The History of Gold: The Ultimate Guide
The history of gold is deeper than you might expect. Today, it is popular for investors and for those who love jewelry, but people for thousands have years have always loved this shiny metal.
The Discovery of Gold
It is believed that humans in Europe discovered gold as long as 4,000 years ago and used it for decorative purposes in pottery. For much of gold’s early history, it was used for jewelry and decorations.
This is because the metal was too soft to be used for weapons or armor. Gold also has a long history of being used for burial goods. It wasn’t until the time of the ancient Egyptians in 1,500 BCE that gold started to be used as a traded commodity.
History of Gold: Using Gold As Currency
The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to create currency. Their currency consisted of coins and were called shekels. These coins were not all gold as you might expect, however. These coins were part gold and part silver. When melted together they would create an alloy called electrum.
A few hundred years later, the Egyptians also discovered that they could melt gold with other metals to make it stronger and give it unique color tones. They also discovered the lost-wax casting which is how highly detailed sculptures could be made.
Many of us are familiar with these kind of impressive sculptures from the ancient Greeks who borrowed the lost-wax casting technique from the Egyptians. In fact, this technique is so effective that it’s still used by sculptures today.
The creation of pure gold coins used as currency only began in 560 BCE in Asia. In 50 BCE, the Romans did the same thing and called their currency Aureus. This is where the name for gold, Au, on the periodic table of elements comes from. As history progressed, every major country eventually adopted gold into its currency. For example, England created the florin while Italy created the ducat.
From the English florin originated terms that still exist in England’s current currency. These terms include “pounds,” “shillings” and “pence.” Even when the United States became a country, they decided to make semi-gold coins mixed with other metals. This was enacted by the Coinage Act in 1792. While this Act stayed in place for many years, the U.S. government finally dropped it in 1976. Today, no U.S. coins have any traces of gold.
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush of the 1800s is one of the most modern gold crazes in history. People from all across America left their homes and headed out west in hopes of striking rich with gold.
The search for gold started in California and, as gold mines were depleted, made its way further north through Canada and finally Alaska. Today, the mines remaining from the Gold Rush are emptied of any significant supply of gold. However, some rivers in the region may still have small pebbles of the yellow metal.
Today, most of us see gold through the windows of jewelry shops. The metal is still as popular as ever and technology has made some significant innovations in the appearance of the metal. For example, rose gold is a relatively modern invention, originating in the late 1800s with the Russian Imperial family’s jeweler, Carl Faberge.
Rose gold is nothing more than gold melted with a small percentage of copper, but it give the gold a unique pinkish hue that people love. It doesn’t look like the popularity of this shiny metal will be diminishing anytime soon.