How was gold discovered

Gold - history of mankind's most coveted metal

Gold is one of the heavy and precious metals and is characterized by its high resistance. It is practically free of corrosion and oxidation and can be used many times. These properties and the captivating sparkle made it the most coveted metal of mankind. In all cultures, its use was reserved for the wealthy and privileged only.

From Cult object gold developed into currency and thus continued its triumphant advance into the present. Today everyone is talking about gold again, whether as jewelry, in medicine and industry or as a crisis-proof investment. There is no getting around gold these days.

Magma flows form veins of gold

Before gold finds its use in civilization, it has come a long way. The origin of all earthly gold lies in the interior of the earth, more precisely in the magma that circulates under the tectonic plates as liquid rock with a temperature between 700 and 1250 degrees Celsius and finds its way through volcanoes to the earth's surface when the pressure rises.

In the interior of the earth, there is high pressure and extreme temperatures, which allow the water vapor to evaporate and penetrate the cooled upper rock layers.

The groundwater comes into contact with the hot water vapor through cracks and crevices and evaporates. In some places this water vapor is known as a hot spring that shoots up from the ground as a fountain or geyser. Gold and silver atoms are dissolved in the water vapor, which cool down and deposit in closed layers of rock. The gold and silver atoms crystallize together with all other minerals dissolved in the water vapor in the solid rock layers.

Once there, it takes a few million years for the gold veins to come to the surface, mostly in the form of mountain chains, due to the shifting of the tectonic plates, which gradually but continuously change the face of the earth. Some of the gold veins remain trapped in the rock.

Water partially removes the gold veins

The weather, especially wind and water, is working on other gold veins. The flow force of the water removes the material piece by piece. The gold contained in the rock is initially washed away in larger chunks.

The so-called Nuggets however, they are too heavy for the current and therefore remain on the bottom. Smaller pebbles carried by the current collide with the nuggets and crush them over time.

Gold nuggets are turned into gold soaps

These gold tinsel are light enough to be carried by the current. Your journey usually ends at the inside of a river bend, because there the current is less strong, so that there are particularly many Gold tinsel to so-called Gold soaps deposit. At these flow points, gold miners wash the gold from the ground.

The origin of gold lies in space

But where does the gold in the earth's interior come from? There are several theories about this. There is agreement that gold could not have originated on earth. So it has its Origin in space - long before the earth even existed. Most scientists assume that a supernova, the exploding of a huge star, carried gold particles to Earth.

The theory has many supporters because all elements heavier than iron can only be formed directly in such explosions. If a star has ten times the mass of the sun, the conditions for a supernova are in place.

Gold can come from supernovae

First, the star burns hydrogen to helium, which is then burned to carbon and finally to oxygen. In further processes, silicon and magnesium are burned until finally only an iron core is left. The silicon firing phase is the last phase of life of a starthat expires in less than a day.

If the iron core grows beyond a critical size, it becomes unstable and collapses into a so-called neutron star. Only the iron core remains, the remaining 90 percent of the mass is in a huge explosion, the Supernova, hurled into space. Only at this short point in time is there enough energy available to create elements such as gold, titanium or uranium.

What remains is that Neutron starthat has so much mass that it dwarfs even the sun. At the same time, however, it only has a diameter of approx. 20 kilometers. So the mass density is extreme.

Colliding neutron stars create even more gold

However, model calculations call into question the theory that gold was created solely by supernovas. Because the amount of gold that is created in a supernova is by far not sufficient to explain the occurrence on earth. Another theory is based on the collision of two neutron stars.

The energy released in this process exceeds that of the supernova. so-called Gamma-ray bursts should therefore be responsible for the majority of the earth's gold.

Model calculations have shown that when two neutron stars merge, temperature peaks of 100 billion degrees Celsius occur. This creates more gold, silver, titanium and other heavy metals than a supernova.

However, "our" gold came into being over five billion years ago. The dust cloud generated by the release of energy condensed into new planets in our solar system and enclosed the gold. That is why gold is available everywhere on earth.

Gold has always been in demand

Gold can be found all over the world, but only in very small quantities. The rarity of gold has always made it a coveted commodity - be it as an exchange or cult object or simply as jewelry.
No matter what culture prevailed and what stage of development people were in, barter, whether with cattle, grain or coins, has been with us since time immemorial. The exchange objects functioned as means of payment that had a certain equivalent value in the form of another exchange object.

Due to its properties, gold offers itself as a barter object

Gold cast a spell over people because of its rarity, texture and glitter. Croesus, a legendary king of the Lydians, probably introduced gold as currency in 560 BC.

The reasons for this are obvious. Gold cannot be produced, counterfeited or multiplied in any quantity and is extremely versatile. Its special nature made it possible to work and process gold.

Gold was and is the most advanced currency

The most important uses of gold were in coinage, as an alloy and in jewelry processing. Since gold found its distribution in all cultures and was equally important everywhere, the precious metal established itself as a worldwide means of payment. This made gold a more advanced currency thousands of years ago than any paper currency now in use. Because the area of ​​validity extended over the entire globe and not just to individual countries or groupings of countries.

The size of the gold reserve determined the rise or fall of a state. Wars and culture were financed with gold, revolts in the armies were sparked by a lack of gold, and sea battles were fought over South American gold.

Gold was mined 6,000 years ago

Gold was mined as early as 4,000 years before Christ. In southern Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and the Euphrates, the Sumerians discovered gold and operated the first gold mine. The Egyptians also knew gold as early as 3,000 years before Christ.

Whole cultures were wiped out for gold

The Inca people are undoubtedly one of the legendary cultures with a great wealth of gold. Their rule over large parts of the western South American coastline lasted for several centuries. With the founding of the city of Cusco in 1200, the Incas laid the foundation for a centuries-old culture. It was not until 1532, when Francisco Pizarro landed on the Peruvian coast, that the Inca were confronted with an overwhelming force that they had nothing to oppose.

The European military machinery, armed with firearms and cannons, encountered an opponent who had only rudimentary military technology. Barrage, lassos and clubs were hopelessly inferior to the firearms. Pizarro looted around 180 tons of gold and 16,000 tons of silver. The melting furnaces are said to have burned for a full 34 days to convert the precious metals into transportable bars to shape. The gold looted at that time is now equivalent to almost eight billion euros.

Spain secured itself through that too Inca gold its supremacy on the world's oceans and fully established itself as a world power. Only forty years after Pizarro's arrival, the Inca culture was largely wiped out.

The Aztecs suffered a similar fate. They too have tons of gold. After the continent was discovered in the 15th century, the Spaniards quickly came into contact with the Aztecs. The natives gave the Spaniards jewelry made of pure gold. Back home, the news of the gold wealth of the Aztecs quickly made the rounds.

In the 16th century, Hernandez Cortez followed the call of gold and met King Montezuma. Once again an Aztec king showered his guest with gold. Then the Spaniards began to search the whole country for the source and gradually wiped out the Aztec people. Most of the gold finds were melted down and shipped to Spain.

Gold rush: gold washers mine gold for 24 billion euros

Another "golden" age was marked by a discovery in 1848 in the small town of Coloma in California on the "American River". James Marshall dug a ditch for the water wheel of his sawmill. As he washed the sand and pebbles from his trench, he came across some Gold nuggets. The news of the gold discovery spread at lightning speed and sparked it California gold rush.

Came within a year 90,000 prospectors from all over the world to California to find their luck in the gold prospect. The pioneers called themselves "forty-niners"and set themselves the task of finding the best sites. It quickly became clear that the gold was not scattered indiscriminately. They concentrated on the lucrative bends in the river and washed out the sand there with gold pans.

They circled their gold pans in repetitive processes in order to separate the light sand from the gold. A total of 570 tons of gold were found in the rivers of California - today's value almost 24 billion euros.

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Technology brought the gold prospectors further discoveries worth 60 billion euros

The gold rush attracted more and more soldiers of fortune, so the search extended to the slopes of the valley. There the prospectors encountered even larger deposits. Because over the course of millions of years, the river channel washed itself out deeper and deeper, so that older rivers lay dry and gold veins came to light. With the help of powerful water jets, they loosened the sand and were able to mine a further 1,400 tons of gold, which today is worth almost 60 billion euros. It was the first use of rudimentary conveyor technology.

Gold mines dug one kilometer into the earth 160 years ago

Due to the enormous influx of gold prospectors, the river gold was soon exhausted, so that the search for the source, which was suspected to be in the mountains, marked the final act of the California gold rush. They quickly found quartz veins that had been mixed with gold. When it became clear that the quartz veins ran for miles across the country, the search for gold changed fundamentally.

Industrial miners riddled the California highlands with hundreds of mining areas and created jobs for thousands of men. The mines could take on gigantic proportions. The Alleghany Mine, opened in 1853, had a tunnel system of 60 kilometers that reached up to one kilometer deep into the earth.

Gold prospectors moved from find to find

As early as 1880, only 32 years after James Marshall's discovery, gold discoveries were becoming rarer. When new gold deposits were discovered in neighboring Nevada, hosts of gold prospectors set out to find their fortune in the hills of the desert.

The sparsely populated desert land flourished and provided the material for numerous Wild West classics. Gold rush towns were established across the state and had a dubious reputation. Because here gold prospectors set out on their own to look for the rare precious metal.

Due to the sequential distribution of the gold deposits in Nevada, there were places with a very high gold content immediately followed by places with very little gold deposits. Envy and resentment led to arguments, shootings, and a high homicide rate.

In Nevada a total of 1,100 tons of gold were mined until 1920 the deposits became more and more difficult to reach and the gold rush gradually came to an end. Dozens of ghost towns remained.

Gold worth 30 billion euros sank in the sea

The sparkling precious metal forms the material for numerous stories, fairy tales and myths. But there are also legendary gold treasures in the real world, which professional and hobby treasure hunters seek every day. The treasure hunt even goes so far that companies see it as their core task. Technologically well-equipped, for example, they go in search of sunken ships that, according to historical records, had large gold treasures on board.

And indeed, every now and then their efforts are crowned with success. This is not surprising, given the estimates of sunken shipwrecks. Over three million ships are waiting to be discovered on the ocean floor. How many of them had treasures on board is uncertain. However, around 3,000 ships belonging to the Spanish crown alone are still missing today. They sank half a millennium ago on the silver route of the conquistadors, laden with gold and silver of the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs in the Caribbean.
Experts estimate the value of sunken gold and silver treasures at 30 billion euros.

People have always been on a treasure hunt

There were spectacular finds as early as the last century. Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings. On February 16, 1923, he opened the burial chamber and discovered extensive grave goods made of gold. Probably the most important find is Tutankhamun's death mask, which was found together with a golden shrine, guards and the throne.

Most of the relics discovered at that time can now be admired in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Several dozen graves have already been discovered in the Valley of the Kings. Archaeologists believe that not all have been discovered yet.

The so-called Treasure of Troy is repeatedly cited as an example of success by amateur archaeologists. When Heinrich Schliemann, an amateur archaeologist who was actually a German merchant, uncovered parts of the city of Troy from 1871 to 1879, he made a fabulous discovery on May 31, 1873.

Under the remains of the wall he came across gold vases, tiaras, bracelets, headbands and other gold jewelry. He baptized the treasure with the name "Priamos" and handed it over to the Ethnographic Museum in Berlin. After 1945 the treasure came from Troy to Moscow, where it was rediscovered in 1987.

While Howard Carter and Heinrich Schliemann found the gold treasures by chance and their interest was not in the treasure hunt but in archeology, in 2003 John Morris and Greg Stemm showed that a systematic and long-term targeted treasure hunt can also lead to success.

The S.S. Republic sank on October 18, 1865 on its way from New York to New Orleans when it was hit by a storm. 20,000 gold coins are said to have been on board. After twelve years, the two treasure hunters discovered the wreck of the S.S.Republic off the coast of Georgia, at a depth of 516 meters.

But before anyone can find gold coins at the bottom of the sea, the metal was wrested from the earth's crust by other people in an elaborate process.

The raw material gold is mined all over the world

Gold is mined all over the world, but the largest deposits are concentrated in a few places on earth.
The largest known gold deposit in the world is located in South Africa.

The so-called Witwatersrand belongs to the type of pyritic gold-uranium paleo soap. The discovery dates back to 1886. To date, 47,000 tons of gold have been mined there. More than a third of all gold ever mined. The quartz rubble conglomerate covers an area of ​​around 52,000 square kilometers - one seventh the area of ​​Germany.

A total of six gold fields are located in the Witwatersrand Basin, most of which are located on the northwest flank. Orange Free State Goldfield, Klerksdrop Goldfield, Carletonville Goldfield, West Rand Goldfield, East Rand Goldfield, and Evander Goldfield are all throughout South Africa known gold mining areas.

The oldest rock layers are 3.07 billion years old.The gold deposits go back to alluvial rubble fans that formed where a river from the hinterland flowed into the Witwatersrand Basin.

Geologists estimate that several tens of thousands more tons of gold can be mined from the Witwatersrand Basin. However, the production has progressed so far that the mining has now reached a depth of 4,000 meters. Without extensive air conditioning, it would be too hot for people at this depth. Due to the enormous expense involved in mines such as these, Witwatersrand gold can only be mined economically if the gold price remains high.

Pure gold is found in high concentrations in orogenic gold deposits

The orogenic gold deposits are among the most important mountain types. They arise during ore formation. The high gold content, not infrequently 10g per ton of rock, makes these mining areas particularly lucrative. In contrast to the Witwatersrand Basin, which also contains other metals, are orogenic Gold deposits mostly only usable for pure gold extraction. Orogenous mountain types occur predominantly in Africa and Western Australia. But you can also find these gold deposits in the USA, Ghana, Brazil and in the Alps.

Epithermal gold deposits are also interesting

There are also epithermal gold deposits. They are formed at temperatures between 150 and 400 degrees Celsius. They mostly occur in a 100-kilometer zone behind the deep-sea trench in the continental as well as in the arched island area. Epithermal gold deposits are characterized by flat crustal gold mineralization. The high gold content can vary between 1 to 10 grams per ton.

Epithermal gold deposits are of particular interest to geologists and scientists. The latest studies indicate that epithermal gold deposits can deposit gold in the rock the fastest. It should be possible to accumulate 1,000 tons of gold in just 50,000 years.

Another type of deposit can be found in carbonate rocks.

High consumption of landscape when mining carbonate deposits

Among other things in the USA are gold deposits to find this type. The Gold content is usually between one and ten grams per ton. The latest finds have even brought to light a content of 11.09 grams. The gold mining is carried out by means of blasting, which lead to huge landscape craters. The mining is complex and economically only worthwhile if the gold price is relatively high.

Gold is often found in conjunction with other metals

The so-called iron oxide-copper-gold deposits describe the mining areas that relate to granite and rhyolite. They have a high iron content and were created by volcanic eruptions. This mountain gold is found mainly in Australia. The gold yield of this type is relatively low at 0.5 to 1.5 grams per ton. Due to the high price of gold and the simultaneous extraction of copper, these mining sites are nevertheless lucrative.

Prophyric copper-gold deposits are characterized by their large ore bodies. They occur predominantly in young mountain ranges. The gold yield is low at 0.1 to 1 gram per ton. However, this also results in 5 to 10 kilograms of copper per ton of rock. The largest deposit, which has over 10 billion tons of ore, is located in Chile and will continue to be available for mining iron, copper and gold for a few more decades.

There is also gold in rivers

Gold nuggets and tinsel that can be found in rivers and streams are referred to as washing and soap gold. These so-called secondary deposits are deposited in certain places in rivers and streams. Gold soaps are always formed where the current is not strong enough to transport the precious metal. These usually consist of fine gold particles, the gold flakes. Large, heavy nuggets are less common. Over time, they are crushed by the weather and falling pebbles until a nugget has disintegrated into countless gold flakes.

The gold flakes are rolled out by the movement of the ballast, so that they are deposited as wafer-thin leaves. Gold soaps can be found in the bends in the river and are marked by black mud with pebbles.

If you take a gold pan in hand and wash the pebble-mud mixture in the water with circular movements, the heavy gold particles settle in the wash pan, while the sand and pebbles are washed out by the water.

Soap gold can also be found in Germany

In Germany, the Rhine, the Göltzsch in Saxony and the Schwarza in Thuringia are known as rivers containing soapy gold. The Celts were the first traditional culture to discover soap gold in the Rhine. Their skills were adopted by the Romans, the Teutons and the Alemanni.

When Johann Gottfried Tulla straightened the Rhine from 1817-1866, he carried away large amounts of sand and gravel and came across large amounts in the process Gold deposits. After the Rhine had been straightened, the soap gold finds declined drastically, as there were hardly any suitable bends in the river where the gold could have been deposited. Although the gold content in the Rhine is estimated at only 0.1-20 mg / m³, gold mining by the Rheinzabern gravel works near Karlsruhe was resumed a few years ago.

So far, 170,000 tons of gold have been mined

Gold occurs on all continents except Antarctica. The cumulative amount ever extracted by human hands worldwide is estimated at 170,000 tons. The recoverable reserves are estimated at around 100,000 tons. With a current annual output of 2,500 tons, the gold deposits could be depleted in the next forty years.

Regardless of this, never before has so much gold been mined as in previous years. The gold price, which has risen by a factor of 8 in the past ten years, also reflects, among other things, the ever-increasing effort involved in maintaining and even increasing production rates.

China now produces most of the gold

The ten most important producing countries

rankcountryDelivery rate
1.China345 t
2.Australia270 t
3.United States237 t
4.Russia200 t
5.South Africa190 t
6.Peru150 t
7.Canada110 t
8.Ghana100 t
9.Indonesia100 t
10.Uzbekistan90 t

At the top of the Gold producers has been China since 2008. With a production volume of 292 tons at the time, it replaced the United States, which still extracted 235 tons of gold. South Africa was closely behind with 233 tonnes of gold, followed by Australia (215 t), Russia (189 t) and Peru (180 t). South Africa, which has the largest gold mining area in the world with the Watersrand Basin, has been at the forefront of gold producers since 1905.

The country weights in gold mining are shifting

Some countries have increased their production volumes immensely in recent years. China announced a record year for 2010. The Middle Kingdom mined 345 tons of gold and was thus able to increase its production for the eleventh time in a row. China will probably continue to be at the forefront of global gold producers in the years to come. In the medium term, Beijing plans to produce 400 tons per year.

China has 6,328 tonnes of developed gold reserves and is thus in third place among the world's gold deposits. Most of the production sites are located in the eastern part of the country, although there are gold mines in the west that increase their annual production. The ten largest mine operators contributed 184 tons to the total production of 345 tons. Looking at the production volumes by region, Shandong, Jenan, Jiangxi, Fujian and Inner Mongolia account for around 60 percent of total gold production.

Australia produced a total of 255 tons in 2010 and is now in second place. This means that Australia was able to increase its production volume by 15 percent, but is still around 20 percent below the 1998 level.

Australia's gold wealth is spread across the country. However, the mining is mainly concentrated in the west. Two thirds of Australia's gold production comes from there. But there are also production sites in South Australia and New South Wales. The most important gold mines in Australia are the Super Pit Mine at Kalgoorlie, the Telfer Mine in the Pilbara region, the St Ives, Agnew and Boddington production sites and the Sunrise Dam in Yilgarn Carton.

80 percent drop in production in South Africa

The ten largest gold mines

rankmineDelivery rate
1.Grasberg (Indonesia)63 t
2.Murantau (Uzbekistan)56 t
3.Carlin (USA)54 t
4.Yanacocha (Peru)45 t
5.Goldstrike (USA)39 t
6.Cortez (USA)36 t
7.Veladero (Argentina)35 t
8.Lagunas Norte (Peru)25 t
9.Lihir (Papua New Guinea)25 t
10.The Super Pit (Australia)24 t

The century-long domination of South Africa has come to an end due to the advanced yield. Production has plummeted by 80 percent over the past 40 years. In comparison, China, which is now the world's best, only promotes a third of what South Africa mined in the late 1960s.

South Africa was still producing 1,000 tons of gold in 1970. In 2011, what was once the leading gold producing country came to just 190 tons. Nevertheless, South Africa is believed to have the largest gold deposits in the world. Geologists estimate that 31,000 tons of the precious metal can still be mined in South Africa.

Overview of the most important gold producing countries

Russia has around 7,000 tons of developed gold reserves. They are mainly concentrated in Siberia. Kupol in Chukotk, the Olympiada Mine in Krasnoyarsk, the Voro Mine in Sverdlovsk and the Khakanja Mine in Khabarovsk are the largest gold mines in the country.

In the USA, gold mines that were already closed were put back into operation due to the high gold price. Around 75 percent of US gold is mined in Nevada. But there are also extraction sites in Alaska, Utah and Colorado. Nevada is home to the most important gold mines, the Carlin Nevada Complex, the Goldstrike Mine and the Cortez Gold Mine.

Uzbekistan, which mined 90 tons of gold in 2011, currently still has secured deposits of 2,100 tons. Approx. 70 percent of the Uzbek gold is mined in the Muruntau gold mine. It is one of the largest open mines in the world.

In 2011 Indonesia shared eighth place with Ghana. The island nation recorded a decrease in production of 16.7 percent compared to the previous year. The gold deposits are mainly to be found in the districts of Grasberg, Batu Hijau, Tujuh Bukit and Ertsberg. The Grasberg gold mine is one of the largest in the world.

Ghana increased its production by 22 percent in 2011. After South Africa, Ghana is the second largest gold producer on the continent. The occurrences are to be found mainly in the western part of Ghana. Although the country also exports other raw materials, gold accounts for 90 percent of Ghana's mineral exports.

Canada's gold production also increased significantly in the past year. Production increased by a full 21 percent, of which 86 percent was extracted in the states of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. The country's largest gold mine, the Red Lake Mine, is located in Ontario and is responsible for half of Canada's gold production.

Peru's gold production has been declining since 2006. Last year 2011, too, the output fell by 8.5 percent. With the Yanacocha mine, Peru has the largest gold mine in South America. In 2011 it contributed around 42 tons of the total output of 150 tons. The gold deposits are concentrated in the provinces of Cajamarca, La Libertad, Apurmac and Arequipa.

Gold extraction is very harmful to the environment

Regardless of where gold is mined - with the exception of manual gold panning, the process is always extremely harmful to the environment. The extremely environmentally harmful amalgam process, which is often used, is known from ancient times. The use of mercury, which is added to the gold-bearing sand and mud, leads to the formation of amalgam. The amalgam settles on the bottom and is removed. The mercury is then evaporated by heating. The end product is raw gold.

This method is mainly used today in the Amazon region. There, far from civilization, gold is illegally extracted with the simplest means and also with the use of mercury. Due to the toxic fumes that are generated when the mercury is burned, this process has considerable negative effects on people and the environment. Large amounts of the highly toxic mercury often end up in streams and rivers.

Cyanide leaching is also extremely dangerous

Due to the environmental damage, this process is outlawed by reputable gold producers. Wherever it is used, there are usually conflicts with the local population.

Large industrial gold miners use the cyanide leaching process. The finely ground rock is treated with a 0.1 percent sodium cyanide solution for several months. For this purpose, the crushed rock is sprayed with the highly toxic solution on an area of ​​one to several hectares.

The use of cyanide causes the gold to oxidize due to the oxygen present and is collected in a basin. There, the raw gold is obtained by absorption on ion exchangers, activated carbon or by precipitation with zinc dust.

The gold is separated from copper and zinc using dilute sulfuric acid. This method, which was first used in Scotland in 1887, also regularly receives criticism. Because several million liters of the highly toxic cyanide solution are sprayed openly into the landscape.
Dikes were repeatedly broken on the open heaps and thus deprived the locals of their livelihood.

Comparatively "clean" extraction: gold as a by-product and recycling product

However, gold can also be found as a by-product in the extraction of other metals. Gold can be extracted primarily from the refining of copper.

Recycling is becoming more and more important for gold mining. While jewelry and dental processing have always used the precious metal sparingly, we dispose of millions of electrical devices every year. Most of them contain tiny amounts of gold that add up to a handsome amount. Estimates assume 22.2 grams of gold per ton of electronic waste - far more than most gold deposits contain per ton of rock.

Panning for gold: the most environmentally friendly extraction method

Gold panning is one of the oldest gold extraction processes. Soap gold can be separated from other materials with the simplest means. Different gold pans are used here. The so-called safety trough is used to flush out river soil with a gentle, even rotating movement on the surface of the water. Since gold is a heavy metal, it sinks to the bottom of the safety trough.

This process is still used today. On the one hand, professional gold seekers explore rivers and streams for industrial gold producers; on the other hand, there are a number of private gold seekers who use this method.

On a much larger scale, the same principle is followed with the wash trough. The wash trough is placed in the gold-bearing river and can be between half a meter and 200 meters long and 0.1 to 5 meters wide. Flat obstacles are inserted across the direction of flow. Gold deposits on the obstacles because it is too heavy to be carried over the obstacle by the current.

Gold Synthesis: Alchemists Would Be Successful Today

For over a thousand years, alchemists tried to make gold artificially. In the Middle Ages, the idea of ​​converting material came up. Numerous alchemists rushed to the most precious precious metal and relied on the teaching of Aristotle. He was of the opinion that all substances consist of fire, water, earth and air and that it only depends on the mixture ratio in order to be able to produce any substance.

When the success did not materialize, the alchemists did not declare the teaching of Aristotle null and void, but went in search of a missing link, the so-called philosopher's stone. At the end of the 15th century, the phase of alchemy ended without even an alchemist actually producing gold.

Today gold can be produced in nuclear reactors by splitting other elements. In practice, this possibility of gold extraction is ruled out, since the gold produced in this way would be significantly more expensive than the extraction of naturally occurring gold.

Gold as currency: the era ended in 1971

In addition to its use as jewelry, gold has always been used as a currency metal. Whenever a currency unit corresponds to a legally determined amount of gold, the currency is based on the gold standard. In 1844, the Bank of England was the first central bank to introduce this standard, thereby creating the first internationally valid currency system with paper money. For the central bank, this meant that it issued paper notes, but guaranteed citizens that these notes could be exchanged for gold at any time.

Although the gold standard meant that each country could only put as much money into circulation as there was gold in the vault, i.e. the countries submitted to a self-restraint in money creation that was unpopular with politicians, the model found many imitators. Soon almost all industrialized countries introduced the gold standard, which ensured a stable world currency system until 1914.

The 1st World War led to the first turning point

It was only in the course of the First World War that many states were no longer able to maintain the gold standard due to the enormous war costs. Attempts to introduce a modified form, the so-called gold currency standard, were unsuccessful.

The second golden age of the gold standard began at the end of World War II

In 1944 the foundation stone for a new world currency system was laid. The United States committed itself to exchanging dollars for gold at the legally stipulated ratio at any time. For the first time in 30 years there was a fixed exchange rate, which was decided at the Bretton Woods conference. From the 1960s onwards, the USA's balance of payments got into trouble, with gold flowing out of the country in large quantities.

On August 15, 1971, the USA unilaterally canceled the gold standard - from then on, US dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold. Since then, currency systems without precious metal backing have prevailed worldwide.

The gold price is highly volatile in the long run

As with all non-price-regulated goods, the price of gold on the market is made up of supply and demand. If you look at the history of gold and adjust it for inflation, you can see significant price differences. The all-time high of $ 3,100 per troy ounce today was reached in 1492. Until 1550 the price of gold remained at a very high level. Due to the wealth of gold in South America, the supply volume increased dramatically, so that the gold price fell below the 600 dollar mark within a few years. Over the next few centuries, the price of gold hovered between $ 300 and $ 600 per troy ounce.

When Napoleon traveled through Europe, the price of gold fell well below $ 300. Only in the course of the 19th century did the gold price stabilize again. The reason for this can be found in the introduction of the gold standard. When large gold deposits were found in South America at the beginning of the 20th century and many countries had to reduce their gold inventories during World War I, the gold price collapsed again and fell below the $ 200 mark.

This price marks the lowest point in a historical context. After the First World War, some states reintroduced the gold standard. In addition, after the stock market crash of 1929, investors fled into gold, so that the price rose sharply. With the beginning of World War II, the price of gold fell again until the Bretton Woods monetary system was introduced. After the US abandoned the gold standard in 1971, the price of gold is determined by the free market.

Gold is traded in various degrees of purity

Gold is used in various degrees of purity. The degree of purity itself is measured in different units. Today the degree of purity is usually given in per mille. Before the metric system was introduced, it was common practice to use carats. The corresponding information is not always stamped on the gold ware.

Carat and per mille, both are common

While the unit carat in Germany is kt. is specified, the international name is ct. The carat indications are not identical to those of precious stones.
The per mille is based on 1000 parts by weight. If you hold gold ware of the purity grade 333 in your hand, then 333 parts of 1000 total parts correspond to pure gold. In other words: 2/3 of the jewelry is not made of gold at all.

Not all ounces are created equal

The weight is usually given in the unit "troy ounce". One troy ounce (oz tr) corresponds to 31.1034768 grams. The troy ounce should not be confused with the "ounce", which is around three grams lighter.

The standard bar has no standard weight at all

Gold is often poured into bars to improve shelf life. The manufacturer usually stamps his brand, the purity and a bar number on the gold bar. The common dimensions and sizes range from 1 g to 13.4 kilograms. While the fine gold bars weighing 1 to 1000 grams are mainly purchased by private investors, the bars weighing up to 13.4 kg (good delivery bars, standard bars) with a minimum fineness of 995 industrial consumers and large investors serve as a standard trading instrument. Contrary to popular belief, the weight of a standard bar is not standardized, but may vary in a span as well as the fineness.

The unique properties make gold a sought-after raw material

Gold is used for a wide variety of purposes. Nevertheless, some key industries have emerged as the main consumers.

The youngest user branch is industry. The electronics industry in particular uses gold on circuit boards, computer chips and many other components. Although the precious metal is very expensive, it is used because of its corrosion resistance, good contact and ease of processing. For example, 10 grams of gold can be stretched into a thin thread that is 33 kilometers long and is used to make contact with computer chips.

The electrical industry uses around 10 percent of its annual gold consumption in its production processes.

Gold in medicine: common for centuries

Gold has been used in medicine for centuries. Gold has always been in demand, especially in dentistry. Due to its corrosion resistance, gold is suitable as a replacement material for missing or defective teeth. The precious metal is also used in dentistry for aesthetic reasons. In certain cultures, golden teeth symbolize wealth and success.

In addition to dentistry, gold is also used in therapeutic treatment. Gold salts are used, for example, against rheumatic complaints.

The use of gold in medicine is controversial. Because the ingestion of gold can lead to severe side effects, while a therapy success only sets in after months.

Unbeaten when it comes to consumption: The jewelry industry

The jewelry industry accounts for around 75 percent of industrial gold consumption. Whether watches, tiaras or wedding rings - gold is essential for many pieces of jewelry.

Gold is currently in its prime in gastronomy. Because more and more products with gold leaf components are coming onto the market. In some restaurants, too, you can order pasta with gold leaf flakes.

Last but not least, a prospering industry has emerged around gold in recent years, which provides investors with ever new investment products such as coins, bars and precious metal savings plans.

Gold is the most ductile metal

Gold is one of the precious and heavy metals and is also one of the 22 pure elements that only consist of one isotope. From a physical point of view, the deformation of the gold under load is interesting. The so-called ductility is particularly high in gold. The precious metal can be rolled out so that a thickness of only 100 atomic layers is achieved. Gold is the most ductile metal that man knows. It is also extremely resistant to oxygen, sulfur, air, water, molten alkalis, hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.

The melting point of gold is only 1064 degrees Celsius, which has favored processing since the earliest history of mankind. The boiling point is reached at 2856 degrees Celsius.

Gold is generally alloyed for many areas of application

Gold is only used as a pure metal in a few areas. Small investors in particular ask for unalloyed pure gold with finenesses of 999 and finer. But such fine gold is simply unsuitable for many areas of application. The properties required for the specific application are improved by means of an alloy.

A gold alloy is basically a dilution. Not only does the gold content decrease, but also the color, corrosion resistance and density decrease, while hardness and polishability increase.

Alloyed gold is used exclusively in jewelry

The most common gold alloys for jewelry are 333, 585 and 750 gold. In Germany, the cheap 333 gold is most commonly used, while 585 is preferred in Turkey and the whole of the Orient. In Italy, on the other hand, gold 750 is predominantly used. Jewelry made of 999 gold is generally not made because it would be way too soft. Therefore, depending on the degree of purity, other metals such as copper and silver are added to the gold. This gives the desired hardness and the ability to produce colored gold alloys.

The connection with copper and silver is one of the classic gold alloys. On the one hand, it already occurs in nature in this connection, on the other hand, the alloy with other metals was banned in Europe until the 19th century.

Today, however, gold is also alloyed with zinc, indium, tin, cadmium, gallium, platinum and nickel. The color spectrum changes depending on the composition. The colors range from rich yellow to light green and soft pink to silvery white. However, the alloy not only influences the color spectrum, but also the degree of hardness and the melting point. Platinum, nickel and copper increase the hardness, while zinc, indium, tin, cadmium and gallium lead to a lower melting point.

© | Author: Stefano Biondi | Images: © Martin Kreutz - Doreen T. - Bernd Ege - charles taylor -