Gold Facts

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• We don’t know when and where humans first found and used gold. In 1972, archaeologists discovered an ancient burial ground near Varna, Bulgaria, containing many gold artifacts dating to at least 4000 B.C. It is the oldest major collection of gold objects discovered to date.
• The Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen, known as King Tut, was buried in a series of nested coffins, the final one made of solid gold. Discovered in the 1920s by a British archaeologist, the coffin measures more than 6 feet in length and tips the scales at 243 pounds.
• America’s first gold rush took place not in California but in North Carolina, beginning a few years after the 1799 discovery of a 17-pound gold nugget in Cabarrus County.
• The world’s biggest recorded gold nugget was discovered at Moliagul in Victoria, Australia, in 1869. Dubbed the Welcome Stranger, it contained around 2,300 ounces (157 pounds) of gold.
• The average price of a troy ounce of gold was around $279 in 2000. By 2012, it had reached over $1,700. (Gold, like other precious metals, is measured in troy ounces, a system thought to have originated during the Middle Ages at the trade fairs in Troyes, France.)
• China is the planet’s top gold producer, followed by Australia, the United States, Russia and South Africa.
• Nevada is officially nicknamed the Silver State, but it produces the majority of all gold in America.
• The world’s oceans are thought to contain nearly 20 tons of gold. However, it’s so diluted or buried so deep that extraction would be too expensive.
• The chemical symbol for gold is Au, which is derived from the Latin word “aurum,” meaning “shining dawn.”
• Gold is highly malleable and ductile. A single ounce can be stretched into an extremely thin wire measuring 50 miles long, or pounded into a very thin sheet that covers 100 square feet.
• One of the planet’s most chemically stable elements, gold doesn’t corrode or tarnish under normal conditions.
• Gold is 19 times denser than water.
• In previous centuries, gold was used for currency and jewelry. It is now used in jewelry and as a conductor of heat and electricity in electronic devices, including computers and cell phones. It also plays a role in dental, medical and space technologies.
• The purity of gold is measured in karats, while the weight of gemstones is measured in carats. Pure gold is 24 karats, which is considered too soft for jewelry. In the United States, quality jewelry is typically 18 karats (18 parts gold and 6 parts alloy metal) or 14 karats (14 parts gold and 10 parts alloy).
• Fort Knox, the U.S. Bullion Depository located near Louisville, Kentucky, opened in 1937 and now holds a reported 147.3 million ounces of gold. Based on a price of $1,700 per ounce, all that gold is worth around $250 billion.
• America abandoned the gold standard in 1971, and three years later President Gerald Ford lifted a 40-year ban on ownership of monetary gold, such as coins and bullion, by U.S. citizens.