Gold (a word with Sanskrit origins) is, along with copper, the first metal to have been crafted by Man. In the Neolithic age, populations along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean already transformed gold into jewelry or used it to adorn tombs. For the Egyptians it was sacred, a manifestation of the sun-god and as such the most precious metal of all. It was used to crown pyramids and obelisks, and accompanied the dead on their journey into the Otherworld. Not that this prevented gold from having other more decorative functions, as illustrated by the discovery of finely chased jewelry. Gold was mined in Nubia, Mesopotamia and later Greece and Spain.
The Persians under Cyrus were the first to use gold as a unit of currency, six hundred years before the Christian era, a function it was never to lose. In the mid-nineteenth century the discovery of gold in abundance in California marked the beginning of the gold rush. The United States soon became the world’s leading gold-producing country, although it was later outstripped by South Africa. particularly following the discovery of the New World and the looting of its gold. Soon Europe rang to the sound of Venetian sequins, French louis d’or and English guineas. Now the symbol of wealth, it fired the imagination of alchemists and goldsmiths.
An estimated 130,000 metric tons of gold have been extracted from the earth since prehistoric times, of which 100,000 were extracted in the twentieth century alone. Gold can be found across the globe, although sometimes in such small quantities it cannot be industrially or commercially exploited. It takes more than two metric tons of water and 5m3 of compressed air to sift through one metric ton of ore to obtain just ten grams of pure gold.
The biggest gold nuggets in the world weight 350 kg (South Africa) and 99.8 kg (Australia).
Properties and characteristics
Gold has seduced the world for its beauty, but also because it does not deteriorate. Even acids can do nothing to diminish its natural properties. Gold can only be dissolved in aqua regia (a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids) or in cyanide. Its malleability (its hardness is just 2.5), means gold is extremely easy to work. It can be beaten and stretched even when cold. One gram of gold can thus be transformed into a sheet measuring one metre squared. It can be used in an alloy with other metals, very often silver and copper. This changes its color, increases its resistance and lowers the cost.
Gold and Cartier
Gold has been synonymous with Cartier since 1924, the year of the creation of the famous three-band ring, each band made from a different color of gold: one white, one pink and one yellow. Legend tells how these three intertwining bands were inspired by and created for Jean Cocteau. Still one of Cartier’s greatest successes, these three bands have lent themselves to certain accessories such as pens.
The top five gold-producing countries are: 1 / South Africa 2 / United States 3 / Australia 4 / Canada 5 / Russia.