Why is gold so valuable?
Gold, like no other metal, has a fascinating history and a special place in the world. For thousands of years it has been used as an ornament of kings, a currency and standard for global currencies, in competitions as symbol of victory and more recently, in a wide range of electronic devices and medical applications. Ancient civilizations used gold for the decoration of tombs and temples.
In modern days, the International Monetary Fund (IFM) and the World Bank (WB) suggested the use of gold as monetary reference, i.e., the value of a bill guarantees a given amount of gold. In sports the winner gets a gold medal. Other example of gold as symbol of power, health and prosperity is the gold mirror fish Mercedes Benz C63 AMG (Image 1). Although there are doubts whether the car is simple paint or real gold paint, it already arose many debates about expending big amount of money on the beautification of such car.
Why is gold so valuable?
First, it is important to remember some basic concepts about gold. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable, and ductile metal. It is a chemical element with the symbol Au and atomic number 79. Its symbol is Au. The melting point of gold is 1,948°F (1,064°C) and its Boiling point is 5,173°F (2,856°C). The atomic mass of gold is 196.96657 ± 0.00004 u. The density of gold is 19.30 g cm-3. Some possible reasons for its high value are its unique aesthetic and special properties.
Color and aesthetic
The symbol of gold is Au, from the greek word aurum, which means glow of sunshine. The English word gold comes from the words gulb and ghel referring also to the color. It is the only metal of this color. The gold’s characteristic yellow color is due to the arrangement of its electrons. When alloyed with other metals like silver and cooper it has different colors, according to the percentages of the alloy (Image 2).
Physical and chemical properties
Gold has unique physical chemical characteristics that made it very valuable. Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all the metals. One ounce of gold can be drawn into more than 80 Km of thin gold wire. One ounce of gold can be beaten into a sheet covering 9 square meters and 0.000018 cm thick. Gold has an electrical resistivity of 0.022 micro-ohm and a thermal conductivity of 310 W m-1. Hence, it is very efficient for the transmission of heat and electricity. Gold has the highest corrosion resistance of all the metals and it is corroded only by a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid. Gold is a noble metal because it does not oxidize.
The mentioned characteristics are enough to make a very useful and desired metal; thus, a very valuable one. Besides, it is important to consider that gold is rather scarce. It is estimated that the whole gold of the planet equals a total of 168,180 tonnes or 5,407,112,558 ounces. To visualize this volume, let’s imagine a single solid gold cube with edges of about 19 meters. This is about three meters shorter than the length of a tennis court.
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