Treasure Is Bigger in Fiction
"That is nearly ten tons in gold. It does not have to look big."
—Mr. Bent, Making Money
Next time you get a chance, pop into your local jewelry store and take a look at the gems. Notice anything about them? They're all tiny, on the order of the size of a pinhead. If you pried every stone in the place loose from its setting and piled them up,
you would be arrested the entire heap would probably fit in a soup pot. In Real Life, gem-quality stones larger than a person's fingernail are so rare that they are almost never for sale on the open market. This doesn't apply in fiction, where a single gem can easily be the size of your fist... head... torso... you get the idea. It's also not very uncommon if gems that are mined are already cut.
When it comes to gold, the problem is not size (unless you're talking City of Gold quantities) but weight. Most of us only ever see gold in tiny quantities (and usually alloyed with lighter metals) so it's hard to notice that it's more than twice the density of lead. A standard gold bar weighs about thirty pounds, so if the guys pulling off The Caper are carrying more than one or two at a time, they're not going to be hard to catch.
In Video Games, it gets even more ridiculous. Not only are gemstones enormous, but the same thing largely applies to money or even pieces of jewelry, especially in platform games. In video games, this is also often done for convenience because finding coins, jewelry or rings as small as a thumbnail can be rather hard since that would often mean that they would take up a space of a size less than a pixel. (Compare Units Not to Scale.) Of course, characters themselves have enough Hammerspace to fit a lot of them in their pockets.
Additionally there is often some You Fail Geology Forever (or possibly Everything's Better with Sparkles) in cartoons referencing valuable minerals, particularly diamonds. In fiction you'll often see a mineral faceted, polished, and/or sparkling straight out of the ground. In Real Life, clean and perfectly formed crystals are rare in nature, and most rough gems (at least to the inexpert eye) just look like dirty pebbles. We call this All-Natural Gem Polish, a closely related trope.
Works with huge gemstones
- The Mummy Returns has a pyramid topped with an approximately man-sized diamond. At the end, Jonathan grabs it while suspended from a dirigible, though its weight should realistically be enough to dislocate his shoulders were he to try such a thing.
- The diamond in Snatch has a diameter of about 4-5 centimetres (1.6 inches) and weighs 86 carats. Notably, everyone in the film who knows anything about jewelry makes a huge deal about its size.
- Invoked in-universe in Moving Pictures, in which the faux-tunnel used to film the mining scene in Blown Away had cut-glass gemstones the size of chickens set into its walls.
- In The Worm Ouroboros by E R Eddison we have this in the description of the king's palace:
But the great wonder of this chamber, and a marvel to behold, was how the capital of every one of the four-and-twenty pillars was hewn from a single precious stone [...] all hewn from faultless gems, thrice the bulk of a big man's body
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Ascension", Orlin makes a large emerald for Major Carter, destroying her microwave in the process. When Carter remarks about how large the gem is, Orlin claimed it was difficult to figure out the gem's typical size from a book.
- The page illustration comes from an episode of The Pink Panther cartoon. Although he treats it as too heavy to lift, he easily flips it end over end to move it.
- Boulder Dash and Repton
- The Sonic the Hedgehog series has the Chaos Emeralds, seven fist-sized gems of varying colors, and the Master Emerald, a gemstone the size of a full-grown man.
- Wacky Races NES game.
- Jazz Jackrabbit, the whole first area where there are huge gems inside the ground that are already cut.
- RuneScape. Despite this, gems can be cut within a second.
- Spelunky features gemstones that are the size of your character's torso.
- Even in Mega Man games. Example - Jewel Man's stage.
- Bubble Bobble series: Rainbow Islands, Bubble Symphony, and Bubble Memories.
- NES version of A Boy and His Blob has blue gemstones larger than the Boy himself.
- The gems in Crash Bandicoot series.
- Since Wario is obsessed with money, nearly every game in the Wario Land and Wario Ware series has very large pieces of treasure.
- The Big Bad of Wario World is a giant, evil purple gemstone with magical powers.
- In the "Diamond Dig" microgame in Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgame$ for GBA, Wario drops into a recess in the ground to land behind a diamond as big as his head.
- In Minecraft, you can make tools out of diamond.
- Wizards and Warriors games have these all over the place.
- In the Speed Slice challenge of Wii Sports Resort, giant diamonds are one of the possible objects to cut. Don't ask how it's possible.
- The gems floating around in the Spyro the Dragon series are almost as big as Spyro.
- Dangerous Dave, what big gems do your games have.
- Hocus Pocus had large gemstones floating mid-air.
- One of the maps in City of Heroes is a cave with enormous gemstones in the walls, easily as big as your character. Presumably these gemstones are so common that they're not worth mining, especially given the danger of being nobbled by supervillains while down there.
- In Crystal Caves the eponymous crystals are the size of your protagonist.
- Legend of Kyrandia has the Kyragem, a powerful magical artifact. It is roughly as wide as a regular kitchen table and set into the ground.
- Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo: The diamond found by Kenichi and Sacchi while spelunking is roughly the size of a fist.
- Erfworld has damn big gems. They're almost bigger than the (admittedly short) people of its world.
- The Easy Breather: In The Frame-Up, the Rwanda Ruby is about the size of Harriet Flynn's head.
- Grist in Homestuck. Basic rule: the bigger is the monster you kill, the bigger are the pieces of grist you get.
- DuckTales (1987) - Woohoo!
- You should see the NES game, where every treasure (all worth $1 million) at the end of every level is huge, even giant coins.
- Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs introduced the Dwarfs by showing their mining operation, in which they dug out pre-cut gems averaging the size of Dopey's eyes.
- The picture above is from the Pink Panther short Pink Ice.
- The original film that began The Pink Panther franchise also features a gem of considerable size and weight.
- In The Rescuers, Madame Medusa uses Penny to get the Devil's Eye, supposedly the biggest diamond in existence.
- In the Futurama episode "Where the Buggalo Roam", the native Martians sold their land for what they thought was a glass bead, which they plan to crush Kif with. It turns out to be a gigantic diamond. After the protagonists explain how much it's worth the Martians decide they don't need their land back.
"This planet's a dump anyway. We'll buy a NEW planet and CALL it holy. With cash like this, who's gonna argue?"
- On an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes, Heloise, as part of a instructional video on dating, is given a large diamond ring. She tests to see if it is real by using it to cut up a mirror. And the guy who gave it to her.
- One episode of Jimmy Neutron has Jimmy and friends making use of boulder-sized, polished, and cut diamonds they found sticking out of a mountain face...
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, all the gems and jewels are... quite big. And numerous enough that Rarity can make just about anything she wants Gem-Encrusted, which is her design trick of choice. Spike can also eat them by the bowlful without anyone getting mad.
- Richie Rich regularily uses oversized gemstones for mundane purposes, such as doorknobs or bike handles.
- The Looney Tunes short Ali Baba Bunny had a treasure room chock full of huge gems. Daffy Duck tries to abscond with one.
- The Bahia emerald: 840 lbs, 380 kg, 180,000 carats.
- The biggest diamonds in the universe are located in the white dwarf stars with carbon cores. Technically they're enormous single diamonds, but good luck mining them...
- Also, it's unlikely that they actually look like jewels, despite of having diamond composition - most of the diamonds used in diamond-edged blades, among other things, look rather like gray dust to a bare eye.
- Additionally, there's the planet PSR J1719-1438 b, which probably is a diamond the size of Jupiter.
- Carbon-rich planets in general would likely contain thick layers of underground diamond due to the carbon crust being heated and compressed. If these layers were subsequently lifted above the surface by tectonic processes, such planets could potentially have mountains of diamond. However, as noted these would not look shiny.
Works with huge money and jewelry
- One Garfield comic had him singing on the fence for a Boy Scout troop from a made-up island. After one of the scouts throws a boot at him, Garfield angrily tells them to at least throw money if they must throw something at him. Next panel has him being knocked over by a large object and commenting that he forgot that the only currency on that island was "forty-pound chariot wheels".
- Not exactly a newspaper comic, but a serial called "Wormy" that was featured in Dragon magazine used this trope. Seen here, When Jed enters a pub to buy a drink.
- In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the exchange rate of eight Ningis to one Pu "is simple enough, but since a Ningi is a triangular rubber coin 6,800 miles along each side, no-one has ever collected enough to own one Pu."
- The exact size of Galleon coins used by the Wizarding World in Harry Potter is unclear, but they do seem to be improbably large -- a description from Goblet of Fire which calls them "the size of hubcaps" is almost certainly exaggeration, but still implies the coins are relatively cumbersome compared to Muggle currency.
- The Super Mario Bros.. series has coins as tall as small Mario. Lots of games also feature special coins, such as those with Yoshi's likeness, which are larger than even large Mario.
- La-Mulana has coins as large as Lemeza himself.
- In the NES game called Noah's Ark, there were some large coins.
- Mighty Bomb Jack
- Magic Sword
- Duck Tales games often have some large rings to collect.
- The Legend of Zelda, naturally. Rupees are as large as Link's sprite in the original game, as well as several handheld games. Recent games have most rupees represented as slightly smaller, although the large-denomination rupees still closely match Adult!Link for size.
- Link also holds everything up, and it's exactly the size of Link's sprite.
- Bell bags in Animal Crossing series are drawn much larger than would fit in the character's pocket.
- Banana coins, bear coins, and the like in Donkey Kong Country series.
- Serious Sam II had coin pickups which give points when picked up and like any decent item in the game, constantly spinning mid-air.
- Surprisingly, this has been Truth in Television at least once. Yap Island's stone coins (called rai) were stone wheels with holes; the largest one discovered measured four meters in diameter. These are still used today in ceremonial purposes. Sometimes the inhabitants agree that a stone has changed hands, and leave it where it lies. One of them is legal tender despite lying at the bottom of the ocean.
- The world's largest gold coin is the size of a large pizza.
- And the world's largest copper coin is a big copper plate weighing about 40 pounds.