The Chemical Properties of Gold

Gold has been one of the most valuable substances on the planet for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians described this precious metal in hieroglyphics as long ago as 2600 BC; one Egyptian pharaoh even said that gold “was more plentiful than dirt” in Egypt. This very malleable and ductile metal has been used as a source of currency and jewelry for quite some time as well. This metal is also a chemical element and is listed on the periodic table of elements, created by Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, with an atomic number of 79. Gold is like most other metals in the fact that it is both malleable and ductile, which means that the substance has the ability to be flattened and deformed without fracture. A very interesting thing about gold is that one-gram can be flattened into a sheet the size of one square meter; one ounce can be flattened into 300 square feet long.

You may have heard of noble gases, but what about noble metals? Well, noble metals are those metals that are resistant to oxidation and corrosion, and gold, unlike most base metals, is one of them. Gold only has one stable isotope and it has some 18 radioisotopes, with a stable half-life of 186 days. Gold has the ability also to “salt” nuclear weapons as well. A jacket of natural gold has the ability to alter into the radioactive isotope Au-198, with a half-life of 2.7 days. This would greatly increase the fallout of the nuclear weapon over a period of several days.

Gold is also symbolic of many things, ranging from the celebration of a fiftieth wedding anniversary to the crowing of medieval European kings. We are all familiar with the television award shows that are broadcast all over TV, but maybe you didn’t know that the actual awards, like the Grammy and the Oscar, are not actually gold. While some awards, such as the Emmy’s and the Oscars, are made to look as if they are gold, some awards, like the first place medal at the Olympics and the Nobel Peace Prize are made of actual gold.

This very precious metal is also edible in some forms. Nobility of Medieval Europe used gold leaf as a garnish for their beverages and foodstuffs at parties. They believe that something so valuable and extraordinary had to be good for ones health. The price of gold has fluctuated very much over the past 40 years, from as low as $250/oz to over $1,000/oz. In addition, gold backed most of the world’s currency, up until the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1944.