Gold: 50 Surprising Facts About the Precious Metal

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Gold has long been prized for its beauty and rarity, and has played a significant role in human culture and commerce for thousands of years. From its use as a medium of exchange in ancient civilizations to its modern applications in jewelry, electronics, and more, gold has a fascinating story to tell. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of 50 facts about gold that will give you a deeper understanding of this remarkable metal. From its physical properties and sources, to its cultural and economic importance, these facts will shed light on the many aspects of gold that make it so valuable and enduring.

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26One Ton Gold Coin

One Ton Gold Coin

In 2011, Australia minted the biggest coin in the world, which is made of one ton of pure gold. Although its face value was A$1 million (£650,000) when it was minted, its actual value was much more. It would have been worth more than A$54 million if melted down and refined into gold bars at the time.


27. As part of an effort to provide winter quarters for an allied Ottoman navy, the entire population of Toulon, France, was evacuated for a short time in 1543. During their 8-month stay, 30,000 warriors forced the city's cathedral to be repurposed as a mosque and demanded 800,000 gold coins from the monarch before they left.


28. The U.S. Mint has 147 million troy ounces of gold stored in Fort Knox, 54 million at West Point, and 44 million in Denver as of February 2021. Members of Congress and a small group of journalists were granted access to the Fort Knox gold vault for the final time on September 23, 1974. Only 5% of the samples were analyzed during the last audit, which took place in 1953.


29. There is more gold (6,190 tons) in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's vault than there is in the US Bullion Depository at Fort Knox (5,052 tons). Nonetheless, around 98% of this gold is owned by the central banks of foreign nations.


30. Following the September 11th attacks, more than $200 million in gold and silver bullion was retrieved from beneath WTC-4. It was the property of futures dealers at the New York Mercantile Exchange.


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31Sewage Sludge Gold

Sewage Sludge Gold

Traditional prospectors would consider sewage sludge financially feasible due to the presence of commercially viable levels of gold, silver, and platinum in trace amounts. An 8-year research project discovered that one kilogram of sludge included around 0.4 milligrams of gold, 28 milligrams of silver, 638 milligrams of copper, and 49 milligrams of vanadium.


32. In 1825, French King Charles X required that Haiti pay an "independence debt" of 150 million gold francs, which was equal to ten times the country's yearly earnings at the time. Haiti still had to pay France 90 million gold francs, which is around €17 billion in modern currency. In 1947, it was still making payments on this debt.


33. Raffi Stepanian, a resident of Queens, New York City, has made a living by sifting through the dirt and gravel in the crevices of the streets in the Diamond District in search of precious stones. Apparently, in the span of six days, he was able to amass enough gold for two sales totaling $819.


34. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's throne took seven years and four times as much money to construct as the Taj Mahal. The Koh-i-Noor Diamond was among the many priceless gems set into the throne, which itself was made of more than 2,500 pounds of gold and 500 pounds of valuable gemstones.


35. The Japanese use a technique called "kintsugi," where shattered ceramics are repaired with gold. It symbolizes the fact that an object's breaking is an integral part of its story that should not be hidden.


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36Bre-X Fraud

Bre-X Fraud

Bre-X, a Canadian penny stock, discovered billions of dollars' worth of gold in Indonesia in 1995. Its shares rose quickly, and its worth rose to $6.6 billion. The chief geologist committed suicide after discovering that the core sample was salted. The company's stock plummeted and became worthless overnight. No one was ever convicted because the main culprit vanished.


37. Battery-free electroplating was invented by Peru's ancient Moche civilization in the 1st century AD to coat copper in a thin coating of gold. Electrochemical replacement plating is feasible without electricity by altering the pH of the gold solution used in gilding. It was cheaper, faster, and better. Electrical plating allows for far thicker layers than the micron-thick ones used by this civilization.


38. Using a nuclear reactor or a particle accelerator, it is now totally conceivable to transmute base metals into gold, a task that alchemists have sought for ages but seemed impossible to accomplish. However, the high cost renders the procedure impractical.


39. In 2001, the shipwreck of the HMS Sussex (1694) was discovered by the treasure-hunting company Odyssey. Even though the Spanish government agreed to help the British authorities recover the loot, they still haven't allowed a team to inspect the location.


40. The Soviet "Order of Victory" is one of the rarest military honors in the world. It had 47 grams of platinum, 2 grams of gold, 19 grams of silver, 25 carats of ruby, and 16 carats of diamond. The value of the medal is believed to be $10 million.


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41Gold Mined by Ants

Gold Mined by Ants

The Asian "ant" mentioned by the historian Herodotus was hairy and about the size of a fox. It dug out gold from the ground, which the inhabitants then gathered. Most likely, this was the Himalayan marmot, which likes to dig tunnels in places where there is plenty of gold. The Indian subcontinent is home to several indigenous tribes that have made a living collecting gold from near their mound for centuries.


42. Many nations sold up their overseas holdings and gold to pay for the war effort during World War II. By 1947, the United States had amassed 70 percent of the world's gold reserves.


43. After the wreck of the SS Central America was found in 1988 and huge amounts of gold was recovered from it, 39 insurance companies that had paid out claims related to the shipwreck in 1857 sued the expedition team.


44. Following World War 2, Croatian concentration camp inmates' stolen gold and jewelry valued at millions of dollars were allegedly laundered by the Vatican, according to claims made by Serbs, Jews, and Roma. There are also claims that they helped a number of important Nazi commanders get away.


45. The ancient Roman Marcus Licinius Crassus was hailed as the world's richest person at the time. He amassed his fortune mostly via the sale of slaves, politics , and real estate. In mockery of his greed, melted gold was poured in his mouth after his death.


46Estimate of Smaug's Gold

Estimate of Smaug's Gold

In the Hobbit movies, the dragon Smaug is protecting a hoard of gold that weighs 16,646,250 metric tons and has a value of nearly 676 trillion US dollars. That's around 89 times more gold than has ever been mined by humans.


47. The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom include the 4'6" gold St. Edward's Staff. Although its original function has been lost to history, it is nonetheless brought inside the Abbey for coronations and left on the altar there until the ceremony is over.


48. In 2011, a group of experts investigated the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in India, whose exterior is gold-plated. Five out of six vaults were found to contain treasures totaling over $22 billion. The Supreme Court has ordered that Vault B, the sixth vault, stay closed, and its contents therefore still remain a mystery.


49. Some people in the Middle Ages would "clip" coins. Gold and silver were the basic metals for medieval European coinage. Clipping was used to take little pieces of this material from the coin's edge. You could get enough for a new coin if you did this often enough, but if caught, the penalty for this crime was death.


50. Avedis Zildjian, an alchemist who sought a means to transmute base metal into gold, invented the first Zildjian cymbals in 1618. He used a mixture of tin, copper, and silver to make a metal sheet that could vibrate without breaking and make music.

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41 COMMENTS

    • We discover gold extremely infrequently in thinly scattered “veins,” but virtually always in particles as minuscule as motes of dust.

      While there are numerous enormous amounts of iron, it is what gives Australian, British, Arizonian, and Bulgarian red sandstone its distinctive hue. That stuff is practically everywhere.

      Throughout history, iron has been observed falling from the sky and subsequently discovered by wandering around the area where it appeared to have landed. This “Meteoric Iron” contains significant amounts of other metals, making it very easy and pleasurable to work with and giving it a black hue.

      The other component of the contemporary steel process is carbon, which is found in meteors, asteroids, stars, and living creatures, as well as their fossils like as coal, jet, and numerous related minerals.

      299
      • That explains the “famous sword made from a meteorite” myth; you’d wind up with an iron blade full of impurities but with seemingly virtually everlasting edge retention compared to a bronze or brass edged weapon.

        271
        • Actually, meteoric iron was utilized because it was quite pure, consisting mostly of iron and nickel. It was created naturally as a strong yet working metal, in contrast to earth’s raw mined iron, which needs extensive processing and impurity removal to be useable. Because it was more practical and needed less training and equipment to utilize, it was employed far earlier native iron.

          253
      • This is why some gold that has been discovered was not worth recovering until it had its own TV program. It’s microscopic pieces of dust that have been collected in sand bars by streams and waves over thousands of years.

        311
    • The earth’s crust contains 4-5% iron, making it quite prevalent. We make extensive use of it. We don’t utilize gold to construct our vehicles and structures; instead, we use a lot of steel.

      271
  1. RE: Fact# 1 – Total Earth’s Gold:

    I’m just wondering how we know that’s what’s in the core given that we’ve never been to the core?

    967
    • We have conducted some intriguing radio frequency tests. There’s also a lot of math. To determine the speed at which objects move, the densities at various levels, and the magnetic flux. I’m not a geologist, but I’m familiar with the analyses involved. And, of course, we will be incorrect in some way. But what’s the fun in finding out your gift before it’s opened?

      283
    • Seismic waves move at varying speeds and angles depending on the material through which they pass. You can figure out what the inside is composed of by measuring them from all around the world and performing some math.

      253
      • Why isn’t gold flowing out of volcanoes then, which is essentially where lava originates from the core, or at least some gold coming out? I’m sure gold has a lower melting point than rock, but is the atomic weight higher, and hence rock?

        227
  2. RE: Fact# 4 – Gold in Ocean:

    I’m not aware of the specifics, but there was a man on Shark Tank who once boasted that he knew how to construct a device that could use sea water to “produce gold.” Everyone laughed at him and he was fired. It sounds more plausible with this fact.

    967
    • It sounds more plausible with this fact

      A gram of gold is valued at $48.59 atm. You would need to filter about 80 million liters of seawater to get 50 bucks worth of gold.

      297
    • There is a substance that resembles a sponge that can really pull gold atoms out of saltwater. The plan is to use the material to build long tubes that will be submerged in water and placed in the ocean, where they will passively accumulate gold as water flows through them. They can be gathered later and chemically treated to recover the gold. I’d need to find the article, but it seems doable on a large scale.

      278
  3. RE: Fact# 6 – Carob Seeds:

    Carob seeds are frequently substituted for chocolate, especially by health-conscious people. Since it is not dangerous to dogs like chocolate is, I’ve even seen it used in dog treats as well.

    998
    • I was raised by crazy hippies who claimed carob could be used in place of chocolate. They just state that it is, but in my opinion it is not.

      246
        • Actually, no. They can manipulate it to create something that resembles chocolate, but it would be like claiming Nerds are a better alternative to Sour Patch Kids. The only real resemblance between them is that they are both sour candies.

          Carob chips are more difficult to utilize than chocolate chips and have a nuttier, earthier flavor than chocolate. That’s not to say it’s horrible; it’s simply that it’s not chocolate.

          304
      • In Spain, farmers use it to feed their animals, so it’s not really considered a replacement for anything; it’s just animal feed.

        276
        • Funny story: While visiting Alicante’s hinterland one day, I saw abandoned carob pods in the fields. Although I tasted a cocoa flavor, it strikes me as more tamarind-like and dryer. I wondered what they were doing with it.

          282
  4. RE: Fact# 11 – Operation Fish:

    The Bush administration sent $12 billion in $100 bills to Iraq during the war to pay contractors, bribe warlords, and do other things. This was the largest transfer of cash in US history. One shipment of $2.4 billion worth of shrink-wrapped $100 bills was flown into Iraq on military cargo planes.

    It quickly disappeared into the desert.

    Almost nobody knew where the money went, who paid for it, or who got it. The government still doesn’t know where most of the money went, but it’s likely that a fair amount of it ended up in the hands of our enemies.

    864
    • That’s because once we gave it to the Iraqi government, it was no longer ours to account for. Critics think that it was used the way you said it was. But since it was up to the Iraqis to get the news out, critics wrongly think that the money just disappeared. Since the Iraqi government couldn’t use its own currency at the time, it’s likely that most of the money went to pay Iraqi government workers.

      But, hey, who cares about little things like context?

      278
  5. RE: Fact# 9 – Golden Buddha:

    So they found out it was gold because they dropped it while trying to move it right?

    “A key was also found encased in plaster at its base, which can be used to disassemble the statue, allowing for easier transportation.”

    Serious facepalm

    1139
  6. RE: Fact# 8 – Pimps With Gold:

    ‘Pawn Star’ Rick Harrison: “And who buys the jewelry from Harrison? Pimps — and there’s a good reason why. “When you get arrested for pandering, they take your cash — because the cash was obtained illegally — but they don’t take away your jewelry,” Harrison explains. “And a pimp knows that if he buys jewelry in a pawn shop, if [he] brings it back to a pawn shop and gets a loan against it, [they’ll] always get half of what you paid for it — as opposed to buying it in a jewelry store, when [they] don’t know what [they’re] going to get. So, when they get arrested, they will always have someone bring their jewelry down to me. I will loan them half of what they paid for it — and that’s their bail money.”

    1011
  7. RE: Fact# 7 – 17-Pound Gold Nugget:

    I remember this from my NC history. That gold nugget sat as a doorstep for several years until they took it to a jeweler and got it appraised. The jeweler paid them $3.50 for it, and sold it for $3,600.

    1068
    • When I first read that comment, I felt horrible for the farmer (John Reed). At the time, $3.50 was about equivalent to one week’s wage, therefore $3,500 represented around 20 years of income.

      But the story is not over yet. Evidently, he later learned the real worth of the “rock” he had sold, and:

      After learning of the value of the resource on his land John Reed entered into a partnership with Federick Kisor, James Love, and Martin Phifer. In the year 1803 the men found a nugget weighing 28 pounds.

      Edit: Math is hard

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  8. RE: Fact# 12 – Gold Reserve Act:

    There was a justification for it. Gold had to be used to back up dollars. To back the money the government sought to produce, there wasn’t enough gold on hand. I believe that the dollar had to be 40% backed by gold, meaning that the government could only print $50 for every ounce of gold it had. They were now able to bring $85 into circulation for every ounce of gold by seizing all of it and raising the price. The government was able to generate enough money to aid in bringing America out of the Great Depression when you combine the rise in the amount of money they could print per ounce with the increase in the amount of gold they owned.

    They did not take someone else’s gold, increase the price, and then return the gold to the original owner. Because they made owning gold illegal, they were unable to achieve that.

    If I recall correctly, they took this action in response to gold hoarding brought on by the depression. Wealthy individuals were not investing in the economy, which harmed the underprivileged and slowed recovery.

    984
    • How would the government decide who gets how much money if the U.S. could just print more money to get out of the depression? I’m sorry if this is a dumb question, but I’m a law student, not a business or finance student, so I never learned how this would work. Do they just give everyone in the lower class money?

      273
      • Oh, that’s cool. No, they didn’t just give it out that way. They had money for things such as the New Deal. There were things like public works and programs to help people in need. The government didn’t decide who to give X dollars to, but rather which program to spend X dollars on.

        These programs had to be paid for by the government. The government could pay for its programs back then by printing money, but that money had to be backed by gold. The idea was that capital would be made by social welfare programs and government jobs.

        Like, take Hoover Dam. The government thought that if there was more electricity in that area, more factories could open and more jobs would be created. So let’s hire a lot of people and buy a lot of building supplies. The cement companies made some money, a lot of people got jobs, and when the building was done, the area got a lot of electricity.

        The same thing could be said about roads. We have a highway system called the Interstate that can handle a lot of freight. By making it easier to do business, the Interstate system helps the economy grow. A lot of businesses would not be able to exist without the Interstate. The Interstate wasn’t a project from the Great Depression; it was just one more example.

        Or Social Security, old people have to work to stay alive. What if we just gave them money and they quit their jobs? Then a younger person, who might be able to work faster, could take their job. It also makes it easier for families to take care of their older relatives.

        This was just a way to pay for programs that were supposed to help people, encourage growth, and make money.

        253
    • In fact, this is one of the many things that took place and policies that were made that made the depression last for a whole decade. People think that FDR “got us out of the depression” with a long list of crazy policies like inflation, confiscation of savings, endless government spending, and huge deficits. This makes no sense to me. This went on for ten years under the worst conditions our country has ever seen. The economy didn’t start to grow again until after the war ended and millions of young men went back to work.

      But somehow, none of this is taken into account, and the fact that FDR’s stupid policies made the Great Depression last longer than any other time in American history means that “he saved us.”

      It is immature, crazy, and evil to steal gold from people under the threat of force to pay for deficits caused by irresponsible spending without thinking about the cost. I would be a crook and a con artist if I did that to pay off my credit cards. Our 4th grade social studies books say that because FDR does it, he is our savior.

      231
    • That was the excuse.

      In reality they had to reconcile the large amount of credit-dollars created during the WW1 and the 20s which caused the great depression with the amount of gold they had. It was the result. Not the cause. Nixon went off the gold standard – which was the honest thing to do – but at the time FDR couldn’t afford it politically.

      But it’s true that it was all about printing more money. Unlike now back when money was tied to bullion it was meant to be worth “something”. So when governments wanted to rob people out of their wealth and purchasing power to “fix” the crisis they started they had to make sure that the bullion backing the currency was out of circulation. If dollar is backed with gold and people think it’s worth less then they ditch the dollar and pay with gold. There was a reason why in WW2 in Europe people paid in gold or dollars. They were supposed to be one of the few currencies which were tied to gold because every other country had a paper (bullshit) money monopolies in place.

      Also for the smartass citing some pseudo-economist about gold hoarding. Historically it only occurred during crises like wars and debt extension. Countries got into trouble because their rulers or governments were adventurous. Not because evil Ferengi wanted to hoard gold. There is no economic profit in hoarding gold in peacetime or market expansion. Look what happened to gold price following 2008 and after 2012. First it spiked because the world was going to end and then it dropped because it didn’t.

      However once government pretends it’s richer than it really is and prints money to finance wars hoarding becomes the smart move. So again it’s the result and not the cause. Gold hoarding is the result of wars and political crises. Not the other way around…. If you actually study history then you’ll see that every time there was a “liquidity ciriss” it was either kings not being able to fund their stupid wars of banks printing too many credit bills and getting caught with fraud. Only then both the kings and the bankers started telling everyone how they were the good guys and the gold hoarders were the evil ones. Which is what FDR did too…

      EDIT: Oh yeah…and “economist here”. I forgot. I’m probably one of the few people here who actually did the learning (and even some teaching).

      250
  9. RE: Fact# 8 – Pimps With Gold:

    Wow, I had no idea. If I start a pawnshop, I’ll sell “Pimp Bars.” Just nice, solid bars of gold that you can carry around quietly. So pimps with style don’t have to dress like thugs. But they still have proof that they are a dope a*s pimp.

    875
  10. RE: Fact# 9 – Golden Buddha:

    In 1954, a new Viharn building was built at the temple to house the statue. It was being moved to its new location on 25 May 1955 and there are a variety of accounts of what exactly happened next, but it is clear that during the final attempt to lift the statue from its pedestal, the ropes broke, and the statue fell hard on the ground. At that moment, some of the plaster coating chipped off, allowing the gold surface underneath to be seen. Work was immediately stopped so that an evaluation could be made.

    All the plaster was carefully removed and during the process, photos were taken, and are now displayed in the Temple for visitors. Pieces of the actual plaster are also on public display. When all the plaster was removed, it was found that the gold statue actually consisted of nine parts that fit smoothly together. A key was also found encased in plaster at its base, which can be used to disassemble the statue, allowing for easier transportation.

    The fact that the statue could be easily taken apart into 9 pieces and put back together makes it 10 times cooler.

    690

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