Precious metals are metals that are rare and have a high economic value due to various factors, including their scarcity, use in industrial processes, hedge against currency inflation, and role throughout history as a store of value. The most popular precious metals with investors are gold, platinum, and silver.
The word ‘gold’ comes from the Old English word “geolu” which means yellow. Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and atomic number 79. This makes it one of the higher atomic number elements that occur naturally. It is a bright, slightly orange-yellow, dense, soft, malleable, and ductile metal in a pure form. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and a group 11 element
Nearly all the world’s gold came from meteorites that bombarded the planet over 200 million years after it formed. Scientists have shown that the Earth’s surface became enriched with precious metals by impacting meteorites. The Earth’s crust and mantle contain gold. It was during this last impact event that the gold which we can access in the crust was delivered. Gold is a relatively rare chemical element, making up only 0.0000004% of the Earth’s crust.
Malleability is a measure of how easily a material can be molded into shapes. The second gold fact you’ll learn today is that gold is the most malleable element. In fact, pure gold is so soft that it can even be molded by hand. A single ounce of gold can be beaten into a 300-square-foot sheet. A sheet of gold can also be made thin enough to be transparent.
Because pure gold is too soft to resist prolonged handling, it is usually alloyed with other metals to increase its hardness for use in jewellery, goldware, or coinage. Most gold used in jewellery is alloyed with silver, copper, and a little zinc to produce various shades of yellow gold, or with nickel, copper, and zinc to produce white gold.
In its pure form, gold is the only metal that is yellow or “golden.” Other metals may develop a yellowish colour, but only after they have oxidized or reacted with other chemicals.
When mixed with alloys, the colour of gold changes from yellow to white as the proportion of silver in them increases. More than 70 percent silver results in alloys that are white. Alloys of gold and silver are commonly used to make gold coins and goldware, and alloys with platinum or palladium are more commonly used in jewellery. The content of gold alloys is expressed in 24ths, called karats. For example, a 14-karat gold ring is made of 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloys.
Gold is extremely ductile, meaning it’s capable of being drawn out into wire or thread without the risk of breaking. In fact, just a single ounce of gold can be stretched into a gold thread 5 miles long! Gold threads can then be used for products like jewellery or manufacturing needs.
Although gold is a heavy, dense metal, it is generally considered nontoxic. Gold metal flakes may be eaten in foods or drinks, although it is a common allergen for some. Because of this, it’s a good idea to understand your allergies before purchasing a piece of gold fine jewellery.
To determine if you’re allergic to gold, take a piece of gold and rub it on the palm of your hand. If you’re allergic to gold, a dark mark will appear where it came in contact with your skin. For those that are allergic, platinum is a great alternative that is less likely to cause irritation.
Along with being malleable, gold is also very pliable. The main difference between the two has to do with the degree the shape can be bent. Pliable materials can be bent or flexed. And materials that are malleable can be beaten or hammered into a bowl or basin shape. In fact, gold is so pliable that it can be made into sewing thread—although that would be some pretty expensive sewing thread.
Gold is one of the densest of all metals. Gold weighs 19.3 times as much as other metals, or about 160 pounds per gallon. Its weight is one of the many reasons gold has become so valuable. This is aside from the fact that, in its pure form, gold can be crafted into almost any shape. A gold bar can be turned into earrings, bracelets, rings, and family heirlooms and is used as a reliable conductor in many modern electrical components.
In its elemental form, gold is significantly rarer than diamonds. A one-troy-ounce Gold nugget, 31.1 grams, is rarer to find than a five-carat mined diamond. After all, carbon is one of the most abundant elements on Earth—contrary to what you might have been told—and a diamond is composed almost entirely of carbon. The average concentration of gold in Earth’s crust is ‘very, very low,’ at 4 parts per billion.
Gold has many uses aside from its monetary and symbolic value. Among other applications, it is used in electronics and electrical wiring. This is because it does not corrode or tarnish, unlike other highly conductive metals like copper and silver. Electronics aren’t made entirely of gold. Instead, the precious metal is used for specific components such as connectors and wires.
Gold has been discovered on every continent on Earth. ‘Alluvial’ gold is found as small yellow grains and flakes, or even small nuggets, on the beds of fast-flowing rivers and streams.
You’re more likely to find gold deposits on the inside of bends in a river, where the water flows less quickly. As the water slows down, the heavy gold particles fall through the gravel on the riverbed and work their way down through the soil underneath. Eventually, it settles on the riverbed’s clay bottom.
High-purity gold is odourless and tasteless. This makes sense since gold is unreactive. Metal ions confer flavour and odour to metallic elements and compounds.
The elemental symbol for gold is Au. This comes from the old Latin name for gold, aurum, which means “shining dawn” or “glow of sunrise.” The word gold comes from the Germanic languages, meaning “yellow.”
Despite being rare, gold is not the most expensive metal. This is likely why it’s one of the most popular wedding themes for fall. The most expensive metals found on Earth are palladium and rhodium. Both metals are much more expensive than gold. That said, the gold price has been known to fluctuate depending on demand. Even so, gold remains more affordable than other metals.
Ocean waters contain gold. There are about 20 million tons of precious metal, worth around $771 trillion, in the oceans. There is said to be about one gram of gold for every 100 million metric tons of ocean water in the Atlantic and North Pacific. There is also gold on the seafloor. The ocean, however, is deep, meaning that gold deposits are a mile or two underwater and hard to find.
Along fault zones deep within Earth’s crust, small cavities filled with fluids rich in dissolved substances such as gold and silicate minerals can expand to as much as 130,000 times their former size during an earthquake.
In these circumstances, pressure drops, driving a process called flash evaporation. When the pressure in the cavity drops, so does the solubility of minerals in the water. Large earthquakes can deposit as much as 0.1 milligrams of gold along each square meter of a fault zone’s surface in just a fraction of a second.
Gold is a noble metal and doesn’t react easily, making it virtually indestructible. Gold doesn’t rust, oxidize, or even react to most acids. This is why all of the gold extracted from the earth is melted, re-melted, and used over and over again. This is why noble metal is also considered sustainable jewellery.
This is why it’s a good idea to purchase recycled gold as there is no structural damage, is more affordable, and prevents excess gold mining and the mining of other precious metals.
SHADES OF GOLD
Differently coloured gold is as pure and real as its yellow counterparts. Pure gold being too soft for jewellery is mixed with alloys to gives it the durability it requires. Each metal colour lends its colour turning its original colour to various shades of white, pink, red, green and the like. Nickel and silver are used for white gold, while copper is used for pink and silver for green. The shades of yellow gold can also vary with the alloys used for its various karat weights. The figure shows the various colour palettes of gold.
The more copper used, the redder the resulting metal will be. Rose gold gets its name from its rose-like colour, created by the high percentage of copper used in the alloy. Despite its name, rose gold isn't a new metal
Platinum is a dense, stable and rare metal that is often used in jewellery for its attractive, silver-like appearance, as well as in medical, electronic, and chemical applications due to its various and unique chemical and physical properties. Platinum is more than ten times rarer than gold. Total annual mine supply of platinum is around 250 metric tons.
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