Gold: the legend lives on

Did you know?
The word Carat is taken from the carob seeds that people used in ancient times to balance scales. Do not confuse the terms Carat and Karat.
CARAT: A measurement of weight. One metric carat is equivalent to 0.2 grams (or 200 milligrams).
KARAT: A measurement of gold purity.

Nimashi Amaleeta
Have you heard of Tutankhamen’s funerary mask? It became famous because it was made of gold. Gold has been known and highly valued since prehistoric times. It may have been the first metal used by humans and was valued for ornamentation and rituals. Egypt and Nubia had the resources to make them major gold-producing areas for much of history.

Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au (from the Latin ‘aurum’) and atomic number 79. It is a highly sought-after precious metal which, for many centuries, has been used as money, a store of value and in jewelry. Gold forms the basis for a monetary standard used by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). In various countries, gold is used as a standard for monetary exchange, in coinage and in jewelry.

Pure gold is too soft for ordinary use and is typically hardened by alloying with copper or other base metals. The gold content of gold alloys is measured in carats (k), pure gold being designated as 24k. Today, gold has fallen out of use in coins made for general circulation.

Modern industrial uses include dentistry and electronics, where gold has traditionally found use because of its good resistance to oxidative corrosion. Gold does not react with most chemicals, but is attacked by chlorine, fluorine, aqua regia and cyanide. Gold dissolves in mercury, forming amalgam alloys, but does not react with it. Gold is insoluble in nitric acid, which will dissolve silver and base metals. Thus nitric acid has long been used to confirm the presence of gold in items, and this is the origin of the colloquial term “acid test,” referring to a gold standard test for genuine value. Gold is also a good conductor of heat and electricity.
Many competitions, and honours, such as the Olympics and the Nobel Prize, award a gold medal to the winner.
Gold occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks, underground “veins” and in alluvial deposits. It is dense, soft, shiny and the most malleable and ductile of the known metals. Pure gold has an attractive bright yellow colour.

Is it toxic?
Generally, gold is non-toxic if consumed, and is used as food decoration in the form of gold leaf. However, consumption and thereby accumulation in the body of a large amount of gold (or gold compounds) is still toxic and the symptoms are similar to those of heavy metal poisoning.

Different colours of gold!
Because of the softness of pure (24k) gold, it is usually alloyed with base metals for use in jewellery, altering its hardness and ductility, melting point, colour and other properties. Alloys with lower “k”, typically 22k, 18k, 14k or 10k, contain higher percentages of copper, silver or other base metals in the alloy. Copper is the most commonly used base metal, yielding a redder metal. Fourteen carat gold-copper alloy is nearly identical in colour to certain bronze alloys, and both may be used to produce police and other badges.
Blue gold can be made by alloying with iron, and purple gold can be made by alloying with aluminum, although rarely done except in special jewelry. Fourteen and eighteen carat gold alloys with silver alone appear greenish-yellow and are referred to as green gold.
Alternative white gold alloys are available, based on palladium, silver and other white metals.

Why is it so expensive?
The high price of gold is due to its rarity. Only three parts out of every billion (0.000000003) in the Earth’s crust is gold. But 75% of all gold ever produced has been extracted since 1910. It has been estimated that all the gold in the world that has ever been refined would form a single cube 20 m on a side. 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 amount of gold present, with 24 karats being pure gold and lower ratings proportionally less. The purity of a gold bar 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.


Gold is a rare yellow metal with the designated symbol AU, which is short for the Latin word ‘Aurum’ and which means literally, “Glowing Dawn”. The word gold, however, comes from the Indo-European root word and means simply, yellow.











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