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All that glistens                                                March 2010  

All that glistens

GoldGold is still one of the most exciting metals; it has a lustrous warm colour, it doesn’t tarnish or rust, and it still carries value plus an atmosphere of excitement and desire.

Even better, it is actually a really useful metal with a number of industrial uses.

Gold is a pure element that is chemically inert. This means it doesn’t react with other chemicals which is why it retains its colour for hundreds and thousands of years.

Gold is also relatively soft and this is a very useful property because it enables the metal to be hammered flat into a very thin sheet or stretched into a thin wire. This means gold can be used in intricate decorations and also very thin sheets can be cut for gold leaf decoration.

Because of its beauty and also its rarity, gold has always been highly valued in human society. How exciting it must have been when the first people discovered gold; certainly it was used and prized by the time the Pharoahs were building their gold laden tombs 4000 years ago. The amazing golden treasures within the tomb of Tutankhamen in ancient Egypt give a good illustration of how this civilization treasured their golden possessions.

As other civilizations came and went, in turn they all put enormous value on gold. Gold played a major role in Greek history. Gold Greek coins were in use around 700 BC and of course gold features heavily in stories about King Midas and other Greek legends. The Romans used gold widely including for coinage, and many other countries took up gold as a base for their coinage.

Gold was very reliable and kept its value well, and because of this here in the UK and in other countries gold was adopted as the basis for the currency. At the start of the 21st century, America had managed to stockpile the world’s largest amount of gold - over 8,000 tonnes - with much of this held in the famous Fort Knox.

Gold bearing veins can be found across the world, and the discovery of a seam of gold in the ground can attract huge interest. The big gold rushes of California and Australia are legendary, but it has always been a rare commodity and today experts say only around 50,000 tonnes of gold remains unmined, about a third of the amount already extracted. Mining industry consensus is that the large gold deposits are also a thing of the past.

Along with jewellery and coinage, gold is also very useful in industry. For instance, it is a good conductor of electricity and because it does not tarnish it is useful for exposed contacts such as in slot-in boards in computer equipment. A very thin coating of gold is sometimes used on glass because it reflects 98% of infra-red light and also reflects ultra-violet light and certain high energy radiation while letting through visible light. This is why it can be useful for the windscreens of high altitude aircraft and even the visors of space suits.

Gold used to be popular in dentistry, although this has now been generally superseded by other more natural looking substances, and gold can be used as a catalyst in certain chemical reactions, such as in the oxidation of carbon monoxide which gives the metal a use in air-conditioning systems.

But for most of us, our contact with gold is with jewellery and it will be unusual if you ever have any pure gold. This is because it is too soft and can easily be damaged. In jewellery, to strengthen the gold it is usually mixed with other metals to make it stronger. You can determine how much pure gold is in an item because of the “carat” system. Pure gold is designated 24 carat gold.

Others are:

  • 9-carat gold is typically 9 parts of gold, 2 of silver, 11 of copper and 2 of zinc.
  • 14-carat gold is typically 14 parts of gold, 1 of silver, 7 of copper and 2 of zinc.
  • 18-carat gold is typically 18 parts of gold, 4 parts of silver and 2 parts of copper.

Sometimes gold can be mixed with other ingredients to make a whiter looking gold, or white gold as it is known.

With its continuing lustre, and still keeping a good price across the world, it seems very likely that gold will remain a favourite metal for years and years to come.


 

Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.

 

 



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