Gold: The Underestimated Metal


It’s well known that gold is used in making jewelries, minting gold coins and casting bullions. It is mainly used as monetary base or investment hedge. But these are not the only uses of gold. The yellow metal’s physical properties make it ideal for other applications.

To start, gold is soft and relatively a very dense metal with yellow luster that bears a resemblance to the sunshine. It shows high resistance to corrosion and it doesn’t lose its beautiful luster neither in air nor water. Also, it’s one of the least active elements. Gold has 36 different isotopes, with only one stable. By the way, gold is not toxic, have a very high melting point and good conductor of electricity.

These properties made gold ideal for some medical, industrial and artistic applications. Medical applications make use of its non-toxicity and inactivity. Artists adored the gold shine and color, plus the softness of the metal made it easy to form and sculpted. While different industries utilize every bit of property of gold, like heat resistance and electric connectivity.

The oldest formal medical use of gold was in dentistry. Since the dawn of time, and man discovered that gold teeth last longer and it’s safer than any other metal tooth. Modern time dentistry uses gold alloys to harden the gold. Since gold doesn’t react with the human body and is not digested by the stomach enzymes and acids, even it wears and swallowed, the body defecate it.

Old shamans, the Dark Age doctors and physicians, used gold in treating ancient sickness such as smallpox and skin inflations. Gold salts have such healing properties, but pure gold, as said before, is an inactive metal that doesn’t react with such disease. Maybe the physiological factor played an outstanding role here, as gold was believed to be a heavenly metal with divine powers.

Artists and sculptors saw gold as an opportunity sent by the gods. Writers and novelists used gold significance in the cultural history of mankind and wrote wonderful stories and pieces of literature using gold as symbol. Painters and designers used gold leafs and golden colors in magnificent ways to send silent messages through their works.

Sculptors had the greatest share among artists to work with gold. The softness and ductility of the metal plus its resistance to time forced them to use it making statues and other works stand in the face of time for millennia and ages. During golden ages of any civilization, gold played an important role in arts, either directly or indirectly, which gave birth of the very expression of “golden age”.

Kings and rulers, the main patronages of arts through history, encouraged and ask sometimes for gold works. Artistic jewelers in India, China, South America and Europe made numerous ornaments and statues out of gold for the elite of the society, ranging from sophisticated crowns and tiaras to simple pins and buttons. Also, gold posed a challenge to the artist’s ability and skills. It required a great knowledge of metallurgy to make the perfect alloy for each piece of art.

The ones who made the best effective use of gold and abused its properties to the extreme are modern age scientists and different industries. They studied gold to the core, made their comparisons with other metals then choose gold for being the ideal metal for their goal. Electronics diverged from other industries and depended on gold heavily.

Different manufacturing industries used gold with different quantities to fulfill their different needs. Outer space equipment and satellite manufacturing require gold in coating to shield the equipment from electromagnetic radiations and heat. Racing cars such as F1 used gold foil to shield engines heat at high speed. Airplanes and aircrafts uses transparent thin layer of gold on the cockpit window for de-iceing. We still haven’t explored gold use in Nano-technologies and nuclear physics. These relatively new fields are not widespread as the examples mentioned above.

In the past, skilled glass craftsmen during the late the roman empire in Europe devised a glass manufacturing technique using gold in making a deep red glass that was popular during the Victorian era. Textiles used gold threads in embroidery, for high quality expensive clothes. Photographers used gold tuners in color manipulation of the prints. All these techniques and industries didn’t perish; on the contrary, they flourished as mankind turned to be more consuming and more demanding than his ancestors, and they became more sentimental to the past wanting genuine replicas similar to the originals.

Gold electric conductivity only pared by silver and copper, but gold have the upper hand due to its corrosion resistance and heat shielding properties. It is used in almost every of cell phone and computer. Relay contacts, switches and electronic circuits have some gold as a corrosion-free electric conductor that can resist heat.

To sum up, gold is not an overrated commodity that has no practical use. We finally found more practical uses of gold over time, and there are still future uses of gold. The beauty of gold won over its practical uses for the past years, but that might change for the next generations.