Gold is a chemical element that, in its purest form, is a bright, slightly reddish-yellow, dense, soft, malleable, and ductile metal. The element symbol for gold is Au, and it has atomic number 79 on the periodic table. Gold has many uses, thanks to its ductility and malleability, such as being used in electronics, dentistry, radiation shielding, and wiring. Additionally, it can also be eaten in foods or drinks, despite being a heavy, dense metal.
Gold has monetary and symbolic value. Pure elemental gold is 24 karat, 75% pure gold is 18 karat, 58% pure gold is 14 karat, and 41.7% pure gold is 10 karat. The content of pure gold is typically used to determine the value of jewelry. The United States once used the gold standard, which a monetary system where a country’s currency or paper money has a value directly linked to gold. This, however, was abandoned in 1933.
It is believed that gold mining has been done for almost 7,000 years and that the Egyptians were the first to smelt gold around 3,600 B.C. Years later, hold jewelry appeared. Throughout history, gold has been of great value to humans, inspiring gold rushes and leading to wars.
As of November 2019, gold is valued at $1,500 per ounce. Jewelry accounts for about half of gold demand, while the rest is from investment demand and industrial uses. During times of recession or economic uncertainty, investors often turn to investing in gold because of its enduring value, protecting against currency devaluation or inflation. Gold also receives demand from exchange traded funds (ETFs), which hold the gold and issue shares that investors can buy and sell.
Gold production remains vital around the world. The world’s gold production affects the price of gold based on the law of supply and demand. The largest gold-producing countries in the world are:
- China (399.7 tonnes)
- Australia (312.2 tonnes)
- Russia (281.5 tonnes)
- United States (253.2 tonnes)
- Canada (193.0 tonnes)
- Indonesia (190.0 tonnes)
- Peru (155.4 tonnes)
- South Africa (123.5 tonnes)
- Mexico (121.6 tonnes)
- Ghana (101.8 tonnes)
China is currently the world’s largest producer of gold, producing 399.7 tonnes of gold in 2018 and accounting for 12% of the global mine production. China is experiencing a downtrend in production, with 2018’s production being 6% less than in 2017. This is due to the government’s tighter environmental policies.
Worldwide, the increase in gold has slowed since 2016, due in part to the fact that the “easy gold,” or easily accessible gold, is has already been mined. Gold is now more challenging to mine, which raises additional problems such as miner safety and environment impacts.