Notes for the Ordinary Person

Gold has been known since the dawn of mankind. Not long after the creation of the earth, the book of Genesis records that the gold found in the land of Havilah "is good." There are 358 references to gold in the Bible, the last of which makes reference to the heavenly city. Only in recent years has a process been discovered for casting gold in transparent form and in gold-plating glass. Scripture records the amount of gold used in adorning the great temple Solomon built in Jerusalem 3000 years ago. It's 3750 tons of gold would be worth over 45 billion dollars today!

Gold has an atomic number 79 and an atomic weight of 196.9665. Gold is 19.3 times heavier than water, melts at 1063 degrees Centigrade, and is the most malleable and ductile of all the elements. One ounce of this metal (slighter more than a cubic centimeter) may be beaten into 300 square feet of gold leaf. Gold can be fired by a potter into clays to produce exquisitely beautiful porcelain or glass.

Gold is chemically quite inert. No single acid dissolves it. It is unaffected by oxygen or hydrogen sulfide. Gold does not rust, tarnish, corrode, crumble, decompose or decay, even after centuries on the sea floor or in a damp dripping cavern. Gold is found in nature principally as a free metal in veins of quartz, or in alluvial (placer) deposits resulting from the breakup of such rock. Gold in nature typically contains 10 to 15 percent silver in solid solution; it may also contain copper, iron, or more rarely bismuth, tin, lead, platinum, palladium, or iridium. Electrum is the usual name applied to gold containing a high silver content. Gold sometimes occurs in nature in combination with tellurium in the mineral sylvanite. Gold chlorides and cyanides also occur more rarely.

Gold is number 81 down on a list of the atomic elements in terms of relative abundance in the universe and has been highly prized for jewelry and coins since the dawn of mankind. Gold is economically mined today by open pit methods (for example in Nevada and California) even though the gold content is somewhat less than 0.1 ounce per ton of waste rock. The famous gold mines of South Africa are more than a mile deep. Gold is often recovered as a by-product of other metal mining, for example copper or lead. The total amount of gold mined in the world in the history of mankind amounts to less than 90,000 tons. If this gold were all collected together it would fit into a cube only 58 feet on a side! Total gold production per year in the world is less than 2000 tons of which about two-thirds comes from South Africa, 30% from the Soviet Union, 4% from Canada and 3% from the United States. Perhaps only 40,000 tons of gold remains in the earth yet to be mined.

Five stories below the ground at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City is an enormous, compartmentalized vault holding some 10,000 metric tons of gold worth $117 billion - the gold reserves of some 50 nations.

The "London Good Delivery Bar," which is the standard bar used in international trade, weighs 400 ounces troy. One troy ounce is equal to 1.09714 regular (avoirdupois) ounces. These bars have a refiner name, a bar number, and other information stamped on them, and the minimum fineness must be .995, or 99.5% pure gold.

Gold leaf is widely used for lettering names on glass, for building ornamentation and gilding. In 1986 the Statue of Liberty was refurbished with 6000 squares of gold leaf. 250,000 leaves of gold can be stacked into a pile only one inch high.

Gold is a good electrical conductor - almost identical with that of aluminum and not far from silver and copper. Because of its high atomic stability gold emits no particles or rays from its nucleus. It enters into almost no chemical reactions at room temperature and therefore is impossible to detect at a distance by a remote sensing or a chemical-sniffing method.

In the United States about one-fifth of the annual production, that is about 47 metric tons, is used for electronics where superior electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance are required. Gold can be vacuum deposited on glass or plastic to make heat reflecting windows or sunglasses of superior optical screening properties.

Gold can be detected close up (for instance on the sea floor) using neutron activation. However this technique involving the use of a radioactive isotope and sensitive detectors is not much used today. The claims of some amateur prospectors that gold can be detected at a distance by a "molecular frequency detector" are unfounded according to all known legitimate science. Success, if any, obtained with one of these devices (which are in a class similar to dowsing or water-witching methods) can not be explained by any principle known to science today.

While relatively scarce on earth, gold is apparently more common than brick or asphalt in God's Eternal City, the New Jerusalem, "The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass...And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass." (Revelation 21:18, 21)

by Lambert Dolphin
August 24, 1990