Gold has been admired and desired by humankind since the dawn of recorded history — from gilded Egyptian funeral masks and golden scepters of forgotten empires to pieces of eight treasured by pirates and bricks of bullion stacked in Fort Knox. Have you ever held a gold coin or gold jewelry in your hand and wondered where did that gold come from?
Gold comes from stars.
Here’s the scientific answer: gold is a naturally occurring element created during collisions between neutron stars. On earth, gold is found mostly in solid form in veins within rocks. In addition, it can be eroded over time and found as gold dust or nuggets in riverbeds. Dissolved gold also exists in the ocean — some scientists believe there may be as much as 10 million tons of gold dissolved in sea water, but it’s in such low concentrations that it’s currently impractical to attempt to extract it.
Gold is increasingly difficult to extract.
Many years ago, gold was so common that people mined it by simply picking large chunks or nuggets of gold out of streams and rivers. These days, however, hard rock gold mining produces much of the gold we recover from the earth. This type of mining extracts gold encased in rock rather than fragments in loose sediment or water. Gold can be extracted from hard rock through open-pit mining or underground mining, in which ore is removed through tunnels or shafts. The deepest mine in the world is currently located in South Africa with tunnels that stretch to more than 12,000 feet underground.
Gold can be found all over the world.
South African mines account for about a quarter of the world’s gold, while other major mining countries include Australia, Canada, China, Russia and the United States. About two-thirds of gold in the U.S. is mined in Nevada with mines in California, Montana, Alaska, and South Dakota accounting for the rest.
More gold is mined each year.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 171,300 tons of gold have been mined throughout history. And about 3,000 more tons are extracted from the earth each year. In fact, most of the world’s gold has been mined in the past 50 years because of improving technology and the worldwide fascination with this precious metal.
Recycling gold makes sense.
More than 35 percent of the gold used to make jewelry comes from recycled sources, such as unwanted jewelry that’s been melted down. And because gold can be re-used with no degradation in quality, gold that was mined a hundred years ago can be used to produce a ring just as beautiful as gold that was extracted last year.
Interested in learning more about gold, silver and other precious metals? Come talk with the experts at Liberty Coin & Currency in Portland and Vancouver.