Gold’s Uses Throughout History
Gold was the first metal widely known to man. This naturally occurring metal can be found as nuggets or nested in rocks. Its brilliance and malleability makes it fun to work with and easy to mold into shapes.
Since being discovered, gold has been used in jewelry, science, and currency and it remains a highly-coveted commodity. The history of gold is broad and fascinating, dating back to very early days when it was first discovered in 4000 B.C. by an Eastern European culture. Since then the river of gold has twisted and turned through the progression of currency, the development of science, the exploration of space, and the creation of technology.
Currency and Jewelry
From 3000 B.C. until 1284 A.D. gold had been used to create jewelry and build a currency that extended from Iraq and Egypt to China and Britain.
- In 3000 B.C. the Sumer civilization of southern Iraq began creating jewelry out of this brilliantly magical element.
- In 2500 B.C. gold was buried in the king’s tomb of the first Egyptian Dynasty.
- In 1500 B.C. Nubia’s gold created wealth for Egypt and it became recognized as a standard exchange for international trade. The Shekel then followed as the standard unit of measure in the Middle East, containing a naturally occurring alloy of two-thirds gold.
- In 1200 B.C. the Egyptians began to beat their gold into a thin sheet, or leaf, to extend its use. They also began experimenting by alloying it with other metals. Still in use today, they began casting gold into fashionable jewelry.
- The use of gold in currency continued, extending to China in 1091 B.C., when China legalized small squares of gold as currency. Then in 1284 A.D. Venice introduced the gold ducat, which quickly became the most popular coin in the world. In this time, Great Britain also created its first major gold coin, the Florin. The Florin then eventually became the Guinea, which was replaced by the British pound that we know today.
Space, Computers, and Communications
As the U.S. gold rush ramped up, gold was found to be useful for more than simply beautiful jewelry and coins. The European Rheumatism Council, AT&T Bell, and NASA all found uses for this brilliant metal.
- In 1803 the first U.S. gold rush was born as this hot commodity was discovered on U.S. soil in North Carolina.
- Later on in 1935 gold came into play as Western Electric Alloy #1 was used in the universal switching contact for AT&T telecommunications equipment.
- In 1960 AT&T Bell Laboratories invented a laser that used gold-coated mirrors to maximize infrared reflection into the lasing crystal. The European Rheumatism Council also used gold intravenously to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
- In 1965 the first space walk was made using a gold-coated visor that is still in use as a safety feature for astronauts to this day.
- In 1968 gold began its introduction into computer technology when Intel created a computer microchip that was interconnected with gold circuits.
- In 1970 the charge-coupled device was invented at Bell Telephone Laboratories. This device is used to collect electrons generated by faint light from the stars. This technology is still used in hundreds of items today, such as the video camera.
- In 1971 the colloidal gold marker system was created and spheres of gold were used in health research laboratories to tag proteins, revealing their function in the body.
- In 1980 the first space shuttle used gold-coated impellers in its liquid hydrogen fuel pump.
- In 1986 the first new gold jewelry alloy was introduced in this century that was easier to work into designs and more durable when fired.
- In 1996 the Mars Global Surveyor incorporated an onboard gold-coated parabolic telescope-mirror that generated a detailed map of the entire Martian surface.
Ever since its first discovery, gold has been a central theme in currency, crucial in the development of communications, and a contributor to the advancement of science. Beautiful and easy to work with, this brilliant metal has always been in high demand and coveted across nations for its value and beauty.
As one of the most valuable currencies worldwide, gold symbolizes wealth across the world and is used in just about every facet of modern civilization.