What is Gold?

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What is Gold?

Gold is a metallic element, element 79, symbol Au, on the periodic table. Pure gold is bright, reddish-yellow in color, dense (it is one of the most dense elements), malleable, ductile, and soft, and solid under standard conditions. Particularly noteable is gold's extreme malleability - it is the most malleable of all metals, and 1 gram of gold can be beaten into a sheet that is 1 square meter in size - gold leaf can be made so thin that it becomes transparent or semi-transparent to visible light (while still reflecting infrared light).

Principle uses of include coinage, jewelry, and artwork, but it also has important industrial uses, including in electrical connectors, color-glass production, gold leafing, infrared shielding, and tooth restoration. Additionally certain gold compounds have a medical application as anti-inflammatories.

Chemically speaking, gold is relatively unreactive, and resists corrosion and attacks by most acids. Gold is insoluble in nitric acid (unlike silver and base metals), and this feature can be used to test whether an object is gold - "the acid test". Gold does however dissolve in aqua regia (a mix of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid), as well as alkaline solutions of cyanide, and in mercury.

While pure gold, and nearly pure gold is reddish-yellow, alloying with other metals results in colors. When alloyed with silver, the color becomes first pale greenish yellow, then white, as the amount of silver is increased. When alloyed with copper, the color becomes reddish, and then copper red, as the amount of copper is increased. Alloying with palladium or nickel, produces white gold alloys, whereas alloying with other metals such aluminium, indium, iron, or manganese, produces colors.

Gold, platinum and silver alloys are rated for purity, in terms of parts per thousand. Here are the common millesimal grades for platinum:
  • 999.999 - "six nines fine" - This is the highest purity of gold ever produced, and which was done by the Perth Mint in 1957.

  • 999.99 - "five nines fine" - This is the highest purity of gold currently being produced. This is done by the Royal Canadian Mint, which regularly produces commemorative coins in this purity.

  • 999.9 - "four nines fine" - This purity is used for ordinary Canadian Gold Maple Leaf and American Buffalo coins.

  • 999 - "24 karat" but also occasionally known as "three nines fine" - This purity is used Chinese Gold Panda coins

  • 995 The minimum purity permitted for Good Delivery gold bars.

  • 990 - "two nines fine".

  • 986 - "Ducat fineness" - This purity was used by the Venetian and Holy Roman Empire mints, and is still used to day in Austria and Hungary.

  • 958.3 - "23 karat".

  • 916 - "22 karat" - This is historically the most common purity ised for gold bullion coins, and is still used today for British Sovereigns, South African Krugerrands, and American Gold Eagles.

  • 900 - "one nine fine" - This purity was mostly used in Latin Monetary Union minted coins.

  • 834 - "20 karat".

  • 750 - "18 karat".

  • 625 - "15 karat".

  • 585 - "14 karat".

  • 417 - "10 karat".

  • 375 - "9 karat".

  • 333 - "8 karat" - Minimum standard purity for gold in Germany after 1884





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