Gem Focus September 2022: Gold; the oldest commodity for all cultures…

Posted on September 14, 2022 by Çiğdem Lüle, PhD, FGA, GIA GG, DGA

Chemically, gold is classified as a native metal because it is found in pure and uncombined state in nature. In other words, it doesn’t need to connect with other elements to remain stable. This very feature gives gold the ability to resist tarnishing. It is also highly malleable and practically indestructible, so it is one of the most workable metals in nature that by the late Stone Age, early artisans were able to make gold jewelry. The attractive look and favorable properties of gold let almost all cultures produce exquisite jewelry throughout millennia. Archaeological findings of gold artefacts not only confirm the importance of gold as a decorative object, but also a reliable trading item well before existence of money. Exchange of gold as a monetary item is evident both in prehistory and history. So much so, that it is still the form of international payment. In time, gold has gained even more value thanks to its high density and heat conductivity. It has become an indispensable component of electronics and industrial use. Gold crystal on matrix measuring 5.5 x 4 x .75 inches (14 x 10.2 x 1.9 cm). Eagle's Nest Mine, Michigan Bluff Dist., Placer Co., California, USA. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions. Gold is used in jewelry in alloy form. In other words, it is too soft to be used in jewelry making in its pure state, so it needs to be mixed with other metals to make it harder with different colors. Hence the “karat” gold. For example, pure gold is 24 karat and difficult to keep in shape if used in jewelry. Therefore, 18 karat (75% of gold and 25% of other metals such as silver or copper) or others such as 14 karat, 10 karat and so on are more suitable for jewelry making. Crystalized gold measuring 3 x 1.75 x .25 inches (7.6 x 4.4 x .6 cm). Colorado Quartz Mine, Mariposa Co., California, USA. Courtesy of Heritage Auctions. Here comes the most alluring yet least known fact about gold in nature; the collectable gold crystals. Despite common knowledge of gold nuggets in riverbeds, as a mineral, gold forms in interesting cubic crystals in mostly hydrothermal sources. When it is found in primary sources rather than secondary alluvial beds, it displays the most interesting habits of isometric forms. The large examples of gold crystals on matrix have been a main attraction at the international mineral shows. Such specimens are coveted by the collectors. There are locations in the world that would produce stunningly beautiful and large crystals. Most notable locations are California, Colorado and Alaska in the US, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Russia, and United Kingdom. Based on their location, they are priced individually for collectors rather than to be extracted for other uses. Recently, an exceptional gold specimen exhibit took place at the HardRock Summit Show in Denver, CO. The display pieces included the most important gold crystals on matrix, some of which are part of permanent collections of US museums. It is also pertinent to mention that auction houses and mineral dealers are sources collectors tap for gold on matrix specimens.

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