There must have been a day when a person belonging to an ancient civilization got hold of a piece of gold and thought, I kind of like this. Since then it’s become a metal that denotes wealth, a powerful symbol that wraps around our fingers and for some people covers their teeth.
There is evidence that gold impressed humans as far back as 40,000 BC. The ancient Egyptians loved the stuff, and it’s said pharaohs couldn’t get enough of it. They even used it as currency, with the deal being that one piece of gold was worth as much as two pieces of equal-weight silver. So, we already know that some of the ancients prized this stuff.
We also know that in the bible, there is mention of holy lands covered with gold. We know other civilizations from the Aztecs to the Persians cherished it. It wasn’t that hard to find, either, and all over the world, someone could acquire gold.
Why is it expensive, though? You might be thinking, well, it’s a gold man, it’s just costly because it is. But not all things humanity cherishes are costly. Maybe you have a thing for marble, and that’s relatively cheap. Ok, so the first reason is a matter of geology.
While gold can be found all over the place, it is still rare, rarer than say oak wood. So, to get gold, you have to mine, and mining is labor-intensive. You then have to clean up the gold and make it look nice, that also takes hard work.
That’s one of the reasons gold is expensive, but it doesn’t explain everything. You see, some metals that are very abundant are obviously cheap. But there are other metals that are just as rare as gold that is also cheap. One example is the metal called Ruthenium.
We just looked online to see the price and were told it’s now going for $9,000 per kilogram. We are also told that if we buy a kilo of gold today, we’ll have to pay $41,149.That just doesn’t seem right. In the list of the rarest metals in the world, one metallurgy website tells us that gold is 7th and ruthenium is 6th. The second-rarest of them all, though, Rhodium, is very expensive. You can get a kilo of that stuff today for $91,308.The eighth rarest metal, platinum, has been expensive in the past, but now you can get your hands on a kilo for just $26,106.
What you can see here is that rarity does make something expensive, but it doesn’t define the price overall. Otherwise platinum would cost more than gold, and poor ruthenium wouldn’t be a bargain-basement metal. Now for a bit of science. There is a reason gold is rare. That’s because it is a heavy atom consisting of 79 protons and 118 neutrons.
Now, back before we had science, the ancients had no idea where the gold came from. The Egyptians called it the “breath of God,” and the Aztecs called it the “the sweat of the sun.”
While this sounds pretty, the sun didn’t sweat gold out, and God didn’t cough it onto planet Earth. What actually happened was a great big supernova in space forged gold atoms and hurled them across the universe. As the story goes, billions of years ago meteorites packed with gold hit the Earth.
Little did they know that one day they’d end up covering Flavor Flav’s teeth. As for that first gold, it sank when molten iron was busy making the core of the Earth. Now, we said it is rare, but it’s not super-rare, say, not as rare as a five-legged horse.
Yes, they exist. We don’t know exactly how much gold there is because we haven’t dug it all up, but the world Gold Council said that as of 2019 the entire amount of gold that has been mined is 190,040 metric tons. That equals about 418,878,298 pounds of gold or 190m kilos of it. Let’s just make a quick calculation in our head 190,000,000×41 and a bit equal about seven trillion dollars.No doubt if you had all the world’s gold you would get an invite to Jeff Bezos’ country club. Ok, so it’s rare, but not that rare.
It is expensive because it takes a lot of work to mine. But that’s not all. It’s also a really handy metal to work with, it’s corrosion-resistant, and it can be made into nice shapes that people can admire. Some metals are very hard to smelt, but gold isn’t. So, you have a very pretty metal that doesn’t corrode, and you can easily make things out of it. Silver is also kinda rare, and it also has a relatively low melting point, but there is a problem with silver, and that is the fact it tarnishes.
Gold hits all the spots. It really is the perfect kind of metal. It remains perfect, too, for a long time. As the BBC put it, “Gold’s relative inertness means you can create an elaborate golden jaguar and be confident that 1,000 years later it can be found in a museum display case in central London, still in pristine condition.” If you have gold, you are holding good currency.
Back then, people used to talk about Cities of Gold, but they were never found. Still, if you looked at gold prices from the low in 2001 to the high in 2011, there is a massive difference. What we are trying to say it that it has always been expensive, but it has been cheaper. So, to recap again. Gold is rare, rare means expensive. Gold also has a history of being admired, which does add to the cost.
Today it’s still seen as something that denotes high status, and like Gucci bags, that keeps the price high. Not only that, it keeps its shape and doesn’t corrode.