Gold has always been a sign of wealth and this super-shiny metal is used to make jewelry, coins and works of art. It is also collected by people who want to have something to show for their money and like to store gold bars in the hope that when they come to sell it, their gold will be worth more than they paid for it.
If you have been paying attention in your history lessons, you may have been taught about the ancient Egyptians and the most famous pharaoh of them all called Tutankhamen. When he died, they made a facemask for him out of pure gold, and not only is this amazing to see,it is probably one of the most famous examples of something made from gold in the world.
Gold is the third element in the eleventh column of the periodic table and its symbol is AU and Atomic Number is 79.
It is classified as a transition metal and it has a melting point of 1064C or 1947F.
It was first discovered in ancient times and we know that gold atoms have 79 electrons and 70 protons and 118 neutrons in the most abundant isotope.
This shiny yellow-colored metal is very dense and heavy but actually soft at the same time.This makes it very good to work with and just 1 gram of gold could be hammered into a sheet that was 1 square meter in size and could be made so thin that it became transparent.
We have been using gold to make jewelry ever since the Stone Age and if you are really lucky, you could even find small lumps of the stuff just sitting there in a stream, but to get lots of gold you have to work a bit harder than that and dig for it underground.
As gold is quite rare and worth a lot of money, lots of people throughout history have tried to find their own hidden treasure. Early gold was found in Ethiopia and the Egyptians traded with the Nubians to get their hands on it as well as finding some for themselves in their own country.
Spain had a lot of gold mines and this is why the Romans fought them to get their hands on the shiny metal and it is believed that the value of gold and silver from Spain paid for the Romans to build their empire.
You might be surprised to know that China now produces the most gold in the world each year but for years, South Africa was the main country but now they are 5th in the league table with Australia and the United States in 2nd and 3rd place.
Where do we find gold?
Gold is a very rare element on Earth. It doesn’t react with very many other elements, which means it is often found in its native form in the Earth’s crust or sometimes mixed in with other metals like silver. It can be found in veins underground or in small fragments in sandy riverbeds, and in the past when someone has stumbled upon a source of gold, it has caused many people to come to the area in search of their own gold. This was known as a gold-rush and 40,000 people came to California in 1848 in search of gold, once they heard about it being found there.
You can also find gold is also found in ocean water, but the problem is that it often costs too much to retrieve it and you wouldn’t make enough money from the gold once you had paid for the cost of excavating it.
What do we use gold for ?
We have used gold to make jewelry and coins for thousands and that is still a big part of how we use this precious metal, with some coins in particular, becoming quite collectable and worth a lot of money. We use gold as a form of investment.and some people use their money to buy gold bars or use the stock market to try and make money through gold-related investments.
It is quite common to find that the the gold used to make jewelry and coins is not pure gold. Pure gold is called 24 karat gold and it is very soft. Gold is often alloyed with other metals such as copper or silver in order to make it harder and more durable.
Gold is also used a lot in the electronics industry because it has good electrical conductivity and is resistant to corrosion. This is why many electrical contacts and connectors are plated with gold for protection and reliability, so you might find a little bit of gold in your computer, cellphone or other everyday electrical gadget.
It is a very versatile metal and other applications for gold include use as a heat shield, dental work, some cancer treatments, and even fancy decoration such as gold thread and gold plating, so we would soon miss gold if it wasn’t about.
Gold is also very popular when it comes to being rewarded for your achievements. Olympic winners and Nobel Peace Prize winners all get golden medals and items to recognize their deeds and successes, so ask your teacher if you might get one for coming top of the class!
Karats or carats but not carrots
Confused? Gold is measured in karats, which sounds funny until you see how it is spelt differently to the vegetable that helps you to see in the dark.
A karat is a measure of how pure the gold is and 24 karat gold is pure gold. 18 karat gold means that the gold is 75% pure gold and 14 karat gold is 58.3% pure gold.
If you see the word carat used to describe gold, this is different to a karat. A carat is a unit of wight for the gold and not a measure of how pure the gold is, so you need to know the difference between your karats, carats and of course, carrots, which have nothing to do with carrots and don’t cost anywhere near as much.