The word gold comes from the Latin aurum which comes from the Indo-European au-es, which means shine. It is the symbol of wealth and power. In many civilizations, gold represents the Sun, which is seen as a deity. It has fueled beliefs and myths around it, so much so that humans are fascinated by gold. It still remains today the most valued precious metal in the world.
Gold is too malleable to be worked into jewellery in pure form, so it is mixed with other metals. It is classified into karats (one karat signifies that 1/24th of the alloy mass is gold) based on its level of purity. Classifications range from 9-karats (which at 37.5% gold is the lowest that may be marketed as gold jewellery according to French and EU regulations) to 24-karats, which is pure gold. In between are 10-karats (41.69% gold), 14-karats (58.3% gold), 18-karats (75% gold) - which is traditionally used to make jewellery because it has the ideal level of rigidity, resists oxidation and is hypoallergenic - and 22-karats, which has a particularly intense yellow color. WHITE bIRD designer Cathy Waterman is particularly fond of 22-karat gold, which is also very popular in India. Pure gold (24-karats) can also be used in jewellery, usually as small accents like those designer Karen Liberman adds to her ancient coins.
China is a major global gold producer, of which China National Gold Group is the largest producer. The deposits of Shandong Province are the best known. With its famous site Super Pit Kalgoorlie, Western Australia is also a significant gold producer, as the United States, with its dozens of open pit mines operated by the mining company Newmont Mining or Goldstrike Property , operated by Barrick Gold. The largest open-pit gold mine in the world is still attributed to Muruntau, Uzbekistan. In South Africa, exploitable sites are not lacking. The Minera Yanacocha of Peru, the Tarkwa of Ghana and the site of Grasberg of Indonesia deserve to be mentioned among the most important gold deposits.
Its extraction remains, for the majority, in the hands of large groups and extraction methods are perilous and polluting. However, there is an important awareness since the creation of the ethical gold label, fairmined gold in 2005.
Fair or ethical gold comes from the work of craftsmen grouped together in artisanal mining, which constitute true communities. This craft is distinguished from the industrial mining activity held by large international groups and provides very little revenue at the local level. The technologies used are environmentally responsible with a reasonable and responsible use of reagents such as cyanide and mercury, which are harmful to the environment. Jewellery designers are beginning to source more and more frequently ethical or recycled gold. Recycled gold comes from the redesign and reuse of old jewellery and goldsmiths.
It may vary greatly. It is usually yellow, white or pink, but can be broken down into more original shades such as red, green, blue or black. These colours are obtained by combining pure gold zinc, copper, nickel, palladium or cobalt.
Mankind has been using gold since prehistoric times. It was among the first coloured metals, along with copper and bronze, to be recognized in Antiquity.
Found in the bed of the Nile, ancient Egyptians extracted gold in small quantities and used it mainly to adorn jewellery and religious ornaments. Many such amulets have been found in Egyptian tombs, notably those of the pharaohs Tutankhamen and Ramses, who were each burried in solid gold death masks.
Eventually, gold was adopted as a form of currency, first by the Lydians in Asia Minor who minted the first coins in 635 BC, and soon thereafter throughout the Greek and Persian empires, which dominated the world during the Hellenistic period. Initially, the coins were minted from a natural mixture of gold and silver called electrum, but soon methods of separating the two metals and extracting only almost pure gold, were adopted. Gold, along with silver, bronze, and copper continued to be used as currency in the West until 1973 and while it is no longer in circulation, it still serves as the international reserve currency.
Gold rushes ensued, marking the beginning of the cash economy that changed the planet’s history. The great California gold rush of the mid-nineteenth century accelerated the conquest of the American West and contributed to the burgeoning population and economic development of many Californian cities, most notably San Francisco.
Today, gold continues to play a significant role in the global economy. It is listed in the major Western stock exchanges including those of New York, London and Tokyo. Its ornamental value has also upheld and it continues to be a preferred metal for jewellery and decorative objects and monuments.
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