Gold

November 24, 2012 1:51 am

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Gold
Gold is so precious to some people.“Gold! Gold! Gold!” screamed the newspaper headlines. “Gold discovered in California!” That was in 1848. The news brought 100,000 people rushing to California. They came seeking the yellow metal that could make them rich.
People since ancient times have used gold for jewelry and money. They used it in religious objects and works of art. Wars have been fought over gold. And sometimes, as in California, gold changed the course of history.
WHY IS GOLD VALUABLE?
Gold is unusual among metals. It does not rust or tarnish (grow dull and discolored). Gold coins recovered from sunken treasures are still as shiny as when they sank.
Gold is soft enough to be easily shaped into jewelry and other items. An ounce (31 grams) of gold can be hammered into a sheet 16 feet (5 meters) on each side. It can be stretched into a wire 62 miles (100 kilometers) long.
People find gold beautiful. And it is rare. All the gold in the world would fit in a cube 65 feet (20 meters) on each side. Because it is so rare, its value doesn’t change much from one year to the next. In ancient times, people could easily carry a lot of wealth in the form of a small bag of gold.
MINING GOLD
The easiest way to mine gold is with a pan. You fill the pan with sand or gravel that contains tiny bits of gold. Then you swirl the pan under a gentle stream of water. The lighter gravel or sand gradually washes out with the water. The heavier gold particles collect at the bottom of the pan. Gold is so heavy that it doesn’t take many tiny flakes to make an ounce.
Today, gold is most often mined by digging underground with machines. Rock that contains gold is treated with chemicals to separate out the gold. Nuggets of solid gold are quite rare. The largest nugget ever found weighed about 130 pounds (59 kilograms). It was found in Australia in 1869. About two-thirds of all gold mined today comes from South Africa.
HOW IS GOLD USED?
Gold is used for many things besides coins, decorations, and jewelry. Gold conducts electricity very well. It is used in tiny electrical circuits. There are very small amounts of gold in your computer.
Gold is also used to protect tall buildings and spaceships from the Sun’s heat. The Sun’s rays bounce off even a thin coating of gold. Gold-coated mirrors are used in telescopes. Dentists use gold for tooth fillings. Gold is even used in medicine, to treat cancer and arthritis.
GREEDY FOR GOLD
Gold has always made people who controlled it wealthy. Folktales of many peoples tell of greed for gold. The ancient tale of King Midas tells of a greedy king. Midas wished that everything he touched would turn to gold. But he was sorry when his wish was granted. He could not eat because his food and water also turned to gold.
In the 1500s, the Spanish conquered Mexico and Peru while searching for gold. They brought back tons of gold looted from native peoples. The peoples of those regions had never considered gold very valuable.
The discovery of gold in parts of western America and Australia brought in thousands of people seeking quick fortunes. Many stayed on and settled those regions.
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