The Top 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Gold

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Gold is one of the most precious, prized elements on earth. This pliant, yellow metal has altered the fate of whole empires and it has sparked mass migrations that shaped the borders of nations. Gold has played a role in opening new scientific frontiers and it has had a hand in the start of countless romances. But for all the apparent ubiquity of gold, you may be surprised to find you actually don’t know that much about the stuff. There’s more to gold than wedding rings and late night infomercials about investment opportunities, and we’re here to start filling in the cavities in your knowledge about this fine metal!

5 The Rise(s) and Fall(s) of Gold

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When the economy hits a rough patch, many folks turn to gold as a safe investment. And indeed throughout most of history this precious metal has been a precious commodity, and gold is considered a relatively safe part of any investor’s portfolio. But make sure not to sink your entire nest egg into the stuff: gold was selling for more than $1,900 per ounce in mid-2011, but was selling for less than half that, at just $950 in 2009. And in 2003, just ten years ago, it sold for only $360 an ounce, less than half its peak price in 1980! Gold’s story is one of extreme volatility, so use caution.

4 Gold Is Extremely Malleable

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There’s a good reason why so much intricate, finely-crafted jewelry is made out of gold: it is extremely flexible and durable. In fact, gold is considered the most malleable of the naturally occurring metals! A single ounce of gold could be stretched out into a wire more than fifty miles long! Though, that wire would have to be only five microns thick, in case you were wondering.

3 Most Gold Goes Bling

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While the figures vary somewhat, there is no doubt that well over half the gold mined each year is used for jewelry. Some sources claim around 60% of the gold mined each year is turned into jewelry; other sources assert that the percentage is much higher, drawing closer to 80%, even. Suffice it to say that annually much more gold is used to make rings, earrings and necklaces than is used in computer circuitry, the medical field and as backing for national sovereign wealth funds.

2 A Year’s Haul of Gold

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Each year, an average of two thousand, five hundred tons of gold comes out of the earth. Most of it is produced in South Africa, though many mines there have seen diminishing returns in recent years. America still produces its share of the precious metal as well, with Russia, Australia and Canada being other global leaders in gold production. At current prices, that means the annual haul of gold is worth around $55 million.

1 All the Gold in the World

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According to Warren Buffet (and to most experts’ best estimates), all the gold on planet earth—and that means everything from ancient Mayan statuettes to Victorian jewelry to the ore being hauled right now as you read this—could be combined into one huge cube that would be about 67 feet on each side. That is about the size of six story building. And that is a lot of gold, sure, but put in the context of our entire planet, a sphere nearly 25,000 miles in circumference, this stuff is pretty damn rare. Maybe that’s why it’s valuable?

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