The Sun symbol has long represented gold

Gold has been known and highly valued since prehistoric times. It may have been the first metal used by humans and was valued for ornamentation and rituals The legend of the golden fleece may refer to the use of fleeces to trap gold dust from placer deposits in the ancient world. Gold is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament, starting with Genesis 2:11 (at Havilah) and is included with the gifts of the magi in the first chapters of Matthew New Testament. The Book of Revelation 21:21 describes the city of New Jerusalem as having streets "made of pure gold, clear as crystal".

The Mali Empire in Africa was famed throughout the old world for its large amounts of gold. Mansa Musa, ruler of the empire (1312–1337) became famous throughout the old world for his great hajj to Mecca in 1324. When he passed through Cairo in July 1324, he was reportedly accompanied by a camel train that included thousands of people and nearly a hundred camels. He gave away so much gold that it depressed the price in Egypt for over a decade.[19] A contemporary Arab historian remarked:

Gold has long been considered the most desirable of precious metals, and its value has been used as the standard for many currencies (known as the gold standard) in history. Gold has been used as a symbol for purity, value, royalty, and particularly roles that combine these properties. Gold as a sign of wealth and prestige was made fun of by Thomas More in his treatise Utopia. On that imaginary island, gold is so abundant that it is used to make chains for slaves, tableware and lavatory-seats. When ambassadors from other countries arrive, dressed in ostentatious gold jewels and badges, the Utopians mistake them for menial servants, paying homage instead to the most modestly-dressed of their party.

There is an age-old tradition of biting gold in order to test its authenticity. Although this is certainly not a professional way of examining gold, the bite test should score the gold because gold is a soft metal, as indicated by its score on the Mohs' scale of mineral hardness. The purer the gold the easier it should be to mark it. Painted lead can cheat this test because lead is softer than gold (and may invite a small risk of lead poisoning if sufficient lead is absorbed by the biting).


Gold nuggets found in Arizona 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.[2]

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. Common oxidation states of gold include +1 (gold(I) or aurous compounds) and +3 (gold(III) or auric compounds). Gold ions in solution are readily reduced and precipitated out as gold metal by adding any other metal as the reducing agent. The added metal is oxidized and dissolves allowing the gold to be displaced from solution and be recovered as a solid precipitate. 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/m³, and that of the densest element, osmium, is 22610 kg/m³.

Color of gold

Common colored gold alloys such as rose gold can be created by the addition of various amounts of copper and silver, as indicated in the diagram below. Alloys containing palladium or nickel are also important in commercial jewelry as these produce white gold alloys. Less commonly, addition of manganese, aluminium, iron, indium and other elements can produce more unusual colors of gold for various applications.[5] Jewelry 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. Alloys with lower caratage, typically 22k, 18k, 14k or 10k, contain higher percentages of copper, or other base metals or silver or palladium in the alloy. Copper is the most commonly used base metal, yielding a redder color. Eighteen carat gold containing 25% copper is found in antique and Russian jewelery and has a distinct, though not dominant, copper cast, creating rose gold. Fourteen carat gold-copper alloy is nearly identical in color to certain bronze alloys, and both may be used to produce police, as well as other, badges. Blue gold can be made by alloying with iron and purple gold can be made by alloying with aluminium, although rarely done except in specialized jewelry. Blue gold is more brittle and therefore more difficult to work with when making jewelry. Fourteen and eighteen carat gold alloys with silver alone appear greenish-yellow and are referred to as green gold. White gold alloys can be made with palladium or nickel. White 18 carat gold containing 17.3% nickel, 5.5% zinc and 2.2% copper is silver in appearance. Nickel is toxic, however, and its release from nickel white gold is controlled by legislation in Europe. Alternative white gold alloys are available based on palladium, silver and other white metals (World Gold Council), but the palladium alloys are more expensive than those using nickel. High-carat white gold alloys are far more resistant to corrosion than are either pure silver or sterling silver. The Japanese craft of Mokume-gane exploits the color contrasts between laminated colored gold alloys to produce decorative wood-grain effects.

White gold

White gold is an alloy of gold and at least one white metal, usually nickel or palladium. Like yellow gold, the purity of white gold is given in carats. White gold's properties vary depending on the metals and proportions used. As a result, white gold alloys can be used for different purposes; while a nickel alloy is hard and strong, and therefore good for rings and pins, gold-palladium alloys are soft, pliable and good for white gold gemstone settings, sometimes with other metals like copper, silver, and platinum for weight and durability, although this often requires specialized goldsmiths. Almost all white gold jewelry is rhodium plated since gold alloyed with palladium or nickel never comes out true white, but tinted brown, therefore requiring a thin layer of rhodium to mask the tinted shade and make it true white. Rhodium plated white gold wedding ring Contact allergy About one person in eight has a mild allergic reaction to the nickel in some white gold alloys when worn over long periods of time. A typical reaction is a minor skin rash.[1] White gold alloys made without nickel are less likely to be allergenic.

Rose, red, and pink gold

Rose gold is a gold and copper alloy widely used for specialized jewelry due to its reddish color. It is also known as pink gold and red gold. As it was popular in Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it is also known as Russian gold, although this term has become somewhat rare.

A common alloy for rose gold is 75% gold and 25% copper by mass (18 carat). Since rose gold is an alloy, there is therefore no such thing as "pure rose gold".

Green gold

Green gold alloys are made by leaving the copper out of the alloy mixture, and just using gold and silver. It actually appears as a greenish yellow, rather than as green. Eighteen carat green gold would therefore contain a mix of gold 75% and silver 25%. Fired enamels adhere better to these alloys.

Grey gold

Grey gold alloys are made by adding silver, manganese and copper in specific ratios to the gold.[2]

Purple and blue golds

Purple gold (also called amethyst or violet gold) is an alloy of gold and aluminium. Gold content is around 79% and can therefore be referred to as 18 carat gold. Purple gold is more brittle than other gold alloys, and a sharp blow may cause it to shatter.[5] It is therefore usually machined and faceted to be used as a 'gem' in conventional jewellery rather than by itself. Blue gold is similarly an alloy, a mixture of gold and indium.[5]