|Gold in all forms and uses, past, present and future
The story of gold is as rich and complex as the metal itself. Wars have been fought for it; love has been declared with it. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs portray gold as the brilliance of the sun; modern astronomers use mirrors coated with gold to capture images of the heavens.
By 325 BC the Greeks had mined for gold from Gibraltar to Asia Minor. In 1848 AD John Marshall found flakes of gold whilst building a sawmill near Sacramento and so triggered the gold rush in California.
Held securely in national vaults as a reserve asset, gold has an irrefutable logic; released from the tombs of pharaohs and emperors alike, gold has an undeniable magic.
In Heritage we describe just some of the key moments from gold’s history. Further sections take time to discuss important fundamental issues such as the relationship of demand and supply, gold’s price history; the golden constant and gold’s contribution to society.
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny metal and the most malleable and ductile metal known. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and a group 11 element. With exception of the noble gases, gold is the least reactive chemical element known. It has been a valuable and highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewellery, and other arts since long before the beginning of recorded history.
-Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all metals; a single gram can be beaten into a sheet of 1 square meter, or an ounce into 300 square feet. Gold is a good conductor of heat and electricity and reflects infrared radiation strongly.
-Chemically, it is unaffected by air, moisture and most corrosive reagents, and is therefore well suited for use in coins and jewelry and as a protective coating on other, more reactive, metals. However, it is not chemically inert.
-Gold ions in solution are readily reduced and precipitated out as gold metal by adding any other metal as the reducing agent. The added metal is oxidized and dissolves allowing the gold to be displaced from solution and be recovered as a solid precipitate.
-High quality pure metallic gold is tasteless and scentless, in keeping with its resistance to corrosion (it is metal ions which confer taste to metals).
-In addition, gold is very dense, a cubic meter weighing 19,300 kg. By comparison, the density of lead is 11,340 kg/m3, and that of the densest element, osmium, is 22,610 kg/m3.
Whereas most other pure metals are gray or silvery white, gold is yellow. This Colour is determined by the density of loosely bound (valence) electrons; those electrons oscillate as a collective "plasma" medium described in terms of a quasiparticle called plasmon. The frequency of these oscillations lies in the ultraviolet range for most metals, but it falls into the visible range for gold due to subtle relativistic effects that affect the orbitals around gold atoms.
Use and applications
Gold has been widely used throughout the world as a vehicle for monetary exchange, either by issuance and recognition of gold coins or other bare metal quantities, or through gold-convertible paper instruments by establishing gold standards in which the total value of issued money is represented in a store of gold reserves.
Gold as an investment
Many holders of gold store it in form of bullion coins or bars as a hedge against inflation or other economic disruptions. However, some economists do not believe gold serves as a hedge against inflation or currency depreciation.
Because of the softness of pure (24k) gold, it is usually alloyed with base metals for use in jewelry, altering its hardness and ductility, melting point, color and other properties. Alloys with lower caratage, typically 22k, 18k, 14k or 10k, contain higher percentages of copper, or other base metals or silver or palladium in the alloy.
In medieval times, gold was often seen as beneficial for the health, in the belief that something that rare and beautiful could not be anything but healthy. Even some modern esotericists and forms of alternative medicine assign metallic gold a healing power.Some gold salts do have anti-inflammatory properties and are used as pharmaceuticals in the treatment of arthritis and other similar conditions.However, only salts and radioisotopes of gold are of pharmacological value, as elemental (metallic) gold is inert to all chemicals it encounters inside the body. In modern times, injectable gold has been proven to help to reduce the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis.
Like other precious metals, gold is measured by troy weight and by grams. When it is alloyed with other metals the term carat or karat is used to indicate the purity of gold present, with 24 carats being pure gold and lower ratings proportionally less. The purity of a gold bar or coin can also be expressed as a decimal figure ranging from 0 to 1, known as the millesimal fineness, such as 0.995 being very pure.
Since the 1880s, South Africa has been the source for a large proportion of the world`s gold supply, with about 50% of all gold ever produced having come from South Africa. Production in 1970 accounted for 79% of the world supply, producing about 1,480 tonnes. 2008 production was 2,260 tonnes. In 2007 China (with 276 tonnes) overtook South Africa as the world`s largest gold producer, the first time since 1905 that South Africa has not been the largest.
The city of Johannesburg located in South Africa was founded as a result of the Witwatersrand Gold Rush which resulted in the discovery of some of the largest gold deposits the world has ever seen. Gold fields located within the basin in the Free State and Gauteng provinces are extensive in strike and dip requiring some of the world`s deepest mines, with the Savuka and TauTona mines being currently the world`s deepest gold mine at 3,777 m. The Second Boer War of 1899–1901 between the British Empire and the Afrikaner Boers was at least partly over the rights of miners and possession of the gold wealth in South Africa.
The consumption of gold produced in the world is about 50 percent in jewelry, 40 percent in investments, and 10 percent in industry.
India is the world`s largest single consumer of gold, as Indians buy about 25 percent of the world`s gold, purchasing approximately 800 tonnes of gold every year, mostly for jewelry. India is also the largest importer of gold.
Compiled by Ajeet Kumar