In its purest form, it is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft, malleable and ductile metal. Gold often occurs in free elemental form, as nuggets or grains, in rocks, in veins and in alluvial deposits.
Gold is the most malleable of all metals; a single gram can be beaten into a sheet of 1 square meter.
Gold is thought to have been formed from the collision of neutron stars. Because the Earth was molten when it was formed, almost all of the gold present in the early Earth probably sank into the planetary core. Therefore, most of the gold that is in the Earth’s crust and mantle is thought to have been delivered to Earth later, by asteroid impacts about 4 billion years ago.
The oldest known map of a gold mine was drawn in the 19th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt (1320-1200 BC), whereas the first written reference to gold was recorded around 1900 BC. Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 2600 BC describe gold, which King Tushratta claimed was “more plentiful than dirt” in Egypt.
Production and consumption
As a precious metal, gold has been used for coinage, jewellery and other arts throughout history.
The first known coins containing gold were struck in Lydia, Asia Minor, around 600BC.
The consumption of gold produced in the world is about 50% jewellery, 40% in investments and 10% in industry.
The largest country for gold jewellery consumption in tonnes is China. This is followed by India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Wedding rings are usually made of gold. Gold is long lasting and unaffected by the passage of time and may aid in the ring symbolism of eternal vows and the perfection marriage signifies.
The 50th wedding anniversary is golden.
Gold in jewellery
Gold is used in jewellery because of the attractiveness of its lustre and because of its rarity. It also doesn’t tarnish or rust.
Because of the softness of pure (24ct) gold, it is usually alloyed with base metals for use in jewellery, altering its hardness and colour.
High carat white gold alloys are more resistant to corrosion than are either pure silver or sterling silver.
Purity is measured in ‘carats’.
‘Caratage’ is the measurement of purity of gold alloyed with other metals.
24 carat is pure gold with no other metals and is recognised by the stamp ‘999’. 18ct gold contains 75% gold and is recognised by the stamp ‘750’, and so on…
Common gold alloys include:
Rose gold, created by the addition of copper
White gold, created by the addition of palladium or nickel. It is usually plated with rhodium to create a harder surface with a brighter shine.
Green gold, created by the addition of silver
Blue gold, created by the addition of iron
Purple gold, created by the addition of aluminium
Black gold, created by the addition of cobalt oxide
Pieces of costume jewellery are also plated with the thinnest sheets of gold to enhance their appearance.
- The world’s largest nugget, the ‘Welcome Stranger’ was found near Dunolly, Victoria, Austrailia in 1869 and weighs 72.02kg (2,315.5 troy ounces).
- Gold is so heavy that one cubic foot of gold weighs half a ton.
- A one ounce gold nugget is more rare that a 5ct diamond.
- All of the gold ever mined could fit into 3 Olympic swimming pools.
- Gold is so rare that the world pours more steel in an hour than it has poured gold since time began.
- Nearly all the gold on Earth came from meteorites that bombarded the planet over 200 million years after it was formed.
- 75% of the presently accounted for gold has been extracted since 1910.
- Gold melts at 1064 degrees centigrade, whereas the boiling point of gold is 2808 degrees centigrade.
- Around 187,200 tonnes of gold has been mined since the beginning of civilisation.
- Gold is only 2.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness – about the same as a fingernail. Pure gold is so soft and malleable that a strong man can squeeze it and shape it.
- A gold nugget found in the earth can be three to four times as valuable as the gold it contains because of its rareness.
- Gold has been found on all 7 continents.
- Scientists believe that gold can be found on Mars, Mercury, and Venus.
Gold in our upcoming auction
Lot 280: A NUGGET OF GOLD, of mixed fineness, 439gms
Lot 467: AN 18CT GOLD LIMITED EDITION ‘HEINZ’ BAKED BEAN, in fitted presentation case
Lot 361: A LADY’S 18CT GOLD EBEL WRIST WATCH, mother of pearl dial, bracelet strap
Lot 318: AN EDWARDIAN CORAL SET NECKLACE, on yellow gold
Lot 2: A 10CT YELLOW GOLD CHAIN
Lot 308: A 9CT ROSE GOLD HEAVY CURB LINK BRACELET
Lot 18: A GEMSET FLAT CURB NECKCHAIN, in 9ct gold
Lot 381: TWO EDWARDIAN GOLD SOVEREIGNS 1909, 1910; together with a half sovereign 1911
Auction of Fine Jewellery, Watches & Silver on September 27th at 1pm at O’Reillys Auction Room, 126 Francis Street, Dublin 8
On view Sunday 24th September 12-4pm, Tuesday 26th September 11am-5pm and morning of auction Wednesday 27th September 10am-12:30pm.
Catalogue online NOW!