The chemical element gold has been valued by humans throughout history. It is found in a pure form in nature, so early peoples were able to discover it and use it. Because it has a pleasing appearance it has been used to make jewelry and to decorate buildings and other objects. Because it is so valuable people have also used it as money. Scientists use symbols to stand for the chemical elements. The symbol for gold is Au.
Where Gold Is Found
Gold is found in rocks throughout the world. But in most cases the amount of gold is so small that it is not visible. It is therefore not easy to get it out of the rock. But gold is often found in rock that also has copper and lead. In the process of extracting these elements the gold is also extracted.
In certain areas gold can be found in larger deposits. These occur where the surrounding rock has been worn or washed away over the years. The gold is sometimes washed into streams or rivers, where it can be seen. This may be how the earliest peoples first found gold. This is also what led to some of the gold rushes throughout history. In California, Australia, and the Yukon Territory of Canada many people rushed to find gold for themselves after it was discovered in those places. In the early 21st century South Africa, the United States, Australia, China, and Peru were the largest producers of gold.
Gold is very soft. It can be hammered into very thin sheets and formed into many shapes. It also conducts electricity very well.
Gold has been used to make beautiful objects since ancient times. Many of these objects still survive and can be seen in museums. Today gold is often used to make jewelry. Because it is so soft, gold is often combined with another metal to make jewelry. These combinations of metals are called alloys. Metals that are used to make gold alloys include silver, copper, and zinc. The amount of gold in such jewelry is described in 24 parts called karats. A 12-karat gold alloy is 50 percent gold, and 24-karat gold is pure.
Gold is also used in electronics because electricity flows through it very well. Thin films of gold can reflect a large amount of radiation from the sun. They are used on satellites to control temperature and on space-suit visors to provide protection. They are also used to coat the windows of large office buildings to control the temperature inside the building.
Gold has been used as money as well. In ancient times it was made into coins. Today most money is made of other materials, but governments and banks keep large amounts of gold in the form of bars. This gold is kept safe in a vault and is not usually used. It shows that the country has enough money to operate. It can also be used to pay debts to other countries.