction to the well known gold rings from Goldfield and Tonopah, Nevada, made circa 1905.
The story of Dawson is one that has been told and retold. It is well recounted in fascinating fashion by Pierre Berton in Klondike Fever (1958). Dawson is located just over the United States border in Yukon Territory. Serious placer gold mining started in 1896, when $300,000 in gold was mined. Within two years the gold coming out of Dawson reached $10 million, and in the first ten years of the Dawson rush, $112,804,362 in gold came from Dawson, highlighted by $22,275,000 in 1900. Because the Dawson gold fields were only separated from Alaska by a nearby geo-political border, American prospectors streamed into the area, accessing it from Skagway. Fully half the gold mined there made its way back into the United States, according to G. Carleton Woodward in his article “Klondike Gold Production” in Ore and Metals Magazine, page 200, May 20, 1907 published in Denver.
This watch is a spectacular artifact of the Alaska/Yukon Gold Rush, worthy of the finest collections in America.