Throughout human history, gold has always been highly sought out and valued. It is probably the first metal, that humans were able to shape and form, thanks to its extreme malleability. A single gram of it can be hammered into a sheet one square meter in size and so thin, as to be almost transparent. If stretched, it can produce a gold thread, almost 300 meters in length. It appears in almost pure form, so it does not require any preparation and does not change over time, as it reacts poorly with most other materials. It is also the only metal with a yellow color, which undoubtedly attracted early humans into gathering it. The first evidence of gold mining comes from the Ancient Egyptians as far back as 6,000 years ago, long before it was valued as money. In 3100 BC the Pharaoh Menes, founder of the first Egyptian dynasty, even wrote down an exchange rate, stating that one piece of gold was worth two and a half times its weight in silver.
All around the world civilizations like the Phoenicians, Indians, Hittites or Chinese had a similar fascination with the precious metal and it has had a prominent role in multiple myths and legends. The Ancient Greeks used to tell stories like that of King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold or the journey of Jason and his Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece. It plays a role in Homer’s telling of the Iliad and Odyssey, as well as in the Old Testament like the Book of Genesis or the story of The Golden Calf. Many ancient rulers were buried together with ample amounts of gold, the most famous example probably being that of the boy Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Among the riches were a 10 kg golden mask and his coffin, made out of 1.5 tons of solid gold. The first gold coins were issued by the people of Lydia around 700 BC, which were just stamped lumps of a gold-silver alloy, known as electrum. Having a standardized currency had a great impact on their development and they became widely known for their trade. The word gold itself comes from the Germanic word gulþ and the Indo-European ghel, meaning yellow-green, while the Latin term, aurum, translates roughly to “shining down” or “glow of sunrise”. Incas called it “tears of the Sun” and when the last Inca Emperor, Atahualpa, was captured by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, they filled a whole room with gold as ransom. Pizarro nevertheless executed the Emperor by garotte, sacked the capital Cuzco, thus conquering Peru.
Nobody knows for sure how much gold there is today in the world. Estimates range wildly from 150,000 tons to 2.5 million. The most frequently used figure is estimated by Thomson Reuters GFMS, a research and consultant company for precious metals. They judge for 170,000 tons of gold, which may sound like much, but with a density of 0.0193 tons per liter it makes for around only 8.2 million liters. This is just enough to fill 3.3 Olympic sized swimming pools. But even this amount was a cause for confusion among scientists for many years, as it could not be explained by the widely accepted model of our planet’s creation. When the Earth was still young, it was a hot mass of rocks and metals. Due to the force of gravity, over a course of millions of years these metals sank down, forming the core and leaving the mantle and crust devoted of them. One explanation for their presence there today was that they came to Earth as parts of meteorites, as the planet was bombarded 3.9 billion years ago. This theory has since been supported by evidence, extracted by analyzing ancient rocks in Greenland.
Today gold has many uses. Most countries have national gold reserves, the biggest of which are in the United States, at around 8,113 tons. However, the larger portion of the world’s gold is distributed among the population, predominantly in jewelry. One estimation suggests that incredibly around 11% of the world’s gold is held in the ornament of Indian Housewives. Due to its chemical and physical properties, today gold also has a new use, as a conductive material in technology. This however creates a unique problem, one which humanity has never faced before. Until now gold has always been recycled, old pieces of jewelry being melted into newer ones. But the pieces in technology are so small, that they are not worth collecting, meaning that for the first time ever gold is actually being consumed.
You don't wanna miss new facts and stay updated? Enter your email-adress and get a monthly summary and be the first to get the latest news from AnnaDoYouKnow
We want to grow as a community, where we can discuss with and learn from each other. The more people we are, the more knowledge we have together. So if you have a friend, who would like our content and be interested in our facts, feel free to share.
It really helps and motivates us to keep going.
If you like our posts and concept, it really helps us when you share your thoughts and experiences - write a comment or send us a message. And if you want us to keep going, leave us a follow. If you have any suggestions, give us your feedback.
We'd love to hear from you!
We want to present you the best high quality facts and we put a lot of love and effort into our project. Each of us spends a lot of time preparing our posts, beside our regular jobs. So if you like our work and want to support us in a financial way (and buy Mietzi some treats ) you can do this here.
You can donate a single amount or subscribe monthly using the checkbox