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Gold ( ) is a chemical element with the symbol Au ( ) and an atomic number of 79. It has been a highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewelry, and other arts since the beginning of recorded history. The metal occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks, in veins and in alluvial deposits. Gold is dense, soft, shiny and the most malleable and ductile pure metal known. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Gold is one of the coinage metal and has served as a symbol of wealth and a store of value throughout history. Gold standards have provided a basis for monetary policies. It also has been linked to a variety of symbolisms and ideologies.

A total of 161,000 tonnes of gold have been mined in human history, as of 2009. Modern industrial uses include dentistry and electronics, where gold has traditionally found use because of its good resistance to oxidative corrosion and excellent quality as a conductor of electricity.

Chemically, gold is a transition metal and can form trivalent and univalent cations in solutions. Compared with other metals, pure gold is more chemically unreactive, but it is attacked by aqua regia (a mixture of acids), forming chloroauric acid, and by alkaline solutions of cyanide but not by single acids such as hydrochloric, nitric or sulfuric acids. Gold dissolves in mercury, forming amalgam alloys, but does not react with it. Gold is insoluble in nitric acid, which dissolves silver and base metals. This property is exploited in the gold refining technique known as "inquartation and parting". 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.

Characteristics

Native gold nuggets
Gold nuggets found in Arizona
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 leaf can be beaten thin enough to become translucent. The transmitted light appears greenish blue, because gold strongly reflects yellow and red. Such semi-transparent sheets also strongly reflect infrared light, making them useful as infrared (radiant heat) shields in visors of heat-resistant suits, and in sun-visors for spacesuits.

Gold readily creates alloys with many other metals. These alloys can be produced to modify the hardness and other metallurgical properties, to control melting point or to create exotic colors (see below). 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. Free halogens will react with gold, and aqua regia dissolves it via formation of chlorine gas which attacks gold to form the chloraurate ion. Gold also dissolves in alkaline solutions of potassium cyanide and in mercury, forming a gold-mercury amalgam.

Common oxidation states of gold include +1 (gold(I) or aurous compounds) and +3 (gold(III) or auric compounds). 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; 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 19300 kg. By comparison, the density of lead is 11340 kg/m3, and that of the densest element, osmium, is 22610 kg/m3.

Color

Different colors of Ag-Au-Cu alloys
The color of pure gold is metallic yellow. Gold, caesium and copper are the only metallic elements with a natural color other than gray or white. The usual gray color of metals depends on their "electron sea" that is capable of absorbing and re-emitting photons over a wide range of frequencies. Gold reacts differently, depending on subtle relativistic effects that affect the orbitals around gold atoms.

Common colored gold alloys such as rose gold can be created by the addition of various amounts of copper and silver, as indicated in the triangular diagram on the right. Alloys containing palladium or nickel are also important in commercial jewelry as these produce white gold alloys. Less commonly, addition of manganese, aluminium, iron, indium and other elements can produce more unusual colors of gold for various applications.

Isotopes

Gold has only one stable isotope, 197Au, which is also its only naturally occurring isotope. 36 radioisotopes have been synthesized ranging in atomic mass from 169 to 205. The most stable of these is 195Au with a half-life of 186.1 days. 195Au is also the only gold isotope to decay by electron capture. The least stable is 171Au, which decays by proton emission with a half-life of 30 µs. Most of gold's radioisotopes with atomic masses below 197 decay by some combination of proton emission, α decay, and β+ decay. The exceptions are 195Au, which decays by electron capture, and 196Au, which has a minor β- decay path. All of gold's radioisotopes with atomic masses above 197 decay by β- decay.

At least 32 nuclear isomers have also been characterized, ranging in atomic mass from 170 to 200. Within that range, only 178Au, 180Au, 181Au, 182Au, and 188Au do not have isomers. Gold's most stable isomer is 198 m2Au with a half-life of 2.27 days. Gold's least stable isomer is 177 m2Au with a half-life of only 7 ns. 184 m1Au has three decay paths: β+ decay, isomeric transition, and alpha decay. No other isomer or isotope of gold has three decay paths.

Use and applications

Monetary exchange

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.

However, the amount of gold in the world is finite and production has not grown in relation to the world's economies. Today , gold mining output is declining. With the sharp growth of economies in the 20th century, and increasing foreign exchange, the world's gold reserves and their trading market have become a small fraction of all markets and fixed exchange rates of currencies to gold became unsustainable. At the beginning of World War I the warring nations moved to a fractional gold standard, inflating their currencies to finance the war effort. After World War II gold was replaced by a system of convertible currency following the Bretton Woods systemmarker. Gold standards and the direct convertibility of currencies to gold have been abandoned by world governments, being replaced by fiat currency in their stead. Switzerlandmarker was the last country to tie its currency to gold; it backed 40% of its value until the Swiss joined the International Monetary Fundmarker in 1999.

Pure gold is too soft for day-to-day monetary use and is typically hardened by alloying with copper, silver or other base metals. The gold content of alloys is measured in carats (k). Pure gold is designated as 24k. Gold coins intended for circulation from 1526 into the 1930s were typically a standard 22k alloy called crown gold, for hardness.

Modern bullion coins for investment or collector purposes do not require good mechanical wear properties; they are typically fine gold at 24k, although the American Gold Eagle, the British gold sovereign, and the South African Krugerrand continue to be minted in 22k metal in historical tradition. The special issue Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin contains the highest purity gold of any bullion coin, at 99.999% or .99999 finess, while the popular issue Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin has a purity of 99.99%. Several other 99.99% pure gold coins are available. The Australian Gold Kangaroos was first coined in 1986 as the Australian Gold Nugget. Its kangaroo theme appeared in 1989. In addition, there are several coins of the Australian Lunar Calendar series, and the Austrian Philharmonic. In 2006, the United States Mint began production of the American Buffalo gold bullion coin with a purity of 99.99%.

Many holders of gold store it in form of bullion coins or bar as a hedge against inflation or other economic disruptions.

The ISO 4217 currency code of gold is XAU.

Jewelry

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. Copper is the most commonly used base metal, yielding a redder color. Eighteen carat gold containing 25% copper is found in antique and Russian jewelry and has a distinct, though not dominant, copper cast, creating rose gold. Fourteen carat gold-copper alloy is nearly identical in color to certain bronze alloys, and both may be used to produce police, as well as other, badges. Blue gold can be made by alloying with iron and purple gold can be made by alloying with aluminium, although rarely done except in specialized jewelry. Blue gold is more brittle and therefore more difficult to work with when making jewelry. Fourteen and eighteen carat gold alloys with silver alone appear greenish-yellow and are referred to as green gold. White gold alloys can be made with palladium or nickel. White 18 carat gold containing 17.3% nickel, 5.5% zinc and 2.2% copper is silver in appearance. Nickel is toxic, however, and its release from nickel white gold is controlled by legislation in Europe. Alternative white gold alloys are available based on palladium, silver and other white metals (World Gold Council), but the palladium alloys are more expensive than those using nickel. High-carat white gold alloys are far more resistant to corrosion than are either pure silver or sterling silver. The Japanese craft of Mokume-gane exploits the color contrasts between laminated colored gold alloys to produce decorative wood-grain effects.

Medicine

  • 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.


  • Dentistry. Gold alloys are used in restorative dentistry, especially in tooth restorations, such as crowns and permanent bridges. The gold alloys' slight malleability facilitates the creation of a superior molar mating surface with other teeth and produces results that are generally more satisfactory than those produced by the creation of porcelain crowns. The use of gold crowns in more prominent teeth such as incisors is favored in some cultures and discouraged in others.


  • Colloidal gold preparations (suspensions of gold nanoparticles) in water are intensely red-colored, and can be made with tightly controlled particle sizes up to a few tens of nanometers across by reduction of gold chloride with citrate or ascorbate ions. Colloidal gold is used in research applications in medicine, biology and materials science. The technique of immunogold labeling exploits the ability of the gold particles to adsorb protein molecules onto their surfaces. Colloidal gold particles coated with specific antibodies can be used as probes for the presence and position of antigens on the surfaces of cells (Faulk and Taylor 1979). In ultrathin sections of tissues viewed by electron microscopy, the immunogold labels appear as extremely dense round spots at the position of the antigen (Roth et al. 1980). Colloidal gold is also the form of gold used as gold paint on ceramics prior to firing.


  • Gold, or alloys of gold and palladium, are applied as conductive coating to biological specimens and other non-conducting materials such as plastics and glass to be viewed in a scanning electron microscope. The coating, which is usually applied by sputtering with an argon plasma, has a triple role in this application. Gold's very high electrical conductivity drains electrical charge to earth, and its very high density provides stopping power for electrons in the electron beam, helping to limit the depth to which the electron beam penetrates the specimen. This improves definition of the position and topography of the specimen surface and increases the spatial resolution of the image. Gold also produces a high output of secondary electrons when irradiated by an electron beam, and these low-energy electrons are the most commonly used signal source used in the scanning electron microscope.


  • The isotope gold-198, (half-life: 2.7 days) is used in some cancer treatments and for treating other diseases.


Food and drink

  • Gold can be used in food and has the E Number 175.
  • Gold leaf, flake or dust is used on and in some gourmet foods, notably sweets and drinks as decorative ingredient. Gold flake was used by the nobility in Medieval Europe as a decoration in food and drinks, in the form of leaf, flakes or dust, either to demonstrate the host's wealth or in the belief that something that valuable and rare must be beneficial for one's health. Gold foil along with silver is sometimes used on the South Asian sweets including Burfi.
  • Goldwasser ( ) is a traditional herbal liqueur produced in Gdańskmarker, Polandmarker, and Schwabachmarker, Germany, and contains flakes of gold leaf. There are also some expensive (~$1000) cocktails which contain flakes of gold leaf. However, since metallic gold is inert to all body chemistry, it adds no taste nor has it any other nutritional effect and leaves the body unaltered.


Industry

  • Gold solder is used for joining the components of gold jewelry by high-temperature hard soldering or brazing. If the work is to be of hallmarking quality, gold solder must match the carat weight of the work, and alloy formulas are manufactured in most industry-standard carat weights to color match yellow and white gold. Gold solder is usually made in at least three melting-point ranges referred to as Easy, Medium and Hard. By using the hard, high-melting point solder first, followed by solders with progressively lower melting points, goldsmiths can assemble complex items with several separate soldered joints.
  • Gold can be made into thread and used in embroidery.
  • Gold is ductile and malleable, meaning it can be drawn into very thin wire and can be beaten into very thin sheets known as gold leaf.
  • Gold produces a deep, intense red color when used as a coloring agent in cranberry glass.
  • In photography, gold toners are used to shift the color of silver bromide black and white prints towards brown or blue tones, or to increase their stability. Used on sepia-toned prints, gold toners produce red tones. Kodak published formulas for several types of gold toners, which use gold as the chloride (Kodak, 2006).
  • As gold is a good reflector of electromagnetic radiation such as infrared and visible light as well as radio waves, it is used for the protective coatings on many artificial satellites, in infrared protective faceplates in thermal protection suits and astronauts' helmets and in electronic warfare planes like the EA-6B Prowler.
  • Gold is used as the reflective layer on some high-end CDs.
  • Automobiles may use gold for heat dissipation. McLarenmarker uses gold foil in the engine compartment of its F1 model.
  • Gold can be manufactured so thin that it appears transparent. It is used in some aircraft cockpit windows for de-icing or anti-icing by passing electricity through it. The heat produced by the resistance of the gold is enough to deter ice from forming.


Electronics

  • The concentration of free electrons in gold metal is 5.90×1022 cm−3. Gold is highly conductive to electricity, and has been used for electrical wiring in some high-energy applications (silver is even more conductive per volume, but gold has the advantage of corrosion resistance). For example, gold electrical wires were used during some of the Manhattan Project's atomic experiments, but large high current silver wires were used in the calutron isotope separator magnets in the project.
  • Though gold is attacked by free chlorine, its good conductivity and general resistance to oxidation and corrosion in other environments (including resistance to non-chlorinated acids) has led to its widespread industrial use in the electronic era as a thin layer coating electrical connectors of all kinds, thereby ensuring good connection. For example, gold is used in the connectors of the more expensive electronics cables, such as audio, video and USB cables. The benefit of using gold over other connector metals such as tin in these applications is highly debated. Gold connectors are often criticized by audio-visual experts as unnecessary for most consumers and seen as simply a marketing ploy. However, the use of gold in other applications in electronic sliding contacts in highly humid or corrosive atmospheres, and in use for contacts with a very high failure cost (certain computers, communications equipment, spacecraft, jet aircraft engines) remains very common, and is unlikely to be replaced in the near future by any other metal.
  • Besides sliding electrical contacts, gold is also used in electrical contacts because of its resistance to corrosion, electrical conductivity, ductility and lack of toxicity. Switch contacts are generally subjected to more intense corrosion stress than are sliding contacts.
  • Fine gold wires are used to connect semiconductor devices to their packages through a process known as wire bonding.


Chemistry

Gold is attacked by and dissolves in alkaline solutions of potassium or sodium cyanide, and gold cyanide is the electrolyte used in commercial electroplating of gold onto base metals and electroforming. Gold chloride (chloroauric acid) solutions are used to make colloidal gold by reduction with citrate or ascorbate ions. Gold chloride and gold oxide are used to make highly valued cranberry or red-colored glass, which, like colloidal gold suspensions, contains evenly sized spherical gold nanoparticles.

History



Gold has been known and used by artisans since the Chalcolithic. Gold artifacts in the Balkans appear from the 4th millennium BC, such as that found in the Varna Necropolismarker. Gold artifacts such as the golden hats and the Nebra diskmarker appeared in Central Europe from the 2nd millennium BC Bronze Age.

Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 2600 BC describe gold, which king Tushratta of the Mitanni claimed was "more plentiful than dirt" in Egypt. Egypt and especially Nubia had the resources to make them major gold-producing areas for much of history. The earliest known map is known as the Turin Papyrus Map and shows the plan of a gold mine in Nubia together with indications of the local geology. The primitive working methods are described by Strabo and included fire-setting. Large mines also were present across the Red Seamarker in what is now Saudi Arabiamarker.

The legend of the golden fleece may refer to the use of fleeces to trap gold dust from placer deposits in the ancient world. Gold is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament, starting with Genesis 2:11 (at Havilah) and is included with the gifts of the magi in the first chapters of Matthew New Testament. The Book of Revelation 21:21 describes the city of New Jerusalem as having streets "made of pure gold, clear as crystal". The south-east corner of the Black Seamarker was famed for its gold. Exploitation is said to date from the time of Midas, and this gold was important in the establishment of what is probably the world's earliest coinage in Lydia around 610 BC. From 6th or 5th century BC, Chu circulated Ying Yuan, one kind of square gold coin.

The Romans developed new methods for extracting gold on a large scale using hydraulic mining methods, especially in Spain from 25 BC onwards and in Romaniamarker from 150 AD onwards. One of their largest mines was at Las Medulasmarker in León marker, where seven long aqueducts enabled them to sluice most of a large alluvial deposit. The mines at Roşia Montanămarker in Transylvania were also very large, and until very recently, still mined by opencast methods. They also exploited smaller deposits in Britain, such as placer and hard-rock deposits at Dolaucothimarker. The various methods they used are well described by Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedia Naturalis Historia written towards the end of the first century AD.

The Mali Empire in Africa was famed throughout the old world for its large amounts of gold. Mansa Musa, ruler of the empire (1312–1337) became famous throughout the old world for his great hajj to Meccamarker in 1324. When he passed through Cairomarker in July 1324, he was reportedly accompanied by a camel train that included thousands of people and nearly a hundred camels. He gave away so much gold that it depressed the price in Egypt for over a decade. A contemporary Arab historian remarked:

The European exploration of the Americas was fueled in no small part by reports of the gold ornaments displayed in great profusion by Native American peoples, especially in Central America, Perumarker, Ecuadormarker and Colombiamarker. The Aztecs regarded gold as literally the product of the gods, calling it "god excrement" (teocuitlatl in Nahuatl).

Although the price of some platinum group metals can be much higher, gold has long been considered the most desirable of precious metals, and its value has been used as the standard for many currencies (known as the gold standard) in history. Gold has been used as a symbol for purity, value, royalty, and particularly roles that combine these properties. Gold as a sign of wealth and prestige was made fun of by Thomas More in his treatise Utopia. On that imaginary island, gold is so abundant that it is used to make chains for slaves, tableware and lavatory-seats. When ambassadors from other countries arrive, dressed in ostentatious gold jewels and badges, the Utopians mistake them for menial servants, paying homage instead to the most modestly dressed of their party.

There is an age-old tradition of biting gold in order to test its authenticity. Although this is certainly not a professional way of examining gold, the bite test should score the gold because gold is a soft metal, as indicated by its score on the Mohs' scale of mineral hardness. The purer the gold the easier it should be to mark it. Painted lead can cheat this test because lead is softer than gold (and may invite a small risk of lead poisoning if sufficient lead is absorbed by the biting).

Gold in antiquity was relatively easy to obtain geologically; however, 75% of all gold ever produced has been extracted since 1910. It has been estimated that all gold ever refined would form a single cube 20 m (66 ft) on a side (equivalent to 8000 m3).

One main goal of the alchemists was to produce gold from other substances, such as lead — presumably by the interaction with a mythical substance called the philosopher's stone. Although they never succeeded in this attempt, the alchemists promoted an interest in what can be done with substances, and this laid a foundation for today's chemistry. Their symbol for gold was the circle with a point at its center (☉), which was also the astrological symbol and the ancient Chinese character for the Sun. For modern creation of artificial gold by neutron capture, see gold synthesis.

During the 19th century, gold rushes occurred whenever large gold deposits were discovered. The first documented discovery of gold in the United States was at the Reed Gold Minemarker near Georgeville, North Carolina in 1803. The first major gold strike in the United States occurred in a small north Georgia town called Dahlonegamarker. Further gold rushes occurred in California, Colorado, the Black Hills, Otago, Australia, Witwatersrand, and the Klondike.

Because of its historically high value, much of the gold mined throughout history is still in circulation in one form or another.

Occurrence

Gold ore
This 156-ounce (4.85 kg) nugget was found by an individual prospector in the Southern California Desert using a metal detector.
Gold's atomic number of 79 makes it one of the higher atomic number elements which occur naturally. Like all elements with atomic numbers larger than iron, gold is thought to have been formed from a supernova nucleosynthesis process. Their explosions scattered metal-containing dusts (including heavy elements like gold) into the region of space in which they later condensed into our solar system and the Earth.

On Earth, whenever elemental gold occurs, it appears most often as a metal solid solution of gold with silver, i.e. a gold silver alloy. Such alloys usually have a silver content of 8–10%. Electrum is elemental gold with more than 20% silver. Electrum's color runs from golden silvery to silvery, dependent upon the silver content. The more silver, the lower the specific gravity.

Gold is found in ores made up of rock with very small or microscopic particles of gold. This gold ore is often found together with quartz or sulfide minerals such as Fool's Gold, which is a pyrite. These are called "lode" deposits. Native gold is also found in the form of free flakes, grains or larger nuggets that have been eroded from rocks and end up in alluvial deposits (called placer deposits). Such free gold is always richer at the surface of gold-bearing veins owing to the oxidation of accompanying minerals followed by weathering, and washing of the dust into streams and rivers, where it collects and can be welded by water action to form nuggets.

Gold sometimes occurs combined with tellurium as the minerals calaverite, krennerite, nagyagite, petzite and sylvanite, and as the rare bismuthide maldonite (Au2Bi) and antimonide aurostibite (AuSb2). Gold also occurs in rare alloys with copper, lead, and mercury: the minerals auricupride (Cu3Au), novodneprite (AuPb3) and weishanite ((Au,Ag)3Hg2).

Recent research suggests that microbes can sometimes play an important role in forming gold deposits, transporting and precipitating gold to form grains and nuggets that collect in alluvial deposits.

Production

The entrance to an underground gold mine in Victoria, Australia
World gold production trend
Gold output in 2005
Gold extraction is most economical in large, easily mined deposits. Ore grades as little as 0.5 g/1000 kg (0.5 parts per million, ppm) can be economical. Typical ore grades in open-pit mines are 1–5 g/1000 kg (1–5 ppm); ore grades in underground or hard rock mines are usually at least 3 g/1000 kg (3 ppm). Because ore grades of 30 g/1000 kg (30 ppm) are usually needed before gold is visible to the naked eye, in most gold mines the gold is invisible.

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 1,000 tonnes. However by 2007 production was just 272 tonnes. This sharp decline was due to the increasing difficulty of extraction, changing economic factors affecting the industry, and tightened safety auditing. In 2007 Chinamarker (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 Johannesburgmarker 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 Statemarker and Gautengmarker provinces are extensive in strike and dip requiring some of the world's deepest mines, with the Savuka and TauTonamarker 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.

Other major producers are the United States, Australia, Russia and Perumarker. Mines in South Dakotamarker and Nevadamarker supply two-thirds of gold used in the United States. In South America, the controversial project Pascua Lamamarker aims at exploitation of rich fields in the high mountains of Atacama Desertmarker, at the border between Chilemarker and Argentinamarker. Today about one-quarter of the world gold output is estimated to originate from artisanal or small scale mining.

After initial production, gold is often subsequently refined industrially by the Wohlwill process or the Miller process. Other methods of assaying and purifying smaller amounts of gold include parting and inquartation as well as cuppelation, or refining methods based on the dissolution of gold in aqua regia.

The world's oceans hold a vast amount of gold, but in very low concentrations (perhaps 1–2 parts per 10 billion, e.g. every cubic kilometer of water could contain 10 to 20 kg of gold). A number of people have claimed to be able to economically recover gold from sea water, but so far they have all been either mistaken or crooks. Reverend Prescott Jernegan ran a gold-from-seawater swindle in the United Statesmarker in the 1890s. A British fraudster ran the same scam in Englandmarker in the early 1900s. Fritz Haber (the German inventor of the Haber process) attempted commercial extraction of gold from sea water in an effort to help pay Germanymarker's reparations following World War I. Unfortunately, his assessment of the concentration of gold in sea water was unduly high, probably due to sample contamination. The effort produced little gold and cost the German government far more than the commercial value of the gold recovered. No commercially viable mechanism for performing gold extraction from sea water has yet been identified. Gold synthesis is not economically viable and is unlikely to become so in the foreseeable future.

At the end of 2006, it was estimated that all the gold ever mined totaled 158,000 tonnes and its January 2009 issue, National Geographic magazine writes: "In all of history, only 161,000 tons of gold have been mined, barely enough to fill two Olympic-size swimming pools." This can be represented by a cube with an edge length of about 20.2 meters.

The average gold mining and extraction costs are US$238/oz but these can vary widely depending on mining type and ore quality. In 2001, global mine production amounted to 2,604 tonnes, or 67% of total gold demand in that year.

Gold is so stable and so valuable that it is always recovered and recycled. There is no true consumption of gold in the economic sense; the stock of gold remains essentially constant while ownership shifts from one party to another.

Consumption

India is the world’s largest consumer of gold, as Indians buy about 25 per cent of the world’s gold, purchasing approximately 800 tonnes of gold every year. India is also the largest importer of the yellow metal; in 2008 India imported around 400 tonnes of gold.

Chemistry

Although gold is a noble metal, it forms many and diverse compounds. The oxidation state of gold in its compound ranges from −1 to +5 but Au(I) and Au(III) dominate. Gold(I), referred to as the aurous ion, is the most common oxidation state with “soft” ligands such as thioethers, thiolates, and tertiary phosphines. Au(I) compounds are typically linear. A good example is Au2, which is the soluble form of gold encountered in mining. Curiously, aurous complexes of water are rare. The binary gold halides, such as AuCl, form zig-zag polymeric chains, again featuring linear coordination at Au. Most drugs based on gold are Au(I) derivatives.

Gold(III) (“auric”) is a common oxidation state and is illustrated by gold chloride, AuCl3. Its derivative is chloroauric acid, HAuCl4, which forms when Au dissolves in aqua regia. Au(III) complexes, like other d8 compounds, are typically square planar.

Less common oxidation states

Less common oxidation states of gold include −1, +2, and +5.

The −1 oxidation state occurs in compounds containing the Au anion, called aurides. Caesium auride (CsAu), for example, crystallizes in the caesium chloride motif. Other aurides include those of Rb+, K+, and tetramethylammonium (CH3)4N+.

Gold(II) compounds are usually diamagnetic with Au–Au bonds such as [Au(CH2)2P(C6H5)2]2Cl2. The evaporation of a solution of in concentrated produces red crystals of gold(II) sulfate, . Originally thought to be a mixed-valence compound, it has been shown to contain cations. A noteworthy, legitimate gold(II) complex is the tetraxenonogold cation, which contains xenon as a ligand, found in [AuXe4](Sb2F11)2.

Gold pentafluoride and its derivative anion, , is the sole example of gold(V), the highest verified oxidation state.

Some gold compounds exhibit aurophilic bonding, which describes the tendency of gold ions to interact at distances that are too long to be a conventional Au–Au bond but shorter that van der Waals bonding. The interaction is estimated to be comparable in strength to that of a hydrogen bond.

Mixed valence compounds

Well-defined cluster compounds are numerous. In such cases, gold has a fractional oxidation state. A representative example is the octahedral species {Au(P3)}62+. Gold chalcogenides, such as gold sulfide, feature equal amounts of Au(I) and Au(III).

Toxicity

Pure metallic (elemental) gold is non-toxic and non-irritating when ingested and is sometimes used as a food decoration in the form of gold leaf. Metallic gold is also a component of the alcoholic drinks Goldschläger, Gold Strike, and Goldwasser. Metallic gold is approved as a food additive in the EU (E175 in the Codex Alimentarius). Although gold ion is toxic, the acceptance of metallic gold as a food additive is due to its relative chemical inertness, and resistance to being corroded or transformed into soluble salts (gold compounds) by any known chemical process which would be encountered in the human body.

Soluble compounds (gold salts) such as gold chloride are toxic to the liver and kidneys. Common cyanide salts of gold such as potassium gold cyanide, used in gold electroplating, are toxic both by virtue of their cyanide and gold content. There are rare cases of lethal gold poisoning from potassium gold cyanide. Gold toxicity can be ameliorated with chelation therapy with an agent such as Dimercaprol.

Gold metal was voted Allergen of the Year in 2001 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. Gold contact allergies affect mostly women. Despite this, gold is a relatively non-potent contact allergen, in comparison with metals like nickel.

Price

Gold price per ounce in USD since 1968, in actual US$ and 2006 US$.
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 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.

The price of gold is determined through trading in the gold and derivatives markets, but a procedure known as the Gold Fixing in Londonmarker, originating in September 1919, provides a daily benchmark price to the industry. The afternoon fixing was introduced in 1968 to provide a price when US markets are open.

Historically gold coinage was widely used as currency; When paper money was introduced, it typically was a receipt redeemable for gold coin or bullion. In an economic system known as the gold standard, a certain weight of gold was given the name of a unit of currency. For a long period, the United States government set the value of the US dollar so that one troy ounce was equal to $20.67 ($664.56/kg), but in 1934 the dollar was devalued to $35.00 per troy ounce ($1125.27/kg). By 1961 it was becoming hard to maintain this price, and a pool of US and European banks agreed to manipulate the market to prevent further currency devaluation against increased gold demand.

On March 17, 1968, economic circumstances caused the collapse of the gold pool, and a two-tiered pricing scheme was established whereby gold was still used to settle international accounts at the old $35.00 per troy ounce ($1.13/g) but the price of gold on the private market was allowed to fluctuate; this two-tiered pricing system was abandoned in 1975 when the price of gold was left to find its free-market level. Central banks still hold historical gold reserves as a store of value although the level has generally been declining. The largest gold depository in the world is that of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in New Yorkmarker, which holds about 3% of the gold ever mined, as does the similarly laden U.S.marker Bullion Depositorymarker at Fort Knoxmarker.

In 2005 the World Gold Council estimated total global gold supply to be 3,859 tonnes and demand to be 3,754 tonnes, giving a surplus of 105 tonnes.

Since 1968 the price of gold has ranged widely, from a high of $850/oz ($27,300/kg) on January 21, 1980, to a low of $252.90/oz ($8,131/kg) on June 21, 1999 (London Gold Fixing). The period from 1999 to 2001 marked the "Brown Bottom" after a 20-year bear market. Prices increased rapidly from 1991, but the 1980 high was not exceeded until January 3, 2008 when a new maximum of $865.35 per troy ounce was set (a.m. London Gold Fixing). Another record price was set on March 17, 2008 at $1023.50/oz ($32,900/kg)(am. London Gold Fixing). In the fall of 2009, gold markets experience renewed momentum upwards due to increased demand and a weakening US dollar.

Since April 2001 the gold price has more than tripled in value against the US dollar, prompting speculation that this long secular bear market (or the Great Commodities Depression) has ended and a bull market has returned.

Symbolism

Gold bars at the Emperor Casino in Macau
Gold has been associated with the extremities of utmost evil and great sanctity throughout history. In the Book of Exodus, the Golden Calf is a symbol of idolatry and rebellion against God. In popular culture, the golden pocket watch and its fastening golden chain were the characteristic accessories of the capitalists, the rich and the industrial tycoons. Credit card companies associate their product with wealth by naming and coloring their top-of-the-range cards “gold” although, in an attempt to out-do each other, platinum has now overtaken gold.

In the Book of Genesis, Abraham was said to be rich in gold and silver, and Moses was instructed to cover the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant with pure gold. Eminent orators such as John Chrysostom were said to have a “mouth of gold with a silver tongue.” Gold is associated with notable anniversaries, particularly in a 50-year cycle, such as a golden wedding anniversary, golden jubilee, etc.

Great human achievements are frequently rewarded with gold, in the form of gold medals and decorations. Winners of athletic events and grand awards are usually awarded a gold medal (e.g., for the Olympic Games and the Nobel Prize), while many award statues are depicted in gold (such as the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards the Emmy Awards, the Palme d'Or, and the British Academy Film Awards).

Medieval kings were inaugurated under the signs of sacred oil and a golden crown, the latter symbolizing the eternal shining light of heaven and thus a Christian king's divinely inspired authority. Wedding rings are traditionally made of gold; since it is long-lasting and unaffected by the passage of time, it is considered a suitable material for everyday wear as well as a metaphor for the relationship. In Orthodox Christianity, the wedded couple is adorned with a golden crown during the ceremony, an amalgamation of symbolic rites.

State Emblem

In 1965 the Californiamarker Legislature designated gold “the State Mineral and mineralogical emblem.”

In 1968 the Alaskamarker Legislature named gold “the official state mineral.”

See also



Footnotes

Bibliography

  • Faulk W, Taylor G (1979) An Immunocolloid Method for the Electron Microscope Immunochemistry 8, 1081–1083.
  • Kodak (2006) Toning black-and-white materials. Technical Data/Reference sheet G-23, May 2006.
  • Roth J, Bendayan M, Orci L (1980) FITC-Protein A-Gold Complex for Light and Electron Microscopic Immunocytochemistry. Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry 28, 55–57.
  • World Gold Council, Jewellery Technology, Jewellery Alloys


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