From the earliest times of civilization, people have become interested in gold. It’s not known how this precious metal was discovered and how exactly it became a symbol of value. Still, it is known to have a long history as a means of payment and a symbol of wealth.
More on the history of mining this valuable element read below:
Gold is a valuable metal, and most people perceive it as jewelry or an investment asset. They want it in any form due to the rising prices and bright future. But they somehow forget that this shiny element originates from an ore, which is specific for many reasons.
Gold is valuable because it’s rare, but it’s not the rarest metal on Earth. Experts estimate that about 80 percent of the world’s stocks are still underground. And about 20 million tons are in the oceans and below the bottoms. But these underwater excavations are risky, so these projects are still on standby, at least until scientists come up with safe methods and technologies.
Gold is most frequently found as a telluride mineral. These include calaverite, nagyagite, petzite, and sylvanite. The latter two are more common and less valuable. South Africa has most of the world’s gold ore deposits. The rest is scattered throughout Russia, Canada, and Australia. But this ore is found on every continent, even Antarctica, although excavations are still not allowed there.
An interesting fact about gold is that its origin is not familiar. There are some theories that this ore is the remnant of stars that have exploded. Then, it comes to Earth as a fine dust that stays in the crust for millions of years. Scientists claim that this is unlikely, but they don’t neglect this theory completely.
Over the centuries, alchemists have believed that they can turn ordinary elements, such as lead, into gold. But scientists still can’t trigger a suitable chemical reaction in lab conditions. They should combine 79 protons and 118 neutrons to form an atomic nucleus to make this possible. But that requires an intense nuclear fusion reaction.
One of the most important physical properties of gold is its high luster. Also, it’s not prone to rust or decay and doesn’t oxidize on the surface when it comes in contact with air. It can withstand elements and don’t change a bit. And unlike some other precious metals, it doesn’t tarnish. But it can change color sometimes, as seen here.
Gold is the most malleable metal known to man. It can be stretched one atom wide and won’t break. The dislocations within its molecules are responsible for its distorting properties on a nano level. That’s why machines can warp this element without any noticeable hardening. It can become a semi-transparent thin layer, with the transmitted light appearing greenish-blue.
While highly malleable, this precious metal is also quite dense and heavy. It means that the high value of this element can be ‘packed’ into small dimensions. Also, this feature has a lot of practical consequences. For example, it comes in handy when panning. The ore particles are heavier than water and easily fall to the bottom of the pan, while light minerals float away.
The primary way to extract gold from ore is through mining. It’s the process of getting the ore from the ground and rocks, as it’s there in the form of so-called epithermal vein deposits. This procedure digs out the ore lumps, which undergo refining from the impurities and cleaning to be further processed.
Another method is panning. Diggers who stand in cold mountain streams and spend hours washing away gold may come to mind first. Today, modern diggers use this method to identify new sites. But technology has significantly contributed to easing and improving this process. Nowadays, this method of ore exploitation uses diesel engines and a washing machine with rotating drums.
After mining, the gold has to be extracted from the ore. When miners find ore, they have to crush and refine it. Then, they have to separate this precious metal from the rest of the minerals found along with it. The coarse parts are washed away, and the fine ones are separated by gravity.
It can be milled, hammered, or drawn into thin sheets. Finely ground particles are easier to separate minerals found with gold and impurities. Then, it can be dissolved using cyanidation. This compound separates all living organisms and light minerals and melts gold to make it easier to collect.
Variety of Uses
Gold is the most popular precious metal that people have used for thousands of years for various purposes. Most of it is used to make jewelry and investment products such as bars, bullion, and coins. A somewhat smaller part has application in industry. The central banks also keep a good portion of the mined ore as reserves.
All these sectors affect the formation of this precious metal’s price through its demand. But it is precisely this diversity of the market that stabilizes the price of gold. That’s why this alternative investment vehicle is not too volatile, especially when compared to some other forms of investment such as cryptocurrencies or real estate.
Gold is widely distributed on Earth, both above and underground. It has some magnificent properties that make it very valuable and practical. So having this precious metal is not just a matter of prestige but a wise investment decision that can make your financial future more stable and enjoyable.