Gold

What is gold?

Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au (from Latin: aurum) and the atomic number 79. In its purest form, it is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft, malleable and ductile metal. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and a group 11 element. It is one of the least reactive chemical elements, and is solid under standard conditions. The metal therefore occurs often in free elemental (native) form, as nuggets or grains, in rocks, in veins and in alluvial deposits. It occurs in a solid solution series with the native element silver (as electrum) and also naturally alloyed with copper and palladium. Less commonly, it occurs in minerals as gold compounds, often with tellurium (gold tellurides).
No precious metal is as legendary and beautiful as Gold. Its rarity, beauty, and enigma have provided it with status as a valuable commodity throughout the history of humanity. Gold has always been used as a monetary standard, and ancient gold jewellery and ornaments dating back centuries have been found throughout the world. Gold has always been and remains the most essential jewellery component, with most precious jewellery pieces created from Gold or inlaid with a Gold setting.
Gold resists attack by individual acids, but aqua regia (literally "royal water", a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid) can dissolve it. The acid mixture causes the formation of a soluble tetrachloroaurate anion. It is insoluble in nitric acid, which dissolves silver and base metals, a property that has long been used to refine gold and to confirm the presence of gold in metallic objects, giving rise to the term acid test. Gold also dissolves in alkaline solutions of cyanide, which are used in mining and electroplating. Gold dissolves in mercury, forming amalgam alloys, but this is not a chemical reaction.
Gold is a precious metal used for coinage, jewellery, and other arts throughout recorded history. In the past, a gold standard was often implemented as a monetary policy within and between nations, but gold coins ceased to be minted as a circulating currency in the 1930s, and the world gold standard was abandoned for a fiat currency system after 1976. The historical value of gold was rooted in its relative rarity, easy handling and minting, easy smelting and fabrication, resistance to corrosion and other chemical reactions (nobility), and distinctive colour.

Characteristics

Gold is the most malleable of all metals; a single gram can be beaten into a sheet of 1 square meter, and an avoirdupois ounce into 300 square feet. Gold leaf can be beaten thin enough to become semi-transparent. The transmitted light appears greenish blue, because gold strongly reflects yellow and red. Such semi-transparent sheets also strongly reflect infrared light, making them useful as infrared (radiant heat) shields in visors of heat-resistant suits, and in sun-visors for spacesuits. Gold is a good conductor of heat and electricity and reflects infrared radiation strongly.
Gold has a density of 19.3 g/cm3, almost identical to that of tungsten at 19.25 g/cm3; as such, tungsten has been used in counterfeiting of gold bars, such as by plating a tungsten bar with gold, or taking an existing gold bar, drilling holes, and replacing the removed gold with tungsten rods. By comparison, the density of lead is 11.34 g/cm3, and that of the densest element, osmium, is 22.588 ± 0.015 g/cm3.

Properties of Gold

Chemical FormulaAu
ColourMetallic, Yellow
Hardness2.5 - 3
Crystal SystemIsometric
SG15 - 19
TransparencyOpaque
Double RefractionNone
LusterMetallic
CleavageNone
Mineral ClassGold