Why Is Gold Valuable?

Let’s look at some theories behind why gold is valued by society and what makes it unique or different from other materials. In doing this, we hope to understand better why certain metals are more prized than others by ancient civilizations and today’s modern era, despite having differing uses in today’s world.

Gold is valuable because of its chemical and cultural properties. Gold has been deemed important by cultures all over the world for thousands of years, so it has a prestige of value. Meanwhile, gold is generally unreactive and conducts electricity well, so engineers and scientists often use it.

Below, we address some of the reasons why gold is so valuable.

Eight Reasons Why Gold Is Valuable                                           

Gold is a noble metal

It is resistant to corrosion and chemical reactions. It does not react with oxygen, hydrogen, or acids, except for a hydrochloric and nitric acid mix. Gold’s reactivity is due to the outermost electrons being tightly bound by the positively charged protons in its nucleus.

For an element to be considered noble, it must not readily form compounds with other elements, neither an oxide nor a halide – and metals that easily oxidize should be considered non-noble. This makes gold the noblest metal out of those commonly found in jewellery: silver, platinum, and palladium are relatively unreactive metals.

Gold is the most malleable pure metal, which means it can be hammered or pressed thin enough to become translucent.    It is also ductile, meaning it can be drawn into a thin wire. The two properties are related: because gold atoms are packed close together, they do not shudder when bumped against each other by the hammer or rolling mill; instead, they slip past one another easily. When gold gets pulled into a thin wire, its tightly-packed atoms have less room to move and bump into each other, so they flow down smoothly.

Like most metals, gold is coloured yellow. These works are complicated, but the simplest version of the story involves the ‘package’ of two electrons orbiting an atom’s nucleus. The package is called a ‘bond’. When light hits the bond, one electron moves to a higher orbit and absorbs energy. Soon after, it drops down to its original orbit and releases that energy as light —a process we perceive as light colour.

However, when exposed to high pressures and temperatures, gold can form a different crystalline structure called ‘alpha-gold’, also known as ‘grey gold’. Alpha-gold is grey because the tightly-packed layers of atoms are interrupted by empty spaces. When alpha-gold is exposed to hydrogen gas, it reacts with the hydrogen to form another compound called ‘hydridoauric acid’.

Gold is rare

Gold is one of the rarest elements found on Earth and only a few parts per million of its weight in gold. It’s very expensive – the natural resources required to get it (mining) and the actual cost. This means that there isn’t access to much gold at all, making it pretty pricey. A block of solid gold would probably sell for over $1M.

Gold can be alloyed with other metals such as silver or copper; these are cheaper than pure gold and give jewellery and coins their characteristic look and feel. The more you add, the less shiny the pieces will be. Some countries have even legalized so-called “gold” pieces containing no real gold at all – some contain just one per cent of gold, and the metal used is usually copper.

Countries like India use base metals such as silver in their coins because they’re less expensive than even the most common alloying element for gold: silver.

Gold is currently over $1 400 per ounce – it’s safe to say that if you had a solid block of pure gold and could find a buyer, you would most certainly get your million bucks back!

Gold is a very reflective metal

So much so that it has been used in mirrors for thousands of years. One reason why gold is so reflective is its structure: the outermost electrons in an atom of gold are quite weakly attached to it, and it’s easy to knock them off with a bit of energy from light. This leaves a space where another electron can fall into place, emitting the energy from the impact as a photon – or light particle.

Gold’s shiny nature also comes from this high reflectivity combined with its ability to absorb other colours. This means that even if only a small amount of light hits gold, most wavelengths will still be absorbed by the atoms in it. This absorption means that gold’s colour comes from the frequencies of light reflected out to you rather than inside the metal. Golds shiny nature also helps to enhance this colouring, a phenomenon called thin-film interference.

Gold has been used for many years as jewellery and decoration because of its lustre and golden colour. The ancient Egyptians used it in their tombs to help them reach the afterlife, while medieval Europe developed elaborate goldsmith techniques for decorating churches and their treasures. Today it is still valued in jewellery because of its attractive appearance and ability to resist corrosion and tarnish. Gold doesn’t reflect heat like other metals such as aluminium or steel, which means it does not burn when you hold it.

Gold has no odour

It can have a yellowish tinge due to the presence of some metals. Gold itself is tasteless. It is malleable, ductile, and the most tenacious metal known to man.

A total of 169 different elements are naturally found on Earth, but only 80 of them are usually considered as “elements” by chemists (that excludes those that can be found as gases). Out of these 80 naturally occurring elements, 24 are classified as metalloids, metals mixed with non-metals. These metalloid materials often mimic both metal and non-metal properties; they can sometimes conduct electricity like metals and, at other times, behave like non-metals.

The chemical symbol Au, which denotes gold on the periodic table, is derived from the Latin word for gold: “aurum”. The atomic number of gold, 79, means that every element has 79 protons in its nucleus. Gold was one of the first metals to be discovered thousands of years ago, and it was used as a monetary standard for many centuries.

Gold metal is extremely malleable and ductile, meaning it can be hammered into thin sheets and drawn into thin wires. Gold has been crushed into filings, pounded into leaf, powdered and rolled into foils. It is malleable enough to be drawn into fine wires and hammered into thin sheets; it can even be spun into usable threads.

Gold resists most acids but can dissolve in aqua regia (nitro-hydrochloric acid), a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids. It does not react with oxygen at normal temperatures. It can stay submerged under freezing water for several days without any noticeable corrosion or tarnish on the surface of the metal.

Gold is a great conductor of heat and electricity

Gold can conduct heat so well because it does not oxidize. Gold can be melted or boiled away without reduced electrical conductivity, like other metals such as copper and aluminium. You may wonder why gold hasn’t always been used for conducting electricity and heat; it is quite difficult to extract pure gold from ore, making it more expensive than most other metal choices.

After scientists discovered how to separate gold from ore through electrolysis, we used gold in electrical circuits and electronic projects. Nowadays, we can use even cheaper alloys – such as the gold: platinum ratio for electrodes. Gold does not rust easily, and so it may be used as a coating on less expensive metals to prevent corrosion. Gold has been used in high-performance applications such as spacecraft and radio transmission equipment due to its low weight and resistance to degradation at high temperatures.

Even satellites that orbit the Earth are just outside the atmosphere of the Earth, which is exposed to solar flares. The aurora borealis (the Northern Lights), an atmospheric phenomenon occurring in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, consists of electrically charged particles colliding with atoms and gas molecules (usually nitrogen or oxygen).

Gold also can be found in small quantities, even in supposedly worthless soil. Most of this gold is produced as a by-product of the extraction of other metals. Gold can also be used in computers because it is very good at conducting heat away from the central processing unit (CPU). For this reason, CPU chips are mounted on top of a thick piece of copper which conducts heat out to find where the air is blown across them for cooling.

Gold is also malleable

Gold’s malleability is one of the main reasons for its popularity in jewellery and coins. The other reason has to do with gold being rare. Very few metals are rare enough that an expensive metal coin makes sense. Many people consider diamonds prettier than cubic zirconia, but zirconia costs less than 1% as much as diamonds.

And while diamonds are valuable because they are extremely rare to find naturally on the Earth, zirconium costs so little partly because it costs so little to produce. Zirconium (atomic number 38), like many elements produced by stars long ago, occurs naturally on Earth only in tiny concentrations. It is found in combination with oxygen on Earth and somehow becomes part of zircon, a mineral. The only way to separate the two elements is by crushing tons and tons of naturally occurring minerals or creating them in nuclear reactors.

Mining companies separate zircon from other minerals that they dig out of the ground. They then crush those minerals into tiny bits and toss them into vats filled with acid, hoping that some of the zircon will dissolve. It takes many months for any significant quantities of zircon to dissolve in acid.

A mining company must invest large amounts of money before they know if there is any profit to be made at all–they may have spent 100 million dollars but not be able to sell their product for $101 million. If they find a market for zircon, they may spend even more money to extract it from the ground and purify the zirconium-containing mineral into its pure form.

The Earth contains large quantities of zirconium, which is why mining companies can offer such low prices. However, we cannot expect to use all of this naturally occurring supply. We must leave some behind as we continue to reduce demand with mass production or increase supply with nuclear transmutation.

Many other metals currently used in coinage (gold and silver) and jewellery (platinum and palladium) occur in nature at much higher concentrations than zirconium. That means that as we mine these other metals, as we have been doing for thousands of years, we are making them rarer even as they become cheaper. The only way to combat the decreasing availability is to increase production through cost-saving technology.

Can you imagine what would happen if a technological breakthrough allowed us to produce zirconium at a rate similar to that of iron today? Today, companies can process tons and tons of ore each day and still keep costs down because there’s so much easily accessible ore available. Right now, the easiest source for any metal is outer space. If people could regularly bring back vast quantities from asteroids or the Moon, then prices would plummet again. However, no one has devised a method for this yet.

Gold has cultural and historical importance

Although humans have been mining gold since at least 5,000 BC, all of the gold that has ever been refined could fit into two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The history of civilization could easily be told by listing where and when humans found or lost large quantities of gold. In ancient times, gold was often associated with royalty and made ornate decorations for wealth and status.
The Earth’s crust is made up mostly of basalt rock.

To a geologist, one cubic meter of the typical continental crust contains about 30 grams of gold, but some rare types have as much as 100 grams per cubic meter. In contrast, one cubic meter of the oceanic crust has about 5 grams on average. The amount of gold dissolved in seawater is so small that just scooping it into an Olympic pool would yield only a tiny fraction of a cubic meter. Only rivers can carry enough dissolved gold to be worth mining for economic value.

However, because rivers naturally carry the gold back into the Earth’s crust when they reach basalt, any attempt to extract gold from a river must be done close to where the gold enters the crust. This limits mining sites to areas with rugged, mountainous terrain and cliffs created by erosion. The best sources of economic gold deposits are ancient mountains that have been ground down over time, forming sedimentary layers rich in dissolved chemical compounds such as sulfide minerals.

Currently, known high-grade deposits are found mainly in Australia, China, Russia and South Africa. In general, copper and nickel ores often contain large amounts of precious metals like gold.

Gold is most commonly associated with quartz veins or massive sulfide deposits hosted within layered intrusions. It is rarely found as the primary mineral but frequently occurs in low-temperature hydrothermal veins associated with copper, silver and other precious metals.

Gold was once extracted from seawater, but the method proved useless commercially because it takes about 1 million tons of water to extract an ounce of gold. In theory, seawater would be a nearly unlimited source for economically viable gold mining if it could be efficiently extracted.

However, all known technologies are expensive to be used at sea or anywhere else that isn’t already being mined. Only a small percentage of Earth’s deserts have been explored for gold, so there may be significant undiscovered supplies lurking beneath vast areas where few humans have set foot. The total amount of gold that has ever been mined in human history is roughly the size of two Olympic-sized swimming pools. If civilization was destroyed, finding all the remaining gold would be equivalent to finding a single grain of sand among all the beaches on Earth.

Gold is a very unreactive metal

It’s so unreactive that it doesn’t even corrode in air and water. Because of this, most people might think it is biologically non-toxic as well. However, some forms of gold can be toxic if they are absorbed into the body over time. This mostly occurs with those who have had long-term exposure to gold dust and fumes.

Gold toxicity is more like arsenic toxicity: ingested over time, it will build up in the body and cause serious problems. Gold toxicity symptoms include: cardiac arrhythmia, alopecia (hair loss), skin rashes, intra-arterial injections of gold sodium thiomalate have been known to cause brain damage. With that being said, both essential gold and colloidal gold are non-toxic if consumed in reasonable quantities.

The only place where you will find the word “gold” on this website is in the “about us” section at the very bottom of the page.

Gold toxicity is more like arsenic toxicity: ingested over time, it builds up in the body and causes serious problems. Symptoms include cardiac arrhythmia, alopecia (hair loss), skin rashes, intra-arterial injections of gold sodium thiomalate that have been known to cause brain. With that being said, both gold and colloidal gold are non-toxic if consumed in reasonable quantities.


Even though gold is not necessary to human life, its value has been held for thousands of years. We still find many uses for it in our lives and continue to find more as time goes by.

Gene Botkin

Hello, I'm Gene. My family belonged to the aristocracy of Old Russia, and I created this site to re-establish a familial connection with them. My aims are to generate interest in aristocratic virtues, such as beauty, honor, and loyalty, and to spread Russian culture.

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