The chemical element gold, atomic number 79, symbol Au (from the Latin
aurum), is a soft, lustrous yellow, malleable metal. It is one of the
transition metals and its atomic weight is 196.967; it belongs to group 1B
in the periodic table along with copper and silver.
Although the Earth's crust averages a mere 0.004 grams of gold per
ton,That makes it one of the ten rarest elements in the Earth's crust.
commercial concentrations of gold are found in areas distributed widely
over the globe. Gold occurs in association with ores of copper and lead,
in quartz veins, in the gravel of stream beds, and with pyrites (iron
sulfide). Seawater contains astonishing quantities of gold, but the process
of recovery is not economical. The ancients found quantities of gold in
Ophir, Sheba, Uphaz, Parvaim, Arabia, India, and Spain. By the time of
Christ, written reports were made of deposits in Thrace, Italy, and
Anatolia. The greatest early surge in gold recovery followed the first
voyage of Columbus. From 1492 to 1600, Central and South America,
Mexico, and the islands of the Caribbean Sea contributed significant
quantities of gold to world commerce.
Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, and Hispaniola contributed 61% of
the world's newfound gold during the 17th century. In the 18th century
they supplied 80%. Following the discovery (1848) of gold in California,
North America became the world's major supplier of the metal. From 1850
to 1875 more gold was discovered than in the previous 350 years. By
1890 the gold fields of Alaska and the Yukon edged out those in the
western United States, and soon the African Transvaal exceeded even
these. Today the world's unmined reserves are estimated at 1 billion troy
oz (31 billion g), about half in the Witwatersrand area of the Republic of
South Africa. Gold deposits are also found in Wales, Hungary, and the
Ural Mountains of the Russian Federation.
The distribution of gold seems to validate the theory that gold was carried
toward the Earth's surface from great depths by geologic activity, perhaps
with other metals as a solid solution within molten rock. After this solid
solution cooled, its gold content was spread through such a great volume
of rock that large fragments were unusual; this theory explains why much
of the world's gold is in small, often microscopic particles. The theory also
explains why small amounts of gold are widespread in all igneous rocks;
they are rarely chemically combined and seldom in quantities rich enough
to be called an ore. Because of its poor chemical reactivity, gold was one
of the first two or three metals (along with copper and silver) used by
in these metals' elemental states. Because it is relatively unreactive, it
was found uncombined and required no previously developed knowledge
of refining. Gold was was probably used in decorative arts before 9000
BC. Even civilizations that developed little or no use of other metals prized
gold for its beauty
Long Term Price Trends:
Since April 2001 the gold price has more than tripled in value against the
US dollar. In March 2008, the gold price increased above $1000, which in
real terms is still well below the $850/oz. peak on January 21, 1980.
Indexed for inflation, the 1980 high would equate to a price of around
$2400 in 2007 US dollars.