Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Atomic number: 79
Atomic weight: 197
Electronic configuration: 4f14 5d10 6s1
Tensile strength: 120 MPA
Mohs hardness: 2.5

While scientifically exact, the numbers and figures do little to describe the appeal of gold and why it has been synonymous with luxury and wealth since antiquity.

Gold occurs naturally in nuggets, often mixed with a little less than 10% of silver to form an alloy called electrum. There is no set formula for natural electrum and it can vary widely from place to place. It is easy to imagine the bright colour and shine of the high karat* gold catching the eye of one of our antecessors. A gold and silver alloy is also easy to work, so our sharp eye friend could easily hammer it out into a wearable disk or just keep it as it was found.

My over active imagination aside, gold has been used by humans for around 6 thousand years,  but became more common in the Bronze age. It makes sense that as we started exploring the properties of metals and discovering metalworking techniques, we would also learn how to use gold.

Unlike bronze, gold was used mainly for ornamental, not practical, purposes. Early pieces include the Mold cape and this bronze and gold sky disk:

From then on, gold has been used in jewelry and coins, to guild wooden statues and furniture, even for plates and cutlery. In modern times, it has found a variety of new applications in electronics, chemistry and the automotive industry. In fact, cultures who do not value gold are the exception and generally have a different material that has similar functions in society.

There is plenty more I wanted and planned to say about gold: more technical explanations, demystifying gold carats, talk about white and other coloured gold and share a ton of trivia about gold. This post is already pretty long and I don’t want to bore you, so expect more golden posts in the near future.

Curiosity – the Aztecs called gold teocuitlatl, which translates to, ahem, excrement of the gods.

*watch this blog for a post explaining everything about karats and gold alloys