Why do we love gold so much? If you’ve just taken delivery of some gold bars from goldeneaglecoin.com then the first thing you’ll do is to stare at it in amazement. It’s just…so…lustrous…
However, gold is also incredibly boring (no, really) because it doesn’t do anything. It hardly reacts with any other element – you can leave it in sea water for thousands of years and it’ll still look as good as the day it was cast. So, what is it about this element that drives us insane?
Why aren’t we losing our minds over sodium, or helium, or even copper?
There are 117 other elements in the periodic table, so why is it just this one that we prize so highly that we use it as currency? Well, there’s quite a few good reasons.
Gases are no use as money
You’re already snickering at this idea because it’s so silly. How can you use gas as money when some are poisonous, they all disperse into the air and most of them have no color or smell so you could be fooled into accepting an empty jar in exchange for your used car?
Similarly, mercury and bromine, both liquid at room temperature and pressure, are just too nasty to carry around in your wallet; the same can be said for arsenic, antimony and rubidium, which spontaneously combusts in air. And water.
Too hot to handle
Sodium and potassium are a bit feisty, too, popping and fizzing in water, so if you have a chunk of loose change in your pocket and it starts raining…
When it comes to the radioactive elements, well, you wouldn’t want to be stashing them under your mattress for a rainy day either. Some radioactive isotopes have such short half-lives anyway that there’ll be no – ahem – compound interest going on there. Sorry about that.
The transition metals
You’d think this 49-strong bunch would be useful as currency, featuring as it does aluminium, silver, copper, titanium and lead, but there’s some problems here, too.
Titanium and zirconium are very tough, but they’re also incredibly tough to extract now, let alone a few millennia ago; they need temperatures of more than 1,000C to smelt. Aluminium is also hard to extract and it’s a bit flaky and flimsy.
The rest of the transition crew tend to corrode and react over time – iron being a good example. If your currency literally disappears over the years, it defeats the object; the same applies to copper and lead.
Who’s left standing?
Just eight elements – platinum, rhodium, osmium, ruthenium, palladium, iridium, silver and gold. These noble metals (because they seem a little snooty for not interacting with other elements) are all rare, which is great if you want to create a currency.
However, with the exception of silver and gold, the other noble metals are very rare and hard to get at. A platinum coin would have to be stupidly small, for example. So, we have silver and gold.
These two metals are easy to smelt and they’re reasonably available in the earth’s crust. Silver, sadly, tarnishes when it comes into contact with the tiny amounts of sulfur in the air. Gold on the other hand, does nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. You can count on it. You mint it and keep it safe, it’ll stay just as it is for years to come.
Plus, as you turn your gaze back to those mesmerizing bars of yellow, you’re reminded that gold is also incredibly beautiful.