The story of gold is as rich and complex as the metal itself.

Wars have been fought for it; love has been declared with it. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs portray gold as the brilliance of the sun; modern astronomers use mirrors coated with gold to capture images of the heavens. By 325 BC the Greeks had mined for gold from Gibraltar to Asia Minor. In 1848 AD John Marshall found flakes of gold whilst building a sawmill near Sacramento and so triggered the gold rush in California. Held securely in national vaults as a reserve asset, gold has an irrefutable logic; released from the tombs of pharaohs and emperors alike, gold has an undeniable magic.

Despite its unrivalled properties, gold is an inert material. It does nothing until man discovers it, mines and refines it and bends it to his will. So the history of gold is very much the history of civilisation. Here are some points in time where that history was made. Click on the images to enlarge


c. 3600 BC
First smelting of gold
Egyptian goldsmiths carry out the first melting or fusing of ores in order to separate the metals inside. They use blowpipes made from fire-resistant clay to heat the smelting furnace.


2600 BC
Early gold jewellery
Goldsmiths of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) craft one of the earliest pieces of gold jewellery, a burial headdress of lapis and carnelian beads with willow leaf-shaped gold pendants.
Image © Trustees of The British Museum

The process allows for improved hardness and colour variation which in turn broadens the market for gold products.y 1200-1500 BC Advances in jewellery making Artisans develop the lost-wax jewellery casting technique.500 kilos of gold. y 950 BC Solomon builds gold temple The Queen of Sheba from Yemen presents King Solomon of Israel with 2. allegedly overlaid with gold. y 1223 BC Creation of Tutankhamun's funeral mask Instantly recognised the world over. the funeral mask of Tutankhamun is a triumph of gold craftsmanship from the ancient world. Solomon uses part of his holdings to construct his famed temple. bringing the contents of his treasury to 5.700 kilos. © Nir Levy .

Their uniform gold content allows 'Croesids' to become universally recognised and traded with confidence. permitting him to mint the world's first standardised gold currency.y 600 BC First gold dentistry practiced The first use of gold in dentistry as the Etruscans begin securing substitute teeth with gold wire. y 564 BC First international gold currency created King Croesus develops improved gold refining techniques. Image © Trustees of The British Museum y . malleability and corrosion resistance still make gold valuable in dental applications. giving the glass a luminous red glow. Bio-compatibility. y 300 First gold nanoparticles The Romans use gold to colour the Lycurgus Cup. Melting gold powder into glass diffuses gold nanoparticles throughout which then refract light.

5. Within years. humanely if you can.where London's Assay Office is still located today.. These small coins prove popular as they are easy to mint and carry plenty of value. Wikimedia Commons y 1511 Ferdinand unleashes invasion force King Ferdinand of Spain proclaims "Get gold. . various major mines around Europe become completely exhausted. get gold!".2 million gold ducats using 4. Birmingham y 1370 The Great Bullion Famine begins During the years 1370-1420.1300 Hallmarking practice established The world's first hallmarking system. Image © Classical Numismatic Group. is established at Goldsmith's Hall in London . but at all hazards.26 metric tonnes of gold from Africa and Central Asia. scrutinising and guaranteeing the quality of precious metal. y 1422 Venice's record year The Venice Mint strikes a record 1. Image © The Assay office. the Inca and Aztec civilisations would be virtually destroyed by Spanish conquerors. Inc. launching unprecedented expeditions to the Americas. Mining and production of gold declines sharply throughout the region in a period known as 'The Great Bullion Famine'. CC-BY-SA-2.

California. ten and a half pennies per ounce of gold). now essential to many 21st century technologies. Image © Deep Blue.y 1717 UK gold standard commences Britain moves onto a de facto pure gold standard.000 diggers flock to California from around the World. . y 1803 First gold electroplating practiced The first recorded experiment in electroplating is carried out by Professor Luigi Brugnatelli at the University of Pavia. The greatest gold rush of all time follows as 40. as the government links the currency to gold at a fixed rate (establishing a mint price of 77 shillings.0. Gold electroplating ensures improved conductivity. CC-BY-SA-3. Wikimedia Commons y 1848 California Gold Rush begins John Marshall discovers gold flakes while building a sawmill near Sacramento.

Named The Hen Egg. South Africa will go on to become the source of 40% of the world's gold. Miners flock to the region. CC-BY-SA-3. it was commissioned as a gift from the Tsar to his wife. Wikimedia Commons. linking their currencies to gold. The practice of bimetallism is abandoned. beginning a tradition that lasts until 1917. y 1870-1900 Adoption of gold standard All major countries other than China switch to the gold standard. Image © Terry Davis y 1885 First Faberge Easter egg crafted Carl Faberge makes his first gold Imperial Easter Egg for Tsar Alexander III. the Empress Maria Fedorovna. Australian miner George Harrison finds gold ore on Langlaagte farm near Johannesburg.y 1885 South African Gold Rush begins While digging up stones to build a house. . Image © PetarM.0.

is forbidden. . The export of all transactions in. The world will later return to a fixed system of exchange rates.67/oz).y 1925 Gold standard returns The UK returns to the gold standard at pre-war parity of $4. y 1933 Roosevelt suspends gold President Roosevelt suspends US dollar convertibility to gold (gold at US$20. and the holding of gold by private individuals. Presidential proclamation makes the dollar convertible again in January 1934 at a new price of $35 per troy ounce.86=£1 with sterling convertible to gold at 77sh 10. This follows the country's departure from the gold standard six years previously at the outbreak of World War I.5d per standard ounce. as at the beginning of World War II. y 1939 World War II closes gold market The London gold market is closed on the outbreak of war. this time with currencies fixed to the dollar and the dollar convertible into gold.

controlling all manner of indispensible electrical devices. 41kgs of gold is included in space shuttle construction through brazing alloys.y 1944 Bretton Woods conference The Bretton Woods conference sets the basis of the post-war monetary system. thus forming a Gold Exchange Standard. Other currencies are fixed in terms of US dollar. In 1980. The US dollar is set to maintain a $35=1 oz gold conversion rate. . Nowadays literally billions of chips are bonded this way every year. y 1961 First gold bonded microchips Gold bonding wire is used in microchips engineered at Bell Labs in the USA. y 1961 First gold in space The first manned space flight uses gold to protect sensitive instruments from radiation. fuel cell fabrication and electrical contacts.

a gold-based drug for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. suspending US dollar convertibility to gold. y 1985 First gold-based arthritis treatment Pharmaceutical giant. SmithKline & French.y 1967 First South African Krugerrand The Krugerrand is introduced in 1967. as a vehicle for private ownership of gold. y 1971 Gold window closed The Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates comes to an end as President Nixon "closes the gold window". The world enters its present day system of floating exchange rates. This iconic coin is actually intended for circulation as currency. The drug receives regulatory approval and goes on sale for the first time. . develops Auranofin.

y 1999 First Central Bank Gold Agreement The First Central Bank Gold Agreement (CBGA) is agreed. The jewellery. 15 European central banks declare that gold will remain an important element of their reserves and collectively cap gold sales at 400 tonnes per year over next five years. y 2001 First gold used in heart surgery Boston Scientific markets the first gold-plated stent (Niroyal) used in heart surgery. such stents act like scaffolding. takes its inspiration from Italian design. Image © Richard Lee y 2003 K-gold launched in China The World Gold Council creates an entirely new market segment with the launch of K-gold. Inserted inside large arteries and veins. . propping open the blood vessels to allow adequate flow. the first 18k jewellery in China. in predominantly white and yellow gold.

This reflects a combination of slowing sales from European banks and growing purchases by emerging market countries. The London pm fix achieves 35 separate successive highs in the year to date. Image © Lonely Planet Images y 2010 Gold price sustains record highs Fiat currencies are undermined by inflation fears and successive financial crises. y 2009 Central banks return to buying In the second quarter of the year. secure and easy way to access the gold market. central banks collectively become net purchasers of gold for the first time in two decades. Six years later SPDR® exceeds $55bn in assets under management. .y 2004 Launch of SPDR® Gold Shares The market is transformed by an innovative.

political or otherwise. It is worth noting that after 18 years as net sellers. where India and China with their expanding economic power are at the forefront of consumption.000 metric tonnes of stocks in existence above ground. causing not only a significant decrease in supply but a corresponding. In addition. Each is driven by different dynamics. collectively central banks are now effectively net buyers. in any single region are unlikely to impact the supply of gold. Gold's price history .Demand and supply Gold is rare. adding to gold¶s strength and independence. accounting for approximately 70% of the world¶s gold jewellery in 2009. If every single ounce of this gold were placed next to each other. Today there are 165. central bank reserves and the technology sector are all significant. investment. Beyond mine production. simultaneous increase in demand. In creating supply. In East Asia. recycling accounts for around a third of all current supply. the resulting cube of pure gold would only measure 20 metres in any direction. The demand for this precious and finite natural commodity occurs in many geographies and sectors. central banks can also contribute to supply should they sell part of their gold reserves. gold has powerful cultural meaning. This broad geographical dispersal means that issues. India and the Middle East. Around 60% of today¶s gold becomes jewellery. gold mining companies operate on every continent of the globe. But jewellery creates just one source of demand.

The Great Recoinage shifted the balance of coins in circulation from silver to gold. resigning its chairmanship in 2004. Though the process through which the fix is agreed has barely changed since its inception.determines the daily gold price. prompted a significant increase in global supply . The Bank of England was keen to return London to the forefront of global gold trading activity. In today¶s market. with the price agreed upon by five members. several countries had officially adopted the gold standard. During the 19th century. . Sir Isaac Newton. London¶s position as the focus of international gold trade was secure. It is widely considered to be the birthplace of the official gold price. none of the original member banks remain. set the gold price at £4 8s 9d (£4. By the early 18th century. trading on several exchanges . In 1717.of both physical gold and gold derivatives . The London fixing was thus established.The city of London emerged as a metals trading centre in the late 17th century. In 1968 N. This price is now considered to be the more important of the two. with the bulk of global gold finding its way to and through the city. In 1919 the Bank of England signed an agreement with seven South African mining houses to ship their gold to London for refining. This fix is set twice daily at 10am and 3pm. causing London to lose some of its authority as the world¶s gold µcentre¶. other nations became increasingly important gold market participants.M Rothschild introduced the latter fix to coincide with the opening of the US markets.25) per troy ounce. The California gold rush.M. In 1696 the Bank of England brought gold to greater prominence when it informally established the world¶s first gold standard. with the traditional gold fix still serving as the benchmark price. Rothschild was the last to leave. These mining houses agreed to sell all of their gold through the banking house N. By the late 1800¶s. Rothschild.and the emergence of a gold trade that bypassed London. then the Master of the Mint. along with discoveries in Australia and South Africa. This level remained largely unchanged for the following two hundred years.

the number of times that all of the existing gold in the world. y Million . Numbers and facts Some of the more extraordinary statistics which gold has accumulated across the centuries and around the world. traders most frequently quote the US dollar price. and Société Générale .The current members are the Bank of Nova Scotia-Scotia Mocatta. Deutsche Bank. HSBC Bank USA. Given the importance of US markets and the dollar as the world¶s reserve currency. the resulting wire would be just five microns wide.with an annually rotating chairmanship. Only a very few ever got rich. turned into 5 micron wire. . per troy ounce. y One ounce of gold can be stretched to a length of 50 miles.000 miners who joined the California Gold Rush in 1849 were called ³49ers´. y The 40. Sterling and Euros. y The atomic number of gold. The fix reports the gold price in three currencies: US dollars. could wrap around the planet. Barclays Bank. which means there are 79 protons in the nucleus of every atom of gold.

. y Over 90 percent of the world¶s gold has been mined since the California Gold Rush..y One ounce of pure gold could be hammered into a single sheet nine metres square. y ..And only boils at 2808 degrees centigrade. all of which would fit into a crate of 20 cubic metres. y This is the total number of tonnes of gold mined since the beginning of civilisation. y Gold melts at 1064 degrees centigrade.... y .

y million people worldwide depend on gold mining for their livelihood. y The number of grams in a troy ounce of gold. y And the US Federal Reserve holds 6.600 tonnes of gold. y The number of troy ounces in a ³London Good Delivery Bar´. y Julius Caesar gave two hundred gold coins to each of his soldiers from the spoils of war in defeating Gaul.200. y Fort Knox holds 4. .

y The temperature of the human body is 37 degrees centigrade. . becoming part of you. y The % increase in the price of gold from Dec 2000 to October 2010. y In 95 BC. Chinese Emperor Hsiao Wu I minted gold commemorative piece to celebrate the sighting of a unicorn. gold jewellery rapidly matches your body¶s heat. Because of gold¶s unique conductivity. y The percentage of gold mined today that becomes jewellery. y The number of parts per thousand of pure gold in 18 carat gold. y It is rarer to find a one ounce nugget of gold than a five carat diamond.

held over $55 billion assets under management. a World Gold Council sponsored exchange traded fund. y In November 2010.000 tonnes of gold. a 2007 Canadian $1. y The largest ever true gold nugget weighted 2316 troy ounces when found at Moliagul in Australia in 1969. It was called the ³Welcome Stranger´.y The largest gold coin ever minted. the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) fund.000 Maple Leaf is 53cm in diameter. . the world¶s oceans are estimated to hold up to 15.000. y Howard Carter made his famous ³tiny breach of the top left hand corner of the doorway´ to reveal the first glimpse of Tutankhamun¶s tomb on 26 November 1922. y Even at only 10 parts of gold per quadrillion.

.y World Gold Council members collectively represent around 60% of all corporate mining activity. y The number of times gold has reached a new high in 2010.