By Tim Lambert
Human beings have always prized gold. The rich have always used it for jewelry and eating and drinking vessels. Since Ancient Times gold has also been used in dentistry. The earliest evidence of gold comes from 3,600 BC. By about 600 BC people were making gold coins. Our chemical symbol for gold, au comes from the Latin word aurum.
People have always plundered gold from other nations. The Vikings plundered monasteries in Europe of gold and jewels. The Aztecs and the Incas also had gold – until they were conquered by the Spanish. The New World provided Spain with huge amounts of treasure. In the 16th century, 150,000 kilograms of gold and 7.4 million kilograms of silver were shipped to Spain.
In England in the mid-17th-century people sometimes deposited their money with goldsmiths for safety. The goldsmiths issued a note promising to pay the bearer a certain sum on demand. In time people began to exchange these notes instead of coins because it was easier and safer. Goldsmiths began to lend the money deposited with them in return for a high rate of interest. They also paid interest to people who deposited money in order to attract their savings.
There were also gold rushes. If a person discovered gold huge numbers of people flocked to the area hoping to make a fortune. In 1695 gold was discovered in Brazil. Another source of gold was discovered in 1719. The discovery of gold led many people to settle in the interior of Brazil. In 1848 a man named James Marshall discovered gold in California. News of the find reached New York in December 1848. As a result, people went to California in their thousands and the population boomed. Other gold rushes took place in the USA when gold was discovered in Colorado in 1858, in Idaho in 1860, in Montana in 1862, and in South Dakota in 1874.
Gold was also found in Australia. In 1871 gold was discovered near Darwin and as a result, the settlement thrived. In 1892 there was a gold rush in Western Australia and as a result, the population of Perth boomed. Meanwhile, gold was discovered in South Africa in 1885. In 1896 gold was discovered in Yukon, Canada. As a result, men flocked to the Klondike.
Today gold is the state mineral of California and Alaska.
Last revised 2023