Gold is an expensive precious metal that prohibits its use in industrial applications simply by chance. It is only used when a less expensive substitute cannot be found. Palladium, platinum, and silver are the closest replacement metals for gold but are not a direct substitute. Because of a lack of substitutes, when gold is used in an industrial application it is rarely replaced with another precious metal. This has led to an increase over time in the number of uses of gold in industry. Many of the applications of gold in the industry have increased significantly over the last three decades as goods produced have become more complex and require more reliable materials. The increase in demand, limited supply, and lack of substitutes make gold an invaluable precious metal of the future.
Uses of Gold Leaf
Gold is the most malleable of all precious metals. This allows gold to be hammered into sheets as thin as a few millionths of an inch. The hammered sheets are known as gold leaf and are used to add gold to furniture, picture frames, and other household items. Gold does not easily corrode, making gold leaf applicable to decorating external and internal surfaces of buildings. Generally, religious buildings like churches or other significant structures are most likely to be gilded in gold. The actual cost of the gold in these projects is not the most significant cost, rather the labor of highly skilled artisans who apply the gold leaf is the highest cost.
Gold in Glass
Astronauts have a thin film of gold on the visor of their helmets that reflects the solar radiation encountered in space. Similarly, gold is used in glass to reflect solar radiation outward, allowing the building to remain cool in the summer. The gold treated glass also reflects the internal heat of the building allowing it to stay warm in the winter. Aesthetically, adding gold to the glass when it is cooled will produce a red color.
Gold has long been a sign of achievement and wealth. Kings wear crowns of gold, athletes win the gold medal, actors win gold Oscars, and musicians win Grammy’s that are made of gold. The purity of gold makes it a logical choice to be used in religious objects like crosses and other religious symbols.
Gold in Space
NASA needs to build space vehicles with the most dependable parts known to man. For this reason, gold is used in many applications involved in space travel. The circuitry of the space vehicle is gold because the precious metal is a highly dependable conductor of electricity. Many external parts are covered in a gold-coated film. The film stabilizes the temperature inside the space vehicle and reflects the radiation in space. Gold is also used as a lubricant between parts because traditional lubricants that work on Earth would be broken down by radiation located in outer space.
Gold in Medicine
Gold has many applications in the field of medicine like helping to relieve rheumatoid arthritis. Radioactive gold is implanted in tissues and is a radiation source to treat specific cancers. Radioactive gold is also used in diagnosis. Injected with a colloidal solution, gold is a beta emitter as it goes through the body. Small amounts of gold are also used in surgical instruments, electronic equipment, and even life-support devices.
Gold in Technology
If you use a cell phone, laptop, desktop, or tablet then you own gold. Gold is able to transmit digital information better than any other precious metal. The mounting of microprocessors and memory chips uses a gold plating as well as the connectors used to attach cables. Gold is even used in GPS systems and calculators. Apple recovered over 2,000 pounds or $40 million worth of gold from broken iPhones in 2015. Despite these efforts, most gold used in electronics is not recycled. This consumption of gold for use in electronics continues to increase, less gold is available for investing.
Gold in Jewelry
More than 75% of the newly mined gold is used in jewelry. Gold has been used in jewelry for centuries because of its attractive luster, color, malleability, and resistance to tarnish. Since gold has been used for centuries, history and tradition are the primary reasons why gold is still used in jewelry. The malleability of gold presents a problem with jewelry. Pure gold is too soft to withstand the demands of life. For this reason, gold is usually alloyed with other precious metals like copper, silver, and platinum to increase its durability. Alloying gold with other metals changes the color of the gold. Depending on the actual karat weight of gold, the color could be reddish, yellowish, white, or almost copper.
Gold in Dentistry
Despite a recent decline in the use of gold in dentistry, the precious metal has been used in dentistry for centuries. The earliest known use of gold in teeth was 700 B.C. Gold is chemically inert, non-allergenic, and easily malleable, making it easy for dentists to shape in any form. For these reasons, gold has been used in fillings, crowns, and bridges. The use of gold in dentistry slowed in the 1970s after the price of the precious metal rose sharply.
Gold in Commerce
Gold has been used in commerce for over 6,000 years. Some printed money in history has been backed by a gold standard. The practice of a gold standard is used in very few parts of the world. Gold coins were minted for commerce beginning in 560 BC. Today, gold coins are not minted with the intent to be used in commerce. Gold coins like the Gold American Eagle are a way for investors to own small amounts of gold.
History of Gold
No other precious metal has enjoyed such a prominent role and significant meaning in the history of civilization. For centuries gold has been a symbol of status, wealth, beauty, and achievement. The most significant objects of today like wedding rings and religious artifacts are still made in gold. People still covet gold and believe it to be for the wealthy of our society. If history is any indication, the importance society places on gold is not likely to go away but the gold itself could be in short supply.