When the gold rush happened in Australia around the middle of the 1800s, most of the gold ended up in Melbourne’s Treasury building located on what we now know as William Street. However, so much gold was found in western Victoria that the treasury building was unable to house all of it. In 1857, a young architectural draftsman, John James Clark was commissioned to design a new Treasury building that would serve as more than just a depository but as the principal administrative office.
In the gold fields, diggers exchanged their gold nuggets for cash or cheques. There were professional gold buyers who operated in the gold fields in small tents or out of rough, temporary sheds. There gold buyers negotiated their prices right there and then and often times, they offered less money than banks or bullion dealers in Melbourne. These gold buyers would then ship the gold to the city and sell it to city banks for more than what they paid to make a profit.
Having gold buyers set up shop at the dig sites themselves was convenient for prospectors. If a digger found gold in Ballarat, he would have had to travel some 113km to the city of Melbourne or 89 km to Geelong. The country was rough. He could have been ambushed by Bushrangers and his gold stolen. Diggers hated travelling such long distances because they feared that someone else might stumble on gold whilst they were not there. To protect prospectors travelling with gold to Melbourne city a gold escort service was launched by the government in 1951. They charged a shilling per ounce of gold being transported from as far as Bunyinyong to Melbourne through Geelong. Other armed guard escort companies were launched to guard gold, however, no matter how guarded a transport wagon could be there was always men will to take a pistol and rob the wagons on their way from the gold field to gold buyers in Melbourne.
Gold prices varied a lot from one site to the next. In the mid-1850s, the price of gold was about £3 per ounce, but it could be lower at certain dig sites. Some gold buyers offered as little as £2.50 per ounce. The return on the gold sent to the United Kingdom which was roughly £4 an ounce.
Shipping played an important role in the economy of the god rushes. Ships carried the vast umber of immigrants seeking to make their fortunes by prospecting for gold and it also carried off a vast amount of gold to meet a growing global demand for gold. Sailing vessels became faster and soon the journey from Melbourne to London could be made in under 3 months. The Victorian gold rush resulted in one of the largest mass migration in the history of the world. People came from all over Europe, America, China and various other countries. The population of Melbourne rose from 97,489 in December 1951 to 168,321 the following year.
Many people who came worked the Goldfields, but a significant number took advantage of the opportunity to service other needs that the growing populace had. Gold buyers Melbourne became rich by servicing the immediateneeds of prospectors to get cash for the gold they had, which is what they still do to this day except they buy old gold jewellery, bullion and scrap gold and sell it to refineries to be recycled.
The gold rush transformed Melbourne from a colonial service town into a metropolis in less than a decade. As the city prospered, its cultural life changed. Theatres were built, world renowned actors like Vaughan Brooke presented plays, orchestras and virtuoso opera singers presented beautiful shows and many creative people found a space to blossom and showcase their talents to captive audiences. Sports became an important leisure activity. People banded together to form political parties that campaigned for different rights.
The gold mining industry itself evolved. Small bands of prospectors were soon replaced by mining companies with rights to dig and bring up gold to the surface. By late 1860, the gold rush had lost its momentum and annual discoveries began to dwindle. Big mining companies financed deep mining operations. The era of the lucky panner was over and so gold buyers Melbourne had to reassess how they conducted business