WHAT: A gold nugget nicknamed "Lightning Bolt," weighing almost 40 troy ounces and standing nearly 11 inches tall, sold for $162,500 earlier this month in a Nature & Science sale at Heritage Auctions. The unusually large specimen was estimated to bring up to $100,000. Found in Victoria, Australia, it is top quality.

MORE: This nugget has everything going for it, from size and aesthetics (hence the "Lightning Bolt" tag) to weight.

SMART COLLECTORS KNOW: Throughout history, gold has been a universal standard for wealth and status. Wars were fought, civilizations were destroyed and empires were conquered for the precious metal. The appeal is not likely to diminish.

HOT TIP: Only 2 percent of all gold mined is found in nugget form. Far rarer than diamonds, large nuggets are valuable because of size and because almost all raw gold already found has been melted down for pure content. According to a Heritage expert, it is estimated that all the gold ever mined on Earth would fit into a cube of 20 meters.

BOTTOM LINE: Professionally cleaned for auction, the nugget was the top seller in the sale. A complex, textured surface and the lack of numerous quartz crystals (both positive features) added to its appeal. Other gold nuggets in the sale brought $23,700 to $42,500.

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