By: Marlene Affeld
Since prehistoric man first stumbled upon a nugget, raw gold with its radiant sun yellow coloration and metallic luster has captivated and fascinated mankind. The unique gleam of gold attracts the eye, enabling the seeker to detect the smallest of grains in an aggregate of many other materials. The tiniest flakes are easily detected.
Anthropological excavations of Stone Age burial sites indicate that gold was the first element collected and prized by man. This unique metal, gathered in the form of nuggets, seems to have been highly prized but was not used in practical applications. Rating 2.5 – 3 on Mohs scale of hardness, gold was much too pliable to be hammered into workable tools or weapons. Gold carried little value for prehistoric man except to be admired and treasured for its rare, intrinsic beauty.
However, as man developed he soon discovered numerous applications for the mysterious golden metal. The earliest record of gold exploration dates to Egypt around 2000 B.C. Ancient records tell of an enormous alluvial gold deposit in Nubia, between the Nile River and the Red Sea in southeastern Egypt. This incredible discovery encompassed over one hundred square miles. Using the most primitive of tools and working to an average depth of less than six feet, these first “miners” pried an estimated one thousand tons of gold from this rich discovery. Egyptian artisans, recognizing the extraordinary malleability of gold fashioned incredible jewelry, ornaments and idols of breathtaking beauty.
Throughout the history of man’s involvement with gold, the precious metal has been prized not only for its beauty but for gold’s ability to withstand the rigors of time. No substance that appears commonly in nature will destroy gold. Unaffected by air, moisture, heat or cold, this noble metal will not tarnish, corrode, rust or tarnish. Shimmering gold dust, golden nuggets of placer gold and brilliant vein occurrences have survived 4.5 Billion years of cataclysmic geologic and climate changes; volcanic eruption, earthquakes, upheavals and deposition. Treasures of gold jewelry, bullion and coins, buried for thousands of years beneath land and sea have been found intact; as brilliant as the day they were abandoned.
A relatively rare native metallic element, gold ranks fifty-eighth in abundance amongst the ninety two natural elements that make up the earth’s crust. Although considered a rare element, of all metals gold is, with the exception of iron, the most widely distributed over the planet. Gold has been found on 90 per cent of the earth’s surface and is mined in high mountain ranges, in the deeply weathered soil of the tropics, harsh deserts and in the permanently frozen tundra of the Arctic.
Gold is commercially mined on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. The richest gold producing area of the world is the Witwatersrand District of South Africa. This ultra rich area has yielded eighteen thousand tons of gold with no end in sight. Additional notable gold bearing areas around the world are Siberia in the former USSR, the Porcupine District in Ontario, Canada and in the United States the Yukon District of Alaska and the famous Mother Lode District in California.
In the United States nature was extremely generous. Thirty-two states have recorded significant commercial gold production. The highest yielding areas are located within the western states, California, Colorado, Alaska, Nevada and South Dakota. Other abundant locations for prospecting include Georgia, Arkansas, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Washington, New Mexico, Wyoming, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Vermont and New Hampshire. The recreational gold prospector can find gold in his pan in practically every state of the union.
Gold is an ideal media for craftsmen. It is a metal that can be deformed by pounding without breaking or crumbling. Gold, in its pure form is the most malleable or workable of all metals. One single ounce of gold can be drawn and stretched into an ultra fine wire over 50 miles in length without breaking or pounded to the amazing thinness of one hundred thousandth of an inch without disintegrating. Gold is easily carved, readily buffs to a gleaming polish, can be heated repeatedly without discoloration and joins to itself or other metals by soldering without the need for a bonding flux.
For more than 6000 years gold has been considered symbolic of wealth, power and status. In 1350 B.C. the Egyptian boy king, Tutankhamen, was interred in a coffin elaborately cast from 242 pounds of solid gold. Throughout history men and women have adorned their bodies with brilliant, gleaming gold. The ancient custom of exchanging gold during marriage ceremonies continues today.
The nobility of Medieval Europe liberally sprinkled gold in the form of dust, flake or leaves on their food to demonstrate the host’s great wealth. Today gold is still often used in food and has the E Number 175. However, since metallic gold is inert to all body chemistry, it adds no taste nor has any other nutritional effect and leaves the body unaltered.
Primitive man believed gold contained a hidden, internal fire, a gift from the Gods with mysterious healing and magical powers. Numerous cultures of sun-worshippers revered gold as the tangible essence of their God; solid sunshine. In modern day Japan believers seek gold’s medicinal magic by immersion in a bathtub designed in the form of a phoenix crafted from 400 pounds of pure gold. Health and gold have long been entwined in the wondrous belief that something so rare and beautiful could not be anything but healing and healthy.
Today modern esotericists and forms of alternative medicine embrace the healing properties of gold. Some gold salts have anti-inflammatory properties and are used as pharmaceuticals in the treatment of arthritis and other similar conditions. However, only salts and radioisotopes of gold are of pharmacological value, as elemental or metallic gold is inert to all chemicals it encounters within the body.
Gold is a “storehouse of value”, the natural way for man to preserve capital and protect against financial uncertainty or monetary collapse. In modern times gold has served as a hedge against the threat of inflation and as a secure and safe way to secret away assets. The “hoarding” of gold occurs most frequently during times of war, adverse world conditions and international fears of economic instability. Gold has often defeated the attempts of governments to inflate the currency of their country as well as circumventing the aims of those holding political power to direct the economy of other nations.
Throughout recorded history, gold, the crowned king of metals, has been considered the ultimate monetary exchange. Gold is the only currency that isn’t someone else’s responsibility or liability; it is more that just a paper promise to pay upon demand. Gold’s worth does not rely on the economic stability of any country, political power or financial cartel. Gold has value in and of itself.
The current world price of gold is established daily by the London Gold Market which trades gold bullion and coins with other financial world centers such as Zurich, Hong Kong , Frankfurt and Paris. The price is based on pure or “fine” gold, therefore the value of gold gleaned in its natural state may vary depending on the impurities it contains. However, raw gold sold as specimens or jewelry will always bring a considerably higher price. Gold nuggets are as distinctively different as snowflakes, although similar, no two nuggets are alike. A nugget of unique character and shape may sell for as much as five times its value by weight.
Do you have broken or discarded gold jewelry you not longer wear? Now may be the time to cash in on the current gold rush. With the price of gold exceeding the $1000 an ounce benchmark, an errant earring or broken gold chain could add up to a significant sum.
To receive the best price for gold you may wish to sell, know the karat count. Because of the softness of pure 24k gold, it is usually alloyed with base metals for use in jewelry, altering its hardness, color, melting point and ductility. Alloys with lower karatage, typically 22k, 18k, 14k or 10k, contain higher percentages of silver, copper or other base metals in the alloy. The higher the karat the more you should expect to be paid.
If you only have a piece or two to sell, try a local jeweler or take a vintage piece to an antique jeweler. They’ll take the artist’s craftsmanship into consideration and you will net a much higher price than for just the gold weight.