Though no exact date for the discovery of gold exists, what is known is that as early as 2500 B.C. the ancients created gold shrines, idols, plates, cups, vases and jewelry. The search for gold declined during the Early and High Medieval ages, when it was replaced by silver coins. But by the fifteenth century, renewed demand for gold helped to launch the Age of Discovery. And in the 1500s, Spanish explorers searched Mexico’s Aztec areas and Peru’s Incas land for gold.
Gold has been used throughout the ages to represent power, beauty, purity and accomplishment. Currently, gold is used in the United States for money and investments, jewelry, medicine, food and drink, industry, electronics, aerospace, and industrial chemistry.
Properties Of Gold
Gold has many specific properties that lend themselves to its use.
Resistance to corrosion
Soft, supple and flexible
Infrared (heat) reflectivity
About 78% of all the gold consumed each year in the U.S. is used in the manufacture of jewelry. But since pure gold is too soft for the creation of jewelry, craftsmen combine the gold with other metals like palladium, silver or platinum to increase its strength and durability.
Gold’s high value and its limited supply have made it ideal for using it as money. The first transactions used actual pieces of gold or silver. When that became too cumbersome, paper money was printed, backed by gold held in a safe place. The “Gold Standard” began in 1879, giving Americans the ability to trade in $20.67 in bills for one ounce of gold. The Standard system was scrapped in 1933, and in 1971, the U.S. severed any links between dollar bills and gold.
Gold’s most important industrial use is for electronics. A tiny amount of gold, about $.50 is used in every cell phone, calculator, digital platform, global positioning system, and other small electronics. It is also used in large items like televisions and desktop and laptop computers.
Every space vehicle launched by NASA contained extensive amounts of gold. It was placed inside all the circuits because it is a dependable conductor and connector.
Dentists use gold alloys for orthodontic appliances, fillings, bridges and crowns, because it is not chemically active and because it is aesthetically pleasing. Gold alloy is added to pharmaceuticals for some illnesses. Gold is also used in doctor’s offices and hospitals for medical diagnosis, surgical instruments, electronic equipment and life-support devices.
Gold’s extreme flexibility allows it to be molded into thin sheets, just a fraction of an inch thick, called gold leaf. These sheets are often applied to church steeples, building exteriors and interiors, picture frames, molding and furniture.
Gold, because of its expense, is generally only used when a less-expensive option does not work. Once the decision has been made to use gold, it is not likely to be abandoned for another metal. Hence, the use of gold is bound to expand as society searches for a sophisticated and reliable material. Gold is indeed a metal of the future, spurred on by growing demand, few substitutes and a limited supply.