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Precious metals investment terms A to Z

Gold as an Element

Chemically, gold is an element with the symbol Au and atomic number 79. It belongs to noble metals and is a unique element. First of all, it is extremely rare. In the Earth’s crust, gold occurs 19 times less frequently than silver and 15 thousand times less frequently than copper. It is the only metal being yellow with a high luster, to which it owes its Latin name ‘aurum’, meaning “shining dawn.”

Moreover, gold is practically indestructible, since it resists attacks by acids or corrosion and most other chemical reactions. It is unaffected by air, heat, moisture and most solvents, being one of the least reactive chemical elements. Therefore, contrary to other metals, nearly all gold in the world that has ever been mined is still in existence. As of 2014, a total of 183,600 tons of gold was in existence above ground, which means that all of the world’s gold could be formed into a cube measuring 21 meters per side. Gold is produced in many countries, but most of it is currently mined in China, Australia, the U.S., Russia and South Africa.

Additionally, gold is very dense. Its density is 19.32 grams per cm3, meaning that it weighs about 19 times as much as an equal volume of water. The high density enabled it to be mechanically concentrated in river and beach environments and preserved in placer deposits, facilitating the search of gold through the panning process. The high density of gold also implies that gold has high value per unit of weigh. Thus, this feature explains why gold was portable and convenient to use as money and a store of wealth.

Although gold is called a heavy metal because of its density, it is actually soft and the most malleable of all metals. One gram of it can be beaten into a sheet covering nearly a square meter. The high malleability and ductility made gold widely used in the jewelry industry.

Gold is also a good conductor of heat and electricity, exceeded only by silver and copper, which is appreciated by the electronic industry (for example, smartphones or tablets contain small amounts of gold). It is also used in dentistry, nanotechnology, biotechnology, medicine, aviation and the aerospace industry due to its material compatibility, inherent durability and proven track record of reliability.

The uniqueness of gold made the shiny metal valuable and highly sought from the beginning of civilization. It was used in jewelry, arts and coinage long before the beginning of recorded history. Its durability, rarity, density, portability and luster decided that gold was chosen as money. It was the basis of an international monetary system under the gold standard from the XIX century until 1971. It is still used as a reserve asset by national central banks and other official agencies such as the IMF. Gold is also used as an investment as it is considered a safe-haven asset.

We encourage you to learn more about gold – not only as an element, but also how to successfully use the shiny metal as an investment and how to profitably trade it. A great way to start is to sign up for our gold newsletter today. It's free and if you don't like it, you can easily unsubscribe.

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