Gold Characteristics - Gold 101

Blinded by the beauty of gold? Then you may not be aware of the metal’s amazing capabilities beyond jewelry. The most malleable and ductile of all metals, gold can take some impressive forms. Imagine the amount of gold it takes to form a 300 square foot piece—that is the size of a 15 by 20 foot room. Stumped? Surprisingly, a single ounce of gold can be beaten into that large a piece because of gold’s malleability. That same ounce of gold can also be stretched out into 50 miles of wire that is one-tenth the thickness of a human hair. In addition, gold leaf can be beaten until it is almost see-through. At this point, because gold reflects yellow and red, the light that would be seen through the translucent sheet would be greenish-blue.

Perhaps another reason why gold has been so popular for so many reasons throughout the centuries is so little damages or alters it. It is like the Superman of precious metals—nearly indestructible. Things like air, moisture, and other corrosive factors have little or no impact on the precious metal. These reasons have played into gold’s popularity for jewelry, coins, and even dental work.

Gold is also very dense. It actually weighs more than lead. Gold conducts heat and electricity extremely well, which has made it popular in many industrial and scientific endeavors. It can reflect heat and light, and has been used on windows in apartment buildings to retain heat and reflect the sun. It is used on astronaut’s face shields for this latter reason. Adding to gold’s many capabilities in industry and science, it blends well with other metals to create strong alloys.

Alchemists have sought for centuries to create gold on their own from base metals, but were never successful. The Soviets came the closest of anyone to making gold. In their nuclear reactors, lead nuclei were transformed into gold by radioactivity.

Two things can alter gold however. One is a halogen. Halogens are nonmetal elements. A halogen can change gold’s chemical makeup. The other thing that can alter gold is aqua regia. Latin for royal water, aqua regia is formed by mixing two acids, nitric and hydrochloric. Combined the two create a highly corrosive solution that can dissolve gold.

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Back to the Gold 101

Gold was first discovered thousands of years ago in its natural state, in streams, which lead to mining all over the world. Its brilliance, natural beauty, great malleability and resistance to tarnish made it enjoyable to work with. Gold gave rise to the concept of money itself. Today gold is used for jewelry fabrication, industrial application, and medical uses, by governments and central banks and by private investors.

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