The Meanings Behind Gold Idioms

Have you ever heard someone say another has a heart of gold? Many things are said to be worth their weight in gold. Where did these idioms come from, and what exactly do they mean?

Gold Standard

Gold Standard

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Where it started: The gold standard was adopted by most countries in the mid-1800s. This standard stated that if someone wanted to trade in their paper money, it would be backed by the government for the same value in gold. What did this achieve? It helped the people to pay for goods and services without having to haul around tons of heavy metal. The value of the money was real, and everyone knew it.

What it means today: The majority of the countries who had originally adopted this standard let it go by the wayside around the time of World War 1. This helped them pay for the war, which wasn’t cheap. Today, however, the phrase “gold standard” is still heavily used. Today, it means the best of the best; it is the standard by which all others are held. If a product is the gold standard, there is nothing better. This term is used for any items with a wide variance of quality.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Glittering Gold

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Where it started: Back in the days of the gold rush, there were many people panning for gold all over the world. However, many found pyrite instead of gold. Otherwise known as fool’s gold, this stone was practically worthless. It looked pretty, and even shined much more than authentic gold. Unfortunately, all that meant was that many fell for Mother Nature’s ruse.

What it means today: The phrase “all that glitters is not gold” is used as a cautionary statement. This phrase warns people who even though something looks great that does not mean it is. Things do not have value simply because they are pretty.

Worth its Weight in Gold

Weight in Gold

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Where it started: This saying has roots back to the Roman Empire. Gold has always been valuable, and because of that, the more you had, the wealthier you were. Of course, the more gold you had, the more it weighed, as well.

What it means today: The meaning hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. Today, the phrase “worth its weight in gold” still means that something is very valuable. However, many times the saying is given to things without a tangible value or weight. If someone says, for example, that their education is worth its weight in gold, they simply mean that they feel their schooling was extremely important and valuable to them.

Heart of Gold

Heart of Gold

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Where it started: Gold has symbolized many things to many cultures through history. Some of the most common things it has represented, however, are luxury and nobility. The positive qualities of the metal are what this phrase point toward.

What it means today: If someone is said to have a heart of gold, it means that they are a kind, caring, loving person that puts others ahead of themselves. This harkens back to the meanings originally placed on the metal—all positive attributes in human nature.

There are many idioms that express the value and importance of gold in human history. For many centuries we have been enamored of the metal, and as we continue to value it we continue to use idioms exemplifying gold regularly.

Panning for Gold Today: Where to Go & How to Succeed

You can find gold in almost any US state. Most places, however, just have trace elements. If you want to make money panning for gold today, you have to know where to go and what method to use.

Gold Creek, Alaska

Gold Creek

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The appropriately named Gold Creek runs through several towns near Juneau, Alaska. If you can stand the long hike, Last Chance Basin also has a reputation as a great place to pan for gold. Few people strike it rich at these locations, but rumor has it that someone found a 3/4 ounce nugget there recently.

You’ll need the standard panning equipment:

  • Shovel
  • Bucket
  • Sieve
  • Small spade
  • Waterproof boots (it gets cold in Alaska!)

You’ll also need dedication. Panning is hard work that requires physical and mental strength. If you get discouraged easily, then you’ve already failed.

Finger Lakes, New York

Gold Finger Lakes

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Gold prospectors have said for years that there isn’t anything worth finding in New York State. It turns out that the old-timers just didn’t have the right technology to get the gold.

If you want to find gold in New York, head to a basin in the Finger Lakes region and start looking in small cracks between rocks. How? You just need some suction.

Before heading out in search of gold, make sure you have a power sluice. It’s essentially a strong water pump attached to a mechanical sieve. Put your hose deep in those cracks to suck out hidden gold.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Gold in Charlotte

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Everyone remembers the California Gold Rush, but history seems to have forgotten about an earlier rush that took place east of Charlotte, North Carolina. Reed’s Gold Mine, as it’s known today, has recently started to attract new treasure hunters willing to wade through the Little Meadow Creek and other nearby waterways.

Don’t expect to find anything like the 17-pound gold rock that started the Gold Rush in 1799 or the 28-pound found by a slave in 1803. Many members of the local Gold Prospectors Association of America chapter haven’t found so much as an ounce.

Still, there’s a lot of potential in the area. John Reed eventually turned to underground mining, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find gold in the water.

American River, California

California Gold

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California banned suction dredging in 2010, so you can’t use the same methods that have made a handful of New York prospectors rich.

Several locations, including American River, however, still let you use panning and metal detector methods to find gold. To make the most of your time, it’s best to use a combination of the methods.

What you’ll need:

  • A metal detector to find large deposits
  • Standard panning equipment
  • Luck

Using a metal detector can increase your chances of finding higher concentrations of gold in the silt, but metal detectors will also tell you start working whenever they find metal trash. That’s why you need luck as well as science to find gold in California rivers.

Do you have any secret spots where you hunt for gold, or have you found that it’s best to where others have already struck it rich?

Death by Gold: Strange Stories from History

You’ve probably heard of death by execution and death by hanging, but what about death by gold? There are several stories in history where people are killed by gold. Take a look at these strange stories throughout time.

Valerian Had Molten Gold Poured Down His Throat

Molten Gold

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It’s rumored that Valerian, a Roman Emperor, was taken prisoner by the Persians because of war and tyranny. The Persian ruler, Shapur, decided to kill Valerian by pouring molten gold down his throat. Basically, the molten gold destroyed Valerian’s esophagus and throat and filled his stomach with gold until it burst. Shapur then stuffed Valerian’s body with straw and used him as a trophy and symbol to others of Persia’s greatness.

Genghis Khan Killed the Governor of Utrar with Molten Gold

Genghis Khan

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Valerian isn’t the only story of a person dying by gold. It’s also rumored that Genghis Khan killed the governor of Utrar after a battle where Genghis lost several of his merchants. The governor of Utrar had molten gold poured in his ears and mouth to torture him before his death. He wasn’t used as a trophy, but this kind of death is pretty cruel.

Crassus Suffered Same Molten Gold Fate

Gold Fate

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Apparently, death by molten gold pops up in several stories because Crassus received the same, cruel punishment. Crassus had been climbing up the Roman political power during the rule of Spartacus. He eventually was awarded the title of consul after showing great leadership during many battles and wars. Crassus was later killed during a battle with the Parthians. He had molten gold poured down in his mouth as a symbol of his greed for wealth.

Death by a Gold Elixir Meant to Preserve Age and Beauty

Gold Elixir

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Well, obviously molten gold is dangerous, but it’s not the only way to be killed by gold. The mistress of King Henry II of France (Diane de Poitieres) poisoned herself with an elixir that contained gold. The elixir was supposed to help her fight the appearance of age, and it must have worked because she was 20 years older than King Henry II but looked the same age. The gold poisoning didn’t occur all at once — it made her hair finer than normal and her skin look like porcelain. However, the youthful benefits of gold probably weren’t worth dying for. Large traces of gold were found in the mistress’s blood after her death, proving she was killed by self-inflicted gold poisoning.

It looks like death by gold is a pretty cruel way to die, whether it is through blood poisoning or molten gold. Do you think it is one of the cruelest punishments?

7 Movies With Gold-Obsessed Characters

Gone are the days of pirates setting out on dangerous voyages in search of hidden treasure and cargo carriers hauling loads of valuable commodities. Today, we live out our fantasies of discovering long-lost treasures on the big screen through the eyes of our favorite heroes and heroines.

The Goonies Find One-Eyed Willie’s Long-Lost Treasure and Save Their Homes

The Goonies

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This Stephen Spielberg film was released in 1985. The story follows a group of teens who discover a lost treasure map and set out in pursuit of the riches, despite facing danger along the way.

Nicolas Cage Fulfills the Family Legacy in National Treasure

National Treasure

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Benjamin Franklin Gates, portrayed by Nicolas Cage, embarks on a quest to discover the greatest treasure in history. He must run from the FBI and out-smart his nemesis along the way, all while finding time to earn the affections of the beautiful Ms. Abigail Chase.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Proves the Destructive Power of Greed

Sierra Madre

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This 1948 film is adapted from B. Traven’s 1927 novel, bearing the same name. Two Americans down on their luck meet up with a gold prospector and set out for the Sierra Madre mountains in search of gold. Dobbs, portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, is the one to uncover gold but soon finds himself engulfed with greed and distrust of his partners.

Trespass: A Failed Update to The Treasure of Sierra Madre


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Trespass debuted in 1992, starring Ice Cube, Ice-T, Bill Paxton and William Sadler. Two firemen (Paxton and Sadler) decide to pursue a hidden treasure in an abandoned building after being given a map by an elderly man who dies in a fire they were attempting to diffuse.

Three Kings Puts a Modern Twist on Treasure Hunting

Three Kings

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Three Kings, released in 1999 and set in the post-Persian Gulf War era, commencing just as the war ends and U.S. troops are wrapping up unfinished business. George Clooney portrays Major Archie Gates, who convinces his fellow troops to search for gold bullion stolen from Kuwait, believed to be hidden in Saddam Hussein’s bunkers.

DuckTales Brings Our Favorite Animated Characters to the Big Screen in Search of Gold


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Enough with the seriousness! DuckTales brings the fun back to treasure hunting with the animated Walt Disney Pictures film, released in 1990. Scrooge McDuck and his loyal grand-nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, embark on a voyage to obtain the Treasure of Collie Baba.

Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain Engages the Teen Crowd Once Again

Gold Diggers

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The 1995 film Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain, starring Anna Chlumsky and Christina Ricci, covers the journey of two troubled young girls who decide to explore the caves under Bear Mountain in search of hidden gold. What they find is far more valuable: Friendship.

These seven films are just a few among the vast collection of movies dedicated to fulfilling our wildest dreams and fantasies of discovering long-lost treasure. Modern adaptations of age-old stories tend to have the most box-office success, especially when driven with strong lead actors, such as Nicolas Cage and George Clooney, or those created by masterminds among the likes of Stephen Spielberg.

Did Pirates Always Sail for Gold?

Pirates, contrary to what’s been depicted in the media, rarely raided random ships spied along the coast. Instead, they targeted prospects using a coordinated approach involving the attainment of pertinent information by spying on conversations in ale houses and other venues. Piracy commenced long prior to the discovery of the New World, after which pirates commonly raided ships transporting gold, silver and other riches from the New World back to Spain.

What’s a Pirate?

Pirate Gold

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A pirate is a sailor who steals goods from other ships. Whether gold, silver, commodities or other goods, a pirate is defined as any seaman who overtakes another vessel in efforts to get whatever valuable possessions might be aboard. When ships were out at sea, especially before modern technology enabled the constant monitoring of incoming threats, they were vulnerable to incoming attackers capable of overtaking their seamen.

Is Piracy Legal?


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Traditional pirates – those we hear about from folklore and other popular stories – often had agreements with their native countries to share any treasures stolen in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Today, nations have come together with a mutual view making piracy a punishable crime.

Why Become a Pirate?

Become a Pirate

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So why would one choose to become a pirate? For some, life on their home vessels was simply so miserable that they opted to become pirates for a better life. Others were taken in by the appeal of the adventure or the voyage, such as Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Carribbean. Still others set out as pirates solely to attain riches, in the form of gold, silver or other valuable jewels and metals.

Pirates Date Back 3,000+ Years

Pirate Gold History

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The word “pirate” was first documented in 140 B.C. by a Roman historian named Polybius. The recognition of gold as a symbol of esteem and decoration began in 4,000 B.C. In 2,500 B.C. gold jewelry was first buried in the Egyptian Tomb of Djer, king of the First Egyptian Dynasty, adding to the value of this commodity. By 1,500 B.C. gold had become the “recognized medium of exchange” between Egypt and other countries.

Piracy Was Not a Glamorous Life

Pirate Gold Treasure

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Despite the promise of gold, silver and other treasures, pirates often lived in misery. Many were captured at sea or sentenced to death. Even as a member of a pirate ship, one was not guaranteed vast fortunes. The captain of the ship was in charge of dispersing goods (otherwise known as loot), meaning he often retained the majority while offering the deck hands a pittance. Pirates determined to have done something wrong or unworthy faced punishments up to or including death.

Piracy Doesn’t Always End in Death

Piracy Facts

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Despite legendary myths that pirates set out to seek and destroy their enemies, or their unknown targets, pirates rarely killed their targets. A pirate’s primary claim to fame was to steal the fortunes and goods of unsuspecting travelers. However, pirates were known to take prisoners in coastal towns, demanding money for their safe release.

While the life of a pirate was less than glamorous, many seamen opted for this lifestyle as an alternative to those they led previously, holding on to the promise of vast fortunes and undeniable freedom. While they didn’t always set out in search of gold, the goal was always to obtain items of high value from other sea vessels transporting goods across the open sea.