Gold once gave our American currency, and many other currencies around the world, stability. Each unit of money was tied to the per-ounce price of gold, and gold’s intrinsic value meant that the value of money fluctuated far less than it does today under our fiat currency system.
We should not forget the critical role that gold played in the growth of the American economy, providing peace of mind to American citizens and non-citizens alike that their money could be exchanged for gold at any time. By this same (golden?) token, Americans knew that their ability to exchange dollars for gold gave their money real value.
Today we are off of the gold standard, and the purchasing power of the dollar declines each year as a consequence. Gold was once a placeholder of our dollars’ value, and that role was an invaluable, if underappreciated, one. So although our currency’s marriage to gold has ended, there’s no reason to forget what a great relationship our dollars once shared with gold. Call them the golden years, if you will.
As a tribute to those golden years, here are 10 facts about gold that I hope will pique your interest.
1. Gold is a transcontinental element
There are several reasons why gold was a logical choice as the metal to back currencies around the globe. For one, everyone recognizes that gold is valuable, and therefore there is little dispute over its validity as a store of value. In addition, gold has been found on every continent on the planet aside from Antarctica.
So gold is not only intrinsically valuable, but it also holds a status of reverence in virtually every nook and cranny of the world. As a result, gold eventually became the standard of value for most currencies in the developed world at one point in history.
2. Most of the gold on earth came from meteorites
Most scientists agree that most precious metals, gold included, were carried to earth by meteorites approximately 3.9 billion years ago. The theory goes that, around 4.55 billion years ago, iron and other precious metals on earth sunk inward, ultimately forming the earth’s core. So, gold and other precious metals that can be mined from the earth’s surface are most likely the result of meteorites that crashed the earth party long after the core was already formed.
3. Gold is edible (with certain caveats)
The first caveat being: please don’t try to bite into a brick of gold. That’s not going to end well.
You can bite gold flake, which is edible, whether you prefer it floating in your vodka or as sushi paper. There are some conditions, including that edible gold must be 23 or 24 carats, with each leaf being at least 90% pure gold with the remaining 10 percent being some other metal that is safe to consume. Edible gold is referred to as E-175 and has passed safety tests in both Europe and the US. Edible gold is not the same type of gold you’ll find in jewelry, which contains other likely-toxic metals.
4. Treat your body well, it is precious (gold, that is)
That’s right, the human body (even yours) contains trace elements of gold. Biologists believe that each human body contains about .2 milligrams of gold, though it can be almost impossible to pinpoint where the gold lies within a given body. But hey, next time you go to sell an organ, why not try to fetch an extra buck or two by mentioning that your kidney may come with gold included?
5. Gold is the Mr. Fantastic of elements
That is, gold will bend, stretch, flatten, or transform into any shape that you need it to. It is the most malleable element known to man, as its bonds can be fairly easily broken, allowing gold to transform from a solid to liquid state quite easily compared with other metals. Yet even after changing form, gold maintains strength, as it is thought that a gold thread can stretch as far as five miles without breaking.
6. Turn water into gold, all you need is an earthquake
Ask yourself: have you been letting earthquakes go to waste? If you don’t emerge from your next ‘quake with at least a trace amount of gold, you are doing it all wrong.
A study published in 2013 found that the combination of pressure, temperature, and reactive elements inside of faults during earthquakes may result in gold and other elements being deposited after water vaporizes. Good luck getting your hands on it!
7. Looking for gold? Find some eucalyptus leaves
It turns out that those cute koalas you see on the National Geographic Channel have been steadily depleting the earth’s gold supply. Well, it’s probably not a loss when you consider the circle of life, but it is true that the koala’s favorite snack, eucalyptus leaves, may contain gold.
Some believe that eucalyptus leaves containing gold could be a sign of mineral deposits below. Find the golden leaves, find the gold…
8. Gold is valuable, but there’s not that much of it
In fact, according to a calculation published in Forbes, all of the gold ever mined would fit in approximately 3.27 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
9. Scuba diving can be lucrative, but probably not if you’re out for gold
By some estimates, ocean water contains 20 million tons of gold, though it is so diluted that you can hardly bank on collecting any of it. To be clear: the gold is in the water.
If you were somehow able to vaporize the oceans’ waters and collect the remnants of gold dust, you would be in for a $771 trillion payday.
10. Witwatersrand, South Africa: Home of Gold
It is estimated that nearly half of all of the gold ever mined comes from a region in South Africa called the Witwatersrand Basin. An estimated 2 billion ounces of gold have been mined from the basin in the past 100 years or so, and estimates peg the remaining gold in the basin at more than a billion ounces.
What are you waiting for? Get digging!
In the mood for cryptocurrencies instead? Try mining Bitcoin! You’ll only need an internet connection and us.