I have been meaning to do this entry for a while. I keep hearing uninformed individuals saying "gold is useless." Nothing could be further from the truth.
Colonel Smithers in the James Bond book Goldfinger explains gold's extraordinary properties.
(emphasis mine) [my comment]
There are no Swiss banks in Goldfinger although "Goldfinger, in ready money, is the richest man in England. In Zürich, in Naussau, in Panama, in New York, he has twenty million pounds' worth of gold bars on safe deposit." But Goldfinger uses Switzerland as the hub of his gold trafficking (which was illegal at the time in some European countries). There he has a discreet plant where he melts down car parts made of solid gold to then discreetly bank them or ship them on. Switzerland never had capital controls that prevented the free flow of gold or other precious metals, and this makes it even today the world's first market for gold. In the movie, Goldfinger uses this Swiss freedoom to his advantage.
Colonel Smithers explains the British secret service's interest for Mr Goldfinger operations during the dinner at the Bank of England:
'The great thing to remember about gold is that it's the most valuable and most easily marketable commodity in the world. You can go to any town in the world, almost to any village, and hand over a piece of gold and get goods or services in exchange. Right?' Colonel Smithers's voice had taken on a new briskness. His eyes were alight. He had his lecture pat. Bond sat back. He was prepared to listen to anyone who was master of his subject, any subject. 'And the next thing to remember,' Colonel Smithers held up his pipe in warning, 'is that gold is virtually untraceable. Sovereigns have no serial numbers. If gold bars have Mint marks stamped on them the marks can be shaved off or the bar can be melted down and made into a new bar. That makes it almost impossible to check on the whereabouts of gold, or its origins, or its movements round the world. In England, for instance, we at the Bank can only count the gold in our own vaults, in the vaults of others banks and at the Mint, and make a rough guess at the amounts held by the jewellery trade and the pawn-roking fraternity.'
'Why are you so anxious to know how much gold there is in England?' [How much gold is there in England today?]
'Because gold and currencies backed by gold are the foundation of our international credit. We can only tell what the true strength of the pound is, and other countries can only tell it, by knowing the amount of valuta we have behind our currency [valuta = the value of a currency expressed in terms of its rate of exchange with gold (or some other currency)]. And my main job, Mr Bond-'Colonel Smithers's bland eyes had become unexpectedly sharp - 'is to watch for any leakage of gold out of England - out of anywhere in the sterling area. And when I spot a leakage, an escape of gold towards some country where it can be exchanged more profitably than at our official buying price, it is my job to put the CID Gold Squad on to the fugitive gold and try get it back into our vaults, plug the leak and arrest the people responsible. And the trouble is, Mr Bond-'Colonel Smithers gave a forlorn shrug of the shoulders-'that gold attracts the biggest, the most ingenious criminals. They are very hard, very hard indeed, to catch.'
'Isn't all this only a temporary phase? Why should this shortage of gold go on? They seem to be digging it out of Africa fast enough. Isn't there enough to go round? Isn't it just like any other black market that disappears when the supplies are stepped up, like the penicillin traffic after the war?'
'I'm afraid not, Mr Bond. It isn't quite as easy as that. The population of the world is increasing at the rate of five thousand four hundred every hour of the day. A small percentage of those people become gold hoarders, people who are frightened of currencies, who like to bury some sovereigns in the garden or under the bed. Another percentage needs gold fillings for their teeth. Others need gold-rimmed spectacles, jewellery, engagement rings. All these new people will be taking tons of gold off the market every year. New industries need gold wire, gold plating, amalgams of gold. Gold has extraordinary properties which are being put to new uses every day. It is brilliant, malleable, ductile, almost unalterable and more dense than any of the common metals except platinum. There's no end to its uses. But it has two defects. It isn't hard enough. It wears out quickly, leaves itself on the linings of our pockets and in the sweat of our skins. Every year, the world's stock is invisibly reduced by friction. I said that gold has two defects.' Colonel Smithers looked sad. 'The other and by far the major defect is that it is the talisman of fear. Fear, Mr Bond, takes gold out of circulation and hoards it against the evil day. In a period of history when every tomorrow may be the evil day, it is fair enough to say that a fat proportion of the gold that is dug out of one corner of the earth is at once buried again in another corner.' [the evil day = the collapse of the international financial system]
Wikipedia explains all about gold.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au (Latin: aurum) and an atomic number of 79. It has been a highly sought-after precious metal in jewelry, in sculpture, and for ornamentation since the beginning of recorded history. The metal occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks, in veins and in alluvial deposits. Gold is dense, soft, shiny and the most malleable and ductile pure metal known. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. It is one of the coinage metals and formed the basis for the gold standard used before the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971.
At the end of 2006, it was estimated that all the gold ever mined totaled 158,000 tonnes. This can be represented by a cube with an edge length of just 20.2 meters. Modern industrial uses include dentistry and electronics, where gold has traditionally found use because of its good resistance to oxidative corrosion and excellent quality as a conductor of electricity. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and can form trivalent and univalent cations upon solvation. At STP it is attacked by aqua regia (a mixture of acids), forming chloroauric acid and by alkaline solutions of cyanide but not by single acids such as hydrochloric, nitric or sulfuric acids. Gold dissolves in mercury, forming amalgam alloys, but does not react with it. Since gold is insoluble in nitric acid which will dissolve silver and base metals, this is exploited as the basis of the gold refining technique known as "inquartation and parting". Nitric acid has long been used to confirm the presence of gold in items, and this is the origin of the colloquial term "acid test", referring to a gold standard test for genuine value.
Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all metals; a single gram can be beaten into a sheet of one square meter, or an ounce into 300 square feet. Gold leaf can be beaten thin enough to become translucent. The transmitted light appears greenish blue, because gold strongly reflects yellow and red.
Gold readily creates alloys with many other metals. These alloys can be produced to modify the hardness and other metallurgical properties, to control melting point or to create exotic colors (see below). Gold is a good conductor of heat and electricity and reflects infra red radiation strongly. Chemically, it is unaffected by air, moisture and most corrosive reagents, and is therefore well-suited for use in coins and jewelry and as a protective coating on other, more reactive, metals. However, it is not chemically inert. Free halogens will react with gold, and aqua regia dissolves it via formation of chlorine gas which attacks gold to form the chloraurate ion. Gold also dissolves in alkaline solutions of potassium cyanide and in mercury, forming a gold-mercury amalgam.
High quality pure metallic gold is tasteless; in keeping with its resistance to corrosion (it is metal ions which confer taste to metals).
In addition, gold is very dense, a cubic meter weighing 19300 kg. By comparison, the density of lead is 11340 kg/mł, and that of the densest element, osmium, is 22610 kg/mł.
The color of pure gold is metallic yellow. Gold, caesium and copper are the only metallic elements with a natural color other than gray or white. The usual gray color of metals depends on their "electron sea" that is capable of absorbing and re-emitting photons over a wide range of frequencies. Gold reacts differently, depending on subtle relativistic effects that affect the orbitals around gold atoms.
Medium of monetary exchange
In various countries, gold was used as a standard for monetary exchange, but this practice has been abandoned with the rise of fiat currency. The last country to back their money with gold was Switzerland, which backed 40% of its value until it joined the International Monetary Fund in 1999.
Because of the softness of pure (24k) gold, it is usually alloyed with base metals for use in jewelry, altering its hardness and ductility, melting point, color and other properties...
In modern times injectable gold has been proven to help to reduce the pain and swelling of rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis.
Dentistry. Gold alloys are used in restorative dentistry, especially in tooth restorations, such as crowns and permanent bridges. The gold alloys' slight malleability facilitates the creation of a superior molar mating surface with other teeth and produces results that are generally more satisfactory than those produced by the creation of porcelain crowns. The use of gold crowns in more prominent teeth such as incisors is favored in some cultures and discouraged in others.
... Colloidal gold is used in research applications in medicine, biology and materials science. The technique of immunogold labeling exploits the ability of the gold particles to adsorb protein molecules onto their surfaces...
Gold, or alloys of gold and palladium, are applied as conductive coating to biological specimens and other non-conducting materials such as plastics and glass to be viewed in a scanning electron microscope...
The isotope gold-198, (half-life: 2.7 days) is used in some cancer treatments and for treating other diseases.
Gold solder is used for joining the components of gold jewelry by high-temperature hard soldering or brazing...
Gold can be made into thread and used in embroidery.
Gold is ductile and malleable, meaning it can be drawn into very thin wire and can be beaten into very thin sheets known as gold leaf.
Gold produces a deep, intense red color when used as a coloring agent in cranberry glass.
In photography, gold toners are used to shift the color of silver bromide black and white prints towards brown or blue tones, or to increase their stability. Used on sepia-toned prints, gold toners produce red tones. Kodak published formulas for several types of gold toners, which use gold as the chloride (Kodak, 2006).
As gold is a good reflector of electromagnetic radiation such as infrared and visible light as well as radio waves, it is used for the protective coatings on many artificial satellites, in infrared protective faceplates in thermal protection suits and astronauts' helmets and in electronic warfare planes like the EA-6B Prowler.
Gold is used as the reflective layer on some high-end CDs.
Automobiles may use gold for heat insulation. McLaren uses gold foil in the engine compartment of its F1 model.
Gold can be manufactured so thin that it appears transparent. It is used in some aircraft cockpit windows for de-icing or anti-icing by passing electricity through it. The heat produced by the resistance of the gold is enough to deter ice from forming.
The concentration of free electrons in gold metal is 5.90×1022 cm-3. Gold is highly conductive to electricity, and has been used for electrical wiring in some high energy applications (silver is even more conductive per volume, but gold has the advantage of corrosion resistance). For example, gold electrical wires were used during some of the Manhattan Project's atomic experiments, but large high current silver wires were used in the calutron isotope separator magnets in the project.
Though gold is attacked by free chlorine, its good conductivity and general resistance to oxidation and corrosion in other environments (including resistance to non-chlorinated acids) has led to its widespread industrial use in the electronic era as a thin layer coating electrical connec tors of all kinds, thereby ensuring good connection. For example, gold is used in the connectors of the more expensive electronics cables, such as audio, video and USB cables. The benefit of using gold over other connector metals such as tin in these applications is highly debated. Gold connectors are often criticized by audio-visual experts as unnecessary for most consumers and seen as simply a marketing ploy. However, the use of gold in other applications in electronic sliding contacts in highly humid or corrosive atmospheres, and in use for contacts with a very high failure cost (certain computers, communications equipment, spacecraft, jet aircraft engines) remains very common, and is unlikely to be replaced in the near future by any other metal.
Besides sliding electrical contacts, gold is also used in electrical contacts because of its resistance to corrosion, electrical conductivity, ductility and lack of toxicity. Switch contacts are generally subjected to more intense corrosion stress than are sliding contacts.
Fine gold wires are used to connect semiconductor devices to their packages through a process known as wire bonding.
Many competitions, and honors, such as the Olympics and the Nobel Prize, award a gold medal to the winner.
Gold is even useful as clothing!
My reaction: Gold has a mix of extraordinary properties which have resulted in its use in a wide range of applications. It is not "useless" in the least.
Gold's unique properties
- Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all metals (a single gram can be beaten into a sheet of one square meter. Gold leaf can even be beaten thin enough to become translucent)
- Gold is chemically unaffected by air, moisture, and most corrosive reagents. Gold is the most acid resistant of all base metals (corrosion resistance is a big plus for coins and jewellery)
- Gold is a good reflector of electromagnetic radiation
- Gold is highly conductive to electricity (only silver is better, but gold has the advantage of corrosion resistance)
- Gold is a good conductor of heat
- Gold is very dense (which makes it impossible to counterfeit gold coins and bars)
- Gold is one of only three metallic elements with a natural non-gray color.
Gold's Many Applications
- Gold has historically been used as jewelry and a medium of monetary exchange. This is no accident. Gold's unique color (as a non-gray metal), its softness (most malleable and ductile of all metals), its corrosion resistance (acid test), and density (more dense than any of the common metals except platinum) make easily identifiable and impossible to counterfeit.
- Gold is used in dentistry due to its corrosion resistance and malleability
- Gold is used in medicine for its unique properties.
- Gold is used as a protective coatings on artificial satellites,
- Gold is used as a protective coatings in infrared protective faceplates in thermal protection suits and astronauts' helmets
- Gold is used as a protective coatings in electronic warfare planes like the EA-6B Prowler.
- McLaren uses gold foil in the engine compartment of its F1 model.
- Gold is used in some aircraft cockpit windows for de-icing or anti-icing by passing electricity through it.
- Gold electrical wires were used during some of the Manhattan Project's atomic experiments.
- Gold is widely used as a thin layer coating electrical connectors of all kinds, thereby ensuring good connection.
- The use of gold in electronic sliding contacts in highly humid or corrosive atmospheres, and in use for contacts with a very high failure cost (certain computers, communications equipment, spacecraft, jet aircraft engines) remains very common, and is unlikely to be replaced in the near future by any other metal.
- Gold can, apparently, even be used as clothing.
Conclusion: The only thing limiting the widespread use of gold in a variety of applications is its scarcity and expensiveness. If gold was cheap and plentiful, it would be used in virtually everything electronic (electrical wires, computer chips, etc).