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What is Gold? - Definition, Properties & Uses

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  • 0:00 Definition of Gold
  • 1:31 Properties of Gold
  • 2:36 Uses for Gold
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marauo Davis

Marauo has taught both chemistry and mathematics in the high school and college setting and has a Ph.D. degree in chemistry.

In this lesson, you'll gain some general knowledge related to the element gold. A chemical definition for gold will also be given. Additionally, some general properties and uses for gold will be described, and finally, you'll be able to test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Gold

Gold is shiny. Gold is glamorous. Gold is the subject of many bank heists in movies. Gold, in sum, is considered one of the most precious metals in all the world. But there's much more to it than wedding bands or bricks stolen by a movie villain.

Gold is a member of the transition metals and sits in the same periodic table column as silver and copper. The group that gold can be found in is often termed the 'coinage metal' group since its members are frequently used to produce money. Gold is, in fact, one of the first metals known to man with its origin being dated back to 3400 BCE by the Egyptians. Gold has always been a symbol of wealth and beauty. During Egypt's reign of Pharaoh's, the Egyptians would often amass tremendous amounts of gold just to cover the coffin of a deceased Pharaoh.

Interestingly enough, when King Tutankhamun, commonly referred to as King Tut, died, his coffin contained approximately 112 kg of gold. For those of you unfamiliar with the metric system, 112 kg is about 247 lbs. To give a direct comparison, that is more gold per pound than the size of an average NFL running back! Moreover, the discovery of gold was the cause of a great migration of people to California during the late 1800s during the California Gold Rush.

Properties of Gold

Gold is a soft, yellow metal. Like all other metals, gold is also highly malleable and ductile. Moreover, gold is able to conduct both electricity and heat rather easily. The atomic number of gold is 79, and its elemental abbreviation is Au, from the Latin 'aurum' meaning 'shining dawn'. Gold has an extremely high density at 19.3 g per cubic centimeter, slightly greater than lead.

Like all other metals, gold is malleable. However, it's much more easily pressed-out than most other metals. In fact, just one ounce of gold can be stretched to over 300 square feet. Some other properties of gold include its high resistance to oxidation. Typically, metals often form oxide later on their surface due to exposure to oxygen at room temperature and room conditions; gold doesn't form this layer easily. Additionally, gold is unaffected by most acids and bases. Gold is quite resilient!

Uses for Gold

In short, there are a lot of uses and applications for gold! Typically, gold pieces are mined and ground into fine dust or powder to be used. But gold has also found applications from jewelry and general aesthetics to medical applications and currency. As previously mentioned, gold has been historically considered to be a symbol of wealth and power, and that's still the case today.

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