To the naked eye gold and fools gold look quite different, or rather they look the same except that fools gold looks a lot better.
“It glitters in a way real gold don’t do,” says Snitchy McSnitch-Snitch. “That’s what suckered them in.”
Mr. McSnitch-Snitch has helped the Bendigo Standard uncover the truth of Bendigo’s past.
In 1851 bank teller and bespectacled spectacle Squinty McKenzie was first handed nuggets at the Castlemaine Bank.
“He couldn’t believe his eyes, and indeed had trouble focusing them in general,” said Mr. McSnitch-Snitch.
McKenzie had never seen gold before and paid a handsome sum for the find.
“From there the goose was cooked.”
Unaware of any falsehood, McKenzie stockpiled the “gold” from Bendigo like he was building a Fort Knox, earning commendations and branch manager status in the process.
“People began handing in rocks they had painted yellow,” states Mr. McSnitch-Snitch. “Oh, you couldn’t get yellow paint for miles. Old Squinty must have had more yellow paint on rocks than Dorothy had covering bricks.”
The “gold” finds continued unabated until McKenzie’s death in 1912, after which point there was a lull.
“Then good old Cross-Eyed Smith came along at the Bank of Victoria, and we were in business again,” recounts Mr. McSnitch-Snitch.
As gold has no functional value, being prized due to historical scarcity and use in jewelry, no tests on the hoard was ever required.
“What would be the point?” explains Mr. McSnitch-Snitch. “It would only be identifying one borderline useless metal for another one. By claiming it’s gold we got some bloody nice pubs to drink in, and banks got to pretend they had stuff of commercial value.”
“It’s win, win.”
There are veins of iron pyrite, aka fools gold, yet to be dug up below Bendigo, and a countless number of rocks to be painted yellow.
It is this lure of riches that continues to bring people to Bendigo today.