Gold can be cast, carved, rolled or hammered as thin as 1/100,000 of an inch, thinnest of any metal. While gold is 19 times heavier than water it can be hammered so thin it almost floats. Gold has been used throughout history. It was used for jewelry cups and ornaments for centuries. Gold has been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt dating back to 3,500 B.C. The coffin of Tutankhamen was made of gold and weighed 242 pounds.
Gold was the treasure that spurred the explorations of the early Spaniards and even Columbus. The early Spaniards sent ships loaded with iron pyrite back thinking it was gold. Iron pyrite is commonly known as “fools gold.” They learned “All that glitters is not gold” first hand.
Because of its poor chemical reactivity, gold was one of the first few metals, along with copper and silver, to be used by humans. This is due to the fact that it could be used without first having to be refined. Even ancient societies that did not fully recognize its uses prized gold for its beauty.
Today, the purity of gold used in jewelry is measured in carats, with nine-carat gold containing at least 37.5 percent of the pure metal. The scale rises through 14, 18, and 22 carats, and at the top of the scale is 24-carat gold (pure gold).
Gold has a very high specific gravity of 19.3, a melting point of 1,945 degrees F. (1,063 degrees celsius), and a boiling point of 5,370 degrees F. (2,966 degrees celsius). It is the most malleable and the most ductile of all elements. It is also an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, surpassed only by copper and silver. In addition, gold is highly resistant to any form of alteration or decomposition, so has been used and reused for centuries without any deterioration or damage.
Although gold often forms in nuggets, they are becoming increasingly rarer because nearly all specimens are currently being melted down into ingots.