Gold has captured the imagination of people for centuries. It has religious significance to many and aesthetic appeal to others. Even children show an interest in gold when they paint pictures where gold is the prize at the end of the rainbow. There are many interesting facts about gold that will intrigue and amaze you.
The term “gold” is from the Proto-Indo-European base *ghel / *ghol meaning “yellow,” “green,” or possibly “bright.”
Gold has been discovered on every continent on earth.
Gold has some remarkable properties:
It can conduct both heat and electricity, it never rusts and it is pliable. It is so pliable, in fact, that it can be made into a sewing thread.
Many of you may admire gold and aspire to buy that perfect piece of gold jewelry, but this is as far as your investigation into gold has gone. Thus you may not have seen anything to make you think that gold is unusual in anyway. So you are probably wondering: What is so strange about gold?
Well, here are 10 strange facts about gold that will change the way you view this precious metal.
Gold injections as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis
One of the original medications developed specifically to treat rheumatoid arthritis was gold injections. This form of treatment has been used for over 75 years. Gold injections are believed to be able to treat symptoms of this disease such as pain and swelling of the joints. Once more it is held that gold injections can actually prevent joint damage and disability.
The injectable gold is gold sodium thiomalate (Myochrysine). The use of gold injections has dramatically declined in the last 20 years; this is because more effective treatments have been invented such as methotrexate.
Gold is edible
Gold leaf is a gold product that is edible. It can be used to decorate food and has been put in bottles of liquor such as Danziger Goldwasser and Goldschlager. It can also be used to cover sweets such as chocolates or truffles or sprinkled onto cakes.
Generally speaking, gold is considered ‘biologically inert’. This means that gold can pass through the digestive tract without being absorbed. When you use gold with the intention to eat it is best to use the purest gold available (22-24 carats) as this gold has less impurities and, as such, is safer to eat.
Some Native American tribes believed consuming gold could allow humans to levitate.
The Incas thought gold represented the glory of their sun god
In the Inca civilization of Peru gold was thought to be the ‘sweat of the sun’ and as such the glory of the sun god Inti. Inti was often portrayed as a golden disk with a human face, surrounded by rays. At the sun temple Coricancha in the Incan capital at Cuczo fully dressed mummies of the dead emperors surrounded a golden image of Inti. Because gold was not used for money by the Incan people, their love of gold was solely religious and aesthetic.
Egyptians used unshorn sheepskin to mine for gold dust
In 1200 B.C. Egyptians learn the art of beating gold into leaf; making gold more versatile in its applications. They also alloyed it with other metals to achieve hardness and color variations. To recover the gold dust from the river sands on the eastern shores of the Black Sea the Egyptians used unshorn sheepskin. They rinsed the sands through the sheepskins and then dried and shook it out to extricate the gold particles. This may be where the term the “Golden Fleece” comes from.
In ancient Egypt, gold was considered the skin or flesh of the god
In ancient Egypt gold was considered to be the skin of the gods; in particular, the god Ra. Because of this only kings were allowed to wear gold during the earliest periods of Egyptian history. Eventually priests and some other people from the royal court were also allowed to be adorned by gold. The king’s sarcophagus was held in a chamber, which was referred to as the ‘house of gold’.
The Greeks thought that gold was a dense combination of water and sunlight
In ancient Greece gold was money. By 550 B.C. the Greeks had mined for gold throughout the Mediterranean and Middle east regions. Plato and Aristotle wrote about gold and theorized about the origins of gold. As gold was primarily found in streams it became associated with water. Furthermore, it was proposed that gold was a dense combination of water and sunlight.
The Trial of the Pyx
The trial of Pyx (a public test of the quality of gold) began in 1870, in the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, London and continues to the present day. The chests in which the coins are transported is called the Pyx. The name Pyx is derived from the Pyx chamber in Westminster Abby; a place where the chests were once kept.
The process is explained by the Royal Mint as follows:
“Little has changed in the procedure since the reign of Henry iii; throughout the year, coins are randomly selected from every batch of each denomination struck, sealed in bags containing 50 coins each, and locked away in the Pyx boxes for testing at the Trial.”
At the trial the coins are tested for diameter, chemical composition and weight.
Drinking molten gold and crushed up emeralds was used as a treatment for the bubonic plaque.
During the fourteenth century, a lot of the world, specifically Europe, was affected by the Bubonic Plague. It is estimated that approximately one quarter of Europe’s entire population was wiped out as a result of the plague. Medicine and health services were not at all equipped to deal with such an epidemic and people were desperate to try anything. Out of desperation Medieval Europeans concocted a ‘medicine’ intended to cure one of the plague; this involved drinking molten gold and crushed up emeralds.
The philosopher’s stone; turning metals to gold
In the fourth century, in Constantinople, the transmutation of metals was generally held to be plausible. Many of the Greek priests and members of the clergy wrote treatises on the subject. The third volume of Lenglet du Fresnoy’s History of the Hermetic Philosophy records some of these ecclesiastics’ names and their works. The overall idea, put forward in their works, was that all metals are composed of two substances; the first being metallic earth and the second being a red inflammable matter (which they referred to as sulphur). It was held that the pure union of these two substances produced gold. Other metals were thought to be contaminated by foreign matter. The aim of the philosopher’s stone was to dissolve or neutralize these impurities; by doing so it was held that iron, lead, copper and all other metals, would be transmuted back into their original state; namely gold.
Execution by pouring molten gold down the throat of the accused
In 1599, a Spanish governor in early colonial Ecuador was executed by having molten gold poured down his throat. Native Indians of the Jivaro tribe believed that they were unfairly taxed in their gold trade and as a result, attacked the settlement of Logrono and executed the governor.
Pouring hot liquids or metals, such as lead or gold, into the mouth of a victim was a practice used by the Romans and Spanish Inquisition among others.
We have seen how gold has many unusual and surprising contemporary and historical uses and applications. Surely you will never look at a gold pair of earrings in the same way.