14 August 2012

Gold's glittering history

Since its discovery 7,000 years ago gold has been spun, stretched, beaten, eaten or just stashed in bank vaults
1.GOLD and copper were the first metals to be discovered by man, around 5000 BCE. The oldest gold jewellery so far found dates from 4000 BCE.
2. There are between 120,000 and 140,000 tonnes of mined gold in the world, or about 23 grams per person.
3. The US gold reserve is just over 8,000 tonnes – which is about 6% of the gold ever mined. It is worth about $100bn, or 1.5% of the US national debt.
4. Gold is so rare that more steel is poured in an hour than gold since the beginning of recorded time.
5. 75% of all gold in circulation has been extracted since 1910.
6. It can be stretched for miles – gold is so soft and malleable that an ounce could be stretched into a wire 50 miles long, or flattened into a sheet 100 sq ft (about 9 sq metres) in area.
7. Native Scottish gold is one of the purest forms of gold, at 22.8 carats (24 carats is pure gold).
8. About 30,000 tonnes of the world's gold (20-25% of above ground inventory) is held in central bank vaults.
9. 75% of the world's gold is held privately as jewellery, bullion and coin.
10. Gold is still being mined and refined at the rate of almost 2,600 tonnes a year.
11. 20% of the world's gold reserve is used in India as decoration and in sarees.
12. Carats, the measurement of gold, is originally a weight based on the carob seed, used by ancient merchants in the Middle East.
13. The marking system for gold, where each item is clearly stamped with its caratage, is required by law in many countries and was developed in London in the 14th century at Goldsmiths' Hall.
14. Gold is edible. Some Asian countries put gold in fruit, jelly snacks, coffee, and tea. Since at least the 1500s, Europeans have been putting gold leaf in bottles of liquor, such as Danziger Goldwasser and Goldschlager.
15. The Greeks thought that gold was a dense combination of water and sunlight.

Gold jewellery in India where 20% of the world's reserves is used in decoration and clothing. Photograph: Ajay Verma/Reuters/Reuters

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