The news in 1848 of James Marshall’s discovery of gold at Sutter’s mill in California changed the wealth and reach of the nation. Farmers dropped their plows, sailors abandoned ship, and Chinese and others sailed across the oceans to seek their fortunes in mines and streams. These lands were often left devastated. Plentiful gold was minted into coins, made into jewelry, and financed the growth and statehood of California.
Many participated in gold fever by purchasing inexpensive gold jewelry. Just before the gold rush, Englishman Thomas Lowe brought knowledge of gold plating to the American jewelry industry.