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What is Gold?

Gold is simply everywhere – anywhere you look, whether it’s in a movie, video game, retail shop, or on people themselves – that ‘shiny yellow thing’ can be seen featured in some capacity. Yet few of us really understand what exactly is gold.

Gold as an Element

Gold, in its simplest form, is a rare chemical element with the symbol Au (after the Latin word ‘Aurin’ which means glow of sunrise) and assigned under the Group 11 elements with the atomic number 79 in the periodic table.

Gold as a Metal

A densely packed multitude of these Au atoms composes what we often associate in our minds as gold, which is a yellow transition metal. Gold has been used in various forms since prehistoric times and we have no known record of when or who was the first to discover gold.

defining what gold is

A piece of gold is shown, along with its chemical properties

The Gold Color

Despite having its element name after ‘the glow of sunrise’ and a color being named after itself – when finely divided (colloidal gold), gold can be purple, ruby or black. Other interesting facts about gold include the fact that it melts at 1064.43 Celsius (1947 °F) and boils at 2807 Celsius (5084.6 °F).

Attributes and Origins of Gold

The term gold actually comes from the Old English word for yellow: ‘geolo’ – but there is far more to this metal besides its appealing color. Gold is the most ductile and malleable of all the metals (despite also being the 7th densest of all metals) – this makes it an ideal element for shaping into any form of jewelry, decoration, ornament, coin, or piece of art that one wishes. The fact that it is one of the most noble metals (resistant to oxidization and corrosion) gives these creations eternal life, an elusive attribute that has been sought throughout history. These applications of gold is what made it popular among people way before its use as money or something of extreme worth.

Rarity of Gold

When the use and popularity of gold became more prevalent and widespread, societies starting from the Egyptians in 4,500 BC began actively seeking and trying to gather as much as possible besides just collecting whatever made it their way through river deposits. However this is when humans slowly started discovering the final and perhaps most key attribute of gold, namely: its rareness. Only a reported 165,000 tons of gold have ever been mined in history with a current yearly gold production of around 2,500 tons per annum. To understand how rare that is, all of the gold available today could fit into two large Olympic sized swimming pools. Not even getting into gold’s historically more recent purpose as money or a form of investment – we can understand that gold allowed for rare creations of infinite imagination and infinite life.

So now that we know the definition of gold, origins of gold, the attributes of gold, and understand a bit its appeal throughout history – we can more easily start understanding what exactly gold is and why it plays such a major part of our lives. So to provide a simple answer to the question ‘what is gold?’ without ignoring all of its key elements – it’s way more than just a shiny yellow metal for us humans!

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