There are over one hundred elements on the periodic table and one of them stands out out of all. It’s used in electronics, architecture, jewelry, but what is it about gold that makes it so precious? [INTRO MUSIC] On Monday, August 24, 2015, the DOW Jones
Industrial Average plummeted nearly 1,100 points – the biggest decline on
record in a single trading day. Nearly every time something like this happens,
there’s someone coming out of the woodwork saying that gold is a better investment.
But gold is really just a pretty rock. How did it become so valuable? Most of the gold on earth comes from meteorites that smacked down onto the surface two
hundred million years after the earth formed, and humans have been fascinated with it
for millennia. I mean gold has been used as currency throughout advanced
civilization, and the earliest use of gold coins dates back to ancient Egypt around 500 BCE. Before coins, there was a system of values based on weights of gold, silver, and copper. Romans, Egyptians, and ancient Indians all used gold as a form of currency. And as modern nation started to adopt paper currency, though, they used gold as a backing for its value. But we’ve moved away from that. While we don’t use it to back our currency anymore, gold is still highly valued. Last I checked, it was about $1,148 per ounce and it’s rarer than you think. The entirety of a year’s worth of global gold production can fit inside of your living room. A large amount of gold and silver was just found in reservoirs underneath volcanoes in New Zealand. If mined, it could be worth billions for years to come. So why does this space rock mean so much to us and how did it become used as currency? Well there are several theories and it’s got a lot to do with chemistry. Elements like gasses and liquid make zero sense in terms of currency. Way too hard to carry around! Alkaline metals of earths, well, try
dropping magnesium in water and see what happens. Not so fit for a currency. Lead and copper were tried as coinage in some places, like ancient China, but they quickly corroded. And lead, well, lead’s always been a little toxic, so that’s never good. And other precious metals? Some are too rare to be of any practical currency. And, well, some were too difficult to turn into anything. I mean it takes over 3,000 degrees to melt platinum. So that brings us back to silver and gold. Silver makes for a great currency: durable and rare enough to be desired. And gold? Well, it’s pretty inert. It’s the least reactive of any metal, so it won’t corrode when exposed to things like water or oxygen. It won’t ever rust or tarnish. So if you made a golden statue and left
it sitting in a public square for a thousand years, it would roughly look the same, where a copper statue would turn green in only a few years. Speaking of a statue, that’s another plus in the gold column. It’s so easy to manipulate and make stuff out of, whether that’s art, jewelry, or coins. And that brings me back to another point. Gold beats out all other metals, even silver, in value because it’s pretty. I mean, it’s chemical symbol is AU from the Latin name aurum, meaning “shining dawn”. So, it lasts for a while and it’s easy to manipulate and it’s pretty. That would be used on pretty much everything aesthetic, like buildings, paintings sculptures, jewelry, and now you have one
of the most precious things to humanity. So, why is it valuable? Because it’s rare and pretty.
The end. So, while we do love our precious gold, other metals are just as, if not more, valuable for use in things like
electronics. There’s a bit of a problem: we might be running out. Where should we turn? To space, of course. Trace explores whether we should mine an asteroid for platinum in this great video right here. TRACE: “Once asteroids are located, scientists use ground-based infrared telescopes and spectrometers to see which minerals
exist in its structure. Different minerals absorb light at different wavelengths.” Thanks for watching DNews. Don’t forget to hit like and subscribe if you like this episode. Now tell us: what is your most precious item? You can tell us down in the comments below or you can tell us over on our Facebook page or we’re on Twitter @DNews. Thanks for watching. [OUTRO MUSIC]