The allure of gold

You are walking along and spot something in front of you glittering in the sunlight. Gold!?! You pick it up thinking its gotta be something valuable but then realise it isn’t. Disappointed, you throw it back on the ground and walk away.

 

We all know what gold looks like. It’s the yellow iridescent metal that is used to make our bracelets or necklaces or wedding rings. We all know what it looks like but where does gold come from?

 

Gold was first discovered in Australia in 1851 glistening in a stream near Bathurst in eastern NSW. This discovery created a gold rush around Australia. Six months later, gold was discovered in Ballarat and the rest is history.

 

Why is gold viewed in monetary value but also emotionally and culturally? Lets take a closer look at this precious metal.

 

Gold Properties

Gold (Au) is naturally yellow, pale yellow, orange, yellow white or reddish white in colour. Gold has unique properties making it indispensable. It is malleable (bendable) and ductile (stretchy), it conducts heat and electricity and resists corrosion.

 

Gold is heavy. One ounce (troy) of gold equals 31.10 grams. It has a hardness of 2.5 to 3.0 on Mohs Hardness Scale. It has a platy or sheet-like form and has a melting point of 1060°C.

 

Figure 1. Visible gold in quartz vein showing its platy form (Source: from author)

 

 

Gold Occurrence

Gold deposits are found around the world. Gold deposits can occur as gold only or gold with other metals such as copper. Gold only deposits are commonly found in Victoria.

 

The most economically important primary gold deposits in Victoria are referred to as ‘orogenic gold’ deposits. These deposits contain host rocks that were once flat and later became deformed into squiggly shapes (folding), cut up (faulted) and baked (metamorphosed). Gold is trapped in quartz veins and commonly associated with sulphide minerals such as pyrite (FeS2), which is also known as fools’ gold.

 

Figure 2. Quartz vein (colourless or white) with sulphide minerals (silver, brassy yellow) (Source: from author)

 

 

Alluvial gold is also commonly found in Victoria. This is when gold escapes from its primary host rock and is transported to another location normally down the hill and into a creek or stream. Most recently, a gold nugget weighing 4.2kg with a net worth of $300,000 was found within Victoria’s ‘Golden Triangle’ that includes the towns of Avoca, Castlemaine and Wedderburn.

 

Globally, China is the largest gold producer with 455 tonnes produced during 2016. Australia is the second largest producing 270 tonnes followed by Russia producing 250 tonnes.

 

Demand

Gold demand is driven by a number of factors including fabrication (jewellery), investment (gold bars, official coins), changes in interest rates, inflation, movements in the US dollar and other triggers (political, natural disasters).

 

Gold generally finds strength leading up to the Indian wedding season from October through to December. This is due to increased demand as traditional weddings are elaborate with the bride commonly draped in gold.

 

Gold acts more like a currency than a commodity. It generally has a negative correlation with the US dollar. When the US dollar is strong, the price of gold decreases but when the US dollar is weak, gold strengthens. The gold price is currently trading at US$1,286.40 per ounce.

 

After all these years, gold is still very much apart of our everyday lives. We may wear it, invest in it or prospect for it. There are no substitutes. Gold is gold.

 

 

For further information visit:

 

World Gold Council – gold.org

Webmineral – webmineral.com/data/gold

USGS – minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pub/commodity/gold