50 Surprising Facts You Never Knew About Gold

Updated September 25, 2020
posted on 06-07-2019

For centuries, all that glittered actually was gold. This highly-valued precious metal has been used from everything to adorning royals to stabilizing economies, creating dental pieces, and even making your mobile phone work more efficiently.
Here are 50 amazing facts about gold that might surprise you!

Historical Facts About Gold

1. The word "gold" comes from the Old English word "gyldan", which was derived from “gulþa” in Germanic. 

2. Nearly 200,000 tons of gold have been mined by humans. 

3. Since 1950, ⅔ of above-ground gold has been mined.

4. Gold has been found on all seven continents.

5. There is an estimated total of 10 billion tons of gold in the world's oceans. It’s so diluted, however, that it’s impossible to mine. 

6. The transmutation of ordinary materials into gold is called chrysopoeia.

7. A carat was originally a unit of mass based on the carob seed used by ancient merchants.

8. The oldest golden object was discovered in Bulgaria. The discovery determined that humans were metalworking with this material as far back as 6,500 years ago.  

9. Since the times of Greco-Roman Egypt, alchemists have believed that it was possible to turn ordinary materials – like lead – into gold. 

10. The largest nugget still in existence is the "Hand of Faith.” Discovered with a metal detector in Australia in 1980, you can view it at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas.

11. Olympic gold medals were pure gold until 1912. They’re currently required to contain a minimum of 6 grams of gold and be made from at least 92% silver. 

12. The Aztec word for gold, "teocuitatl," translates to "excrement of the gods."

13. About 50 years before the 1848 California Gold Rush, a gold rush occurred in North Carolina. 

Scientific Facts About Gold

14. The chemical symbol for gold is Au, derived from the Latin word "aurum”, or “shining dawn.” 

15. A noble metal, gold doesn’t rust, tarnish, or form an oxide film on its surface when it comes into contact with air.

16. Since it’s virtually indestructible, this precious metal is routinely melted down, purified, and reused. This means that your gold ring may have particles from Ancient Rome!

17. The now-world standard 200mg metric carat was instituted in 1907, with the US adopting this measurement in 1913. Before this, standards ranged from 187mg to 215.99mg. 

18. Out of the 92 naturally occurring elements, and gold ranks 58th in rarity. The rarest elements on earth are platinum-based metals like osmium, rhodium and iridium.

19. Pure gold is so soft that it can be molded with the hands.

20. Gold’s melting point is 1,947ºF or 1,064 °C. 

21. Nearly all of the Earth’s gold came from meteorites 200 million years ago.

22. Some sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis receive injections of liquid gold to decrease inflammation.

23. During earthquakes, water within faults can fracture and vaporize, creating gold.

Financial Facts About Gold

24. Gold is the most popular precious metal for investments.

25. The price of gold constantly fluctuates and is often linked to major economic events.

26. Most western economies' currencies were on the gold standard until 1971.

27. Gold is not the most expensive metal anymore. That honor went to palladium in 2018. 

28. Switzerland was the last country to leave the gold currency standard. 40% of a Swiss Franc was backed by gold until the alpine nation joined the IMF in 1999.

29. King Croesus of Lydia created the first pure gold coins in 540 B.C.

30. Henry VIII, Diocletian and Nero were infamous gold debasers, mixing other metals into gold coins and decreasing their value.

Fort Knox Facts

31. At the end of March 2020, Fort Knox held more than 4500 metric tons of gold. 

32. Fort Knox contains around 50% of the United States’ gold reserves. 

33. It’s believed that Fort Knox holds about 2% of the world’s gold supply.

34. Fort Knox has never been robbed. In fact, no one has even attempted carrying out such an operation. With 30,000 soldiers, a surrounding minefield, Predator drones doing routine surveillance, and 20-ton vault doors (which no single person has a combination to), it’s an impossible undertaking.

Fun Facts About Gold

35. In 2010, the world’s first gold vending machine was unveiled in Abu Dhabi. The vending machine itself is gold-plated and its prices are updated every minute to reflect market value. 

36. In 2002, the 1933 Double Eagle $20 coin was sold at Sotheby's for $7.59 million, making it the most valuable gold coin in the world. Only 20 of these coins exist. 

37. Elvis Presley owned the first Stutz Blackhawk prototype, and his favorite release spared no expense: 24K gold plates, bezels, moldings, and trims. 

38. Former Tyco International CEO, Dennis Kozlowski bought a $6,000 gold-threaded shower curtain in his maid’s bathroom. Kozlowski was later convicted of embezzling $100 million from Tyco and sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison. 

39. Оne ounce of gold can be beaten into a sheet covering 100 square feet.

40. In 1869, two Australians unearthed the world's largest nugget of gold, the "Welcome Stranger.” The piece measured 10x25 inches before it was melted down.

41. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest gold coin is the Vienna Philharmonic. Introduced to circulation in 2004, the coin weighs 31.1 grams (1.09oz.) and has a diameter of 3.7cm (1.45 in). It is valued at €100. 

42. Pure gold does not cause skin irritation. Reactions are typically to other metals (like nickel or silver) that are mixed together. 

43. An ounce of gold can be drawn into a wire 5 miles (8km) long.

44. Gold can be consumed in small quantities and is often added to luxury beverages and foods. 

45. Because it holds up well in the body and is incredibly malleable, gold has been used to strengthen or cap weak teeth for at least four millenia.  

46. The average human body contains 0.2 mg of Gold.

Gold in Modern Times

47. China is the top producer of gold

48. China is also the world’s biggest gold consumer, owing to its technological products, demand for jewelry, and central bank reserves.

49. The visors of astronauts' helmets are coated in a very thin, transparent layer of gold (.000002 inches). This reduces glare and heat from sunlight.

50. Gold is an excellent conductor of electricity and it doesn’t tarnish. That’s why it’s used in nearly every sophisticated electronic device, from connectors to switches to connecting wires.

Ask An Expert About Gold

At InvestingAnswers, all of our content is verified for accuracy by certified financial experts. Our experts also take the time to answer your questions at the end of each article.

What Is the Value of Gold?

The value of gold fluctuates all the time. As of August 2020, gold was worth $2000 per ounce. Generally, the value of gold tends to move inversely to the value of the US dollar. For example, when the value of a dollar increases, the price of gold drops as it is relatively more expensive for those in other countries to purchase. The opposite is likewise true and the same general principles apply to many other types of commodities as well.

Should I Invest in Gold?

Owning gold can act as a short-term hedge against inflation because its price tends to rise as the cost of living increases. Historically, gold can help mitigate the volatility of global financial uncertainty – which can make it a good way to diversify your portfolio. However, it is also important to know that from a tax perspective investing in gold or gold funds is considered the same as a collectible. As such, capital gains may be taxed at 28%, which is much higher than a typical investment.  As with any investment consideration, be sure to complete your own research or reach out to a financial advisor if you’re not sure about investing in gold.