Nine Fascinating Facts About Gold

As useful as it is beautiful, gold is the king of the elements. Here are some fascinating facts about the world’s most popular metal.

1. Three Quarters of the World’s Gold May Have Already Been Mined

Gold Mine

Image via Flickr by Marion Doss

Human beings have extracted about 166,000 metric tons of gold from the ground during our entire history. As of 2011, the US Geological Survey has estimated there are about 51,000 unmined metric tons of gold worldwide.

2. The First Coins Were Made of Gold

Gold Coins

Image via Flickr by seriykotik1970

The Lydians made the first coins in the fifth century BC. They lived in an area that is now part of Turkey. The metal in the coins was a natural mixture of gold and silver called electrum.

The practice of using coinage instead of bartering must have had its advantages. Not long after this invention, the Persians conquered the Lydians, and they started using coins, too.

3. Trillions of Dollars Worth of Gold Are Dissolved in the Ocean

Ocean Gold

Image via Flickr by Walt Stoneburner

Seawater contains an average of 13 parts per trillion of gold. Altogether, it amounts to about 25 billion ounces of gold. However, the cost of removing the gold from the water would still be more than it’s worth.

4. Gold May Have Formed in a Huge Freak Explosion in Deep Space

Gold in Space

Image via Flickr by NASAblueshift

Most of the Earth’s elements were created by stars that were going through the supernova phases of their lives, acting as furnaces for atomic fusion. Many scientists say that gold could not have formed in this way. However, some astrophysicists believe that gold formed when two neutron stars collided, during one of the most violent occurrences that ever takes place in our universe.

5. Gold Has Been Found on Every Continent

Gold on Every Continent

Image via Flickr by whgrad

Although gold is a relatively rare substance—it’s 75th in commonness out of 90 naturally occurring elements on earth—it is distributed everywhere. Some places are richer in deposits than others, such as Australia, South Africa, and Nevada in the United States.

6. Twenty Percent of Gold Used for Decorative Purposes Is Contained in Indian Saris

Indian Gold

Image via Flickr by mckaysavage

Gold is so malleable that it forms not only the finest gauges of wire, but fine, flexible thread that people can sew. In India, this thread is used to embroider fabric for making flowing wrap garments called saris.

7. Glass Treated With Gold Repels Infrared Rays

Repel Infrared Rays

Image via Flickr by Lee Cannon

The infrared, or heat-inducing, waves from the sun reflect off the crystalline structure of gold atoms. Glass treated with gold shielded the eyes of the Apollo astronauts outside the earth’s protective atmosphere. Today, gold-treated glass helps to control the temperature inside glass-walled buildings.

8. Injections of Gold Once Fought Arthritis

Gold Injection

Image via Flickr by joeflintham

Gold is not only nontoxic, but also has anti-inflammatory properties. In the early twentieth century, doctors administered gold injections to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Less expensive and even more effective therapies have now replaced the gold shots. It’s still a medical mystery how they worked.

9. Discovering Gold Is No Longer an Accident

Discover Gold

Image via Flickr by GOC53

People used to find gold by chance. When General John Sutter was building a sawmill in Coloma, California in 1848, an employee of his discovered lumps of gold at the construction site. This was the beginning of the Gold Rush of 1849.

Today, geologists know that they are more likely to find gold near fault lines where water has circulated. It is most likely to be discovered along with certain other minerals including quartz, silver, calcite, and ironically, pyrite, which is sometimes mistaken for gold.

Gold is not only an attractive metal, but an intriguing one, too.

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