Gold has been coveted from as far back as antiquity. It’s the oldest precious metal known to humankind and the most malleable. Studies reveal fragments of gold found in caves used by Paleolithic mandating as far back as 40 000 BC. But there’s no tangible evidence to pinpoint our first encounter with it. Until fairly recently South Africa was the world’s largest producer.
It’s likely that the ancient Egyptians first recognised gold as a valuable commodity. Since then it’s retained its association as a symbol of wealth and achievement. In 1922 Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun still intact. When the tomb’s extraordinarily large collection of gold jewellery and decorative embellishments were revealed, the world gasped.
Starring role in the world’s monetary exchange
Besides jewellery and ornamental embellishments, gold’s other main purpose is fiscal or for investment. Many economies at one time or another functioned under the gold standard. While this practice has diminished somewhat, a large chunk of the world’s gold is still held by governments and central banks. Interestingly, some historians suggest that humble barley, not gold, was in fact early Egypt’s medium of exchange.
In addition to its obvious decorative applications, there are some other more unexpected ways in which gold is used. More practical uses include gold in astronaut helmet visors to protect them from the harmful effects of space radiation. Gold is also a useful conductor of electricity and heat. As a medical application, gold salts or injection, it helps reduce pain and swelling caused by conditions such as tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Curious and unexpected gold products
It’s quite something to see your hand-wrapped 24-carat gold leaf cigar turn into ash before your eyes. If cigars aren’t your thing though, perhaps you’d prefer some confectionary opulence to the value of $28 000 per edible gold cupcake? How about a 24-carat gold massage? If not for yourself, you could always treat your pooch to a pet mattress threaded with high-quality gold.