Top 10 Reasons Gold has Value
It is believed that gold has been actively taken from the ground for over six thousand years now. Gold coins are known to have existed before the Roman Empire and have been in continuous use ever since. Ceremonial decorations and artefacts have used gold to demonstrate wealth, power and beauty.
Gold glistens with a glorious, well, golden hue. It permeates the traditions of most cultures around the world, mostly in the form of jewellery or rings. It is used to denote a top of the line product, or a premium level of service – Gold Class. It is considered to be a safe investment, particularly in times of unease or economic uncertainty. It is revered by the common man and nobility alike.
A one ounce bar of gold, smaller than a credit card but a bit thicker, would currently cost you about $1,300
So what is it with gold? Governments keep big vaults full of it but it’s not going to help us grow food, or give us shelter. Why is gold so valuable?
10. Trophies, Plaques and Medals
Sports of all sorts are popular around the world and anywhere sport is played there will be competitions, with winners and losers. The winners get a medal or a trophy. The losers get a cold drink and a good talking to by their coach.
The same goes for acting, music, being a soldier or winning a Nobel Prize. There are medals and trophies for everything.
Not all trophies and medals are made of gold of course. If you win the 50 metre sprint at your junior school sports day you can pretty much be assured that your medal isn’t gold. Don’t bite it to check as you’ll probably crack the plastic.
But the big national and international events know how to do a trophy. The gold might not be pure and it might not be gold all the way through, but there are enough going around to use a lot of gold.
Anyway, it’s not the monetary value that’s important, well it’s important a bit, it’s the thrill of winning the ‘gold’ that makes it all worthwhile.
Here’s the low down on Olympic medals in general and at the Sochi Winter Games.
9. We Put it in Our Teeth
Okay, so gold in teeth is not so common in dentistry these days and the spike in gold prices in the 70’s help to push the use of alternative materials. However prior to that it was used extensively and has been since Roman times.
Gold is inert, it doesn’t rust or tarnish and it’s easy to work with; perfect for our mouth and now making somewhat of a comeback for just that reason. It is used as a component of metal alloys used for crowns and other dental and orthodontic procedures.
A really super exciting video on how to make a gold tooth. Hold on to your seat.
8. Gold in Space
The conditions in space are harsh and the opportunity to make repairs to spacecraft is often zero. Using materials that can be relied on to work in these conditions is just not an option.
Gold is one such material. It is used extensively in the various electrical circuits and computers on board space craft because it doesn’t corrode and is an extremely reliable conductor. Gold is also very effective at reflecting heat and infrared radiation which would otherwise make keeping the space craft cool enough for normal operation difficult or impossible. Equally important is keeping radiation off the astronauts. Space suits also contain gold, particularly the visors to protect the eyes.
Perhaps the most unusual application of gold in space is as a lubricant. Normal lubricants used on earth would evaporate or break down in space. However gold has a very low shear strength, meaning that the molecules move over each other easily making it a good way to keep a space crafts moving parts ‘oiled’.
A gamma ray detector goes to Mercury. It is a beautiful looking golden thing.
7. Gold Leaf
Gold is the most malleable metal we know. In fact pure gold can be moulded by hand so it’s ideal for beating into very, very thin sheets. Of course it’s also shiny and beautiful, all the more reason to make these super thin sheets so we can cover picture frames, furniture and even the outside of great domed buildings to give them a lustrous, desirable golden sheen.
But decoration isn’t the only use for gold leaf. Remembering that gold can be spread extremely thinly, it can be cost effective to use in modern buildings in certain circumstances to significantly reduce heat and radiation, thus reducing a buildings power consumption. Solar reflective material on large glass areas such as in office buildings is also extremely effective at reflecting heat and reducing air conditioning costs.
Making gold leaf in Burma. Wow, what a lovely job. Seriously.
6. Medical Applications
Somewhat surprisingly gold is used in the treatment of a number of medical conditions including arthritis where it is used in a very weak solution (gold is a fantastic inert lubricant), and as a beta emitter to enable radioactive tracking for diagnostic purposes. In fact gold has been used regularly in medicine for thousands of years (rightly or wrongly).
As with gold’s use in electronics, the fact that it is an inert element and extremely resistant to any sort of corrosion makes it ideal for these medical applications.
Perhaps the most unusual use of gold is in the treatment of a condition which limits the ability of a person to close their eyes. Gold, which is nearly twice as dense as lead, is implanted into the patient’s upper eye lid where it acts as a weight to help close the eye.
A doctor talking about the use of gold to treat arthritis. Exciting stuff if you have arthritis.
When the Spanish conquistadors went to South America and first met the great civilizations of that continent they had only one thing in common. Gold.
It has been used by cultures throughout history for their most important decorations because it has incredible beauty. Okay, and it’s malleable and doesn’t tarnish and all those things, but first and foremost it is beautiful.
If you looked around an ancient hut, or a house of today, anything made of gold will instantly stand out. It is serene; majestic; has depth and complexity. Hold on, this is about gold, not the 1982 Bordeaux vintage. But you know what I mean.
Man treasures beauty and gold is most probably the most beautiful element we know.
A bit about the colors of gold. Beautiful.
The most widespread and important use of gold in any manufacturing process is its use in electronics. Fine electric circuits are delicately balanced little things and using a metal that conducts well but doesn’t corrode is not only important, it makes the whole thing possible.
Phones, computers, televisions, cars, stereos; anything with a circuit board and electronics will have a certain amount of gold incorporated into its insides. In the US alone there something like 350 million mobile phones and 80 million cable TV set top boxes. They all have a little bit of gold in them. Now that’s value.
Must watch! Next time you go to throw away a phone or computer, don’t. Watch this first.
3. Rarity Value
There are various estimates of how much gold exists in the world; somewhere between 100 tonnes and a few million tonnes. Quite a lot until you consider that Tutankhamen’s coffin takes up maybe 100th of that (see OddSpot).
There is still gold in the ground but it’s getting harder and more expensive to get it out. Still, there are another 50-100 tonnes or so.
Regardless, it is rare and it is a finite resource. There are no doubt still some fossickers around who pan creeks and sieve dirt taken from the inside corners of bends in mountain streams, but generally speaking there is no way we can just go out and find ourselves some gold.
When you hold an object that is truly rare and extremely difficult to get, it can put a spell on you. We are all special and rare individuals and perhaps we like to express this by having a physical manifestation of our own rarity
Most importantly, since the advent of electronics small amounts of gold have found their way into landfill as our old phone, tv or other electronic device is thrown out. Consider that something like 1 billion mobile phones are built each year and each one is estimated to have up to 50 milligrams of gold. If an old phone is thrown away each time a new one is bought then that’s about $500 million worth of gold each year, just in phones.
There are recycling schemes to help reduce this, but the sheer volume of electronic devices being constantly replaced means that the amount of gold available out of the ground is being very gradually reduced.
Rarity is one thing, but not being real is another. This will tell you what to look for.
2. Gold doesn’t Perish
Gold doesn’t perish, rust or otherwise fall to bits in any way. You can leave it out in the dirt, in sea water or even in most acids or alkaline solutions and it won’t be affected. This is pretty unique in the world and is central to giving gold value.
A 300 year old shipwreck is found in the Malacca Straits with chests full of gold coins, a 3,500 year old Aztec ruin is found with a sarcophagus full of gold blocks, gold jewellery is found in a secret chamber in the Pyramids. What is the condition of the gold in each case? Perfect. Beautiful.
Gold’s ability to stay exactly like it is over millennia underlines its value across the board.
How to find your own gold treasure.
1. Confidence in our Future
For all the reasons stated above, gold has intrinsic value as a substance. But the reason people are happy to invest in gold with their hard earned dollars and therefore give it a tradeable value, is that these people are confident that our current way of life will continue for the foreseeable future; for their lifetimes at least and probably those of their children.
Gold is often seen as a conservative way of storing wealth and its price goes up when everything else is falling to bits because of a ‘flight to safety’ mentality. If economic news is bad and people fear the worst, they will buy gold.
Ironically if society did actually fall to bits, if there was a global calamity that left us in a state of total anarchy with groups of people wandering around the landscape looking for food, gold would no doubt be worthless. You can’t eat it, it doesn’t provide shelter, you can’t clean yourself with it and it’s actually a bit heavy to carry around with you. Trade would be done with food for a blanket, or water for a rare book you still had, that sort of thing.
If we managed to get through the calamity and start building a society again then we would need a form of money to trade with and gold would once again have value.
So, the people who invest in gold are confident that our society is not about to fall apart and the supply and demand that comes from that is what gives money value.
Check out Chad with his new bar of Pamp Suisse gold. Very nice.
Tutankhamen was an Egyptian pharaoh who lived during the 1300’s BC. He was a pretty impressive pharaoh by all accounts. He must have been because his coffin was a particularly elaborate affair.
The outer coffin is made of wood and a type of plaster with a fine gold leaf covering. The second coffin, inside the outer coffin, was also made of wood covered with a gleaming gold leaf.
The main coffin lay inside the second coffin and it was made of pure gold. Pure. It weighs 110 kg (240 lbs). Over one tonne of solid gold.