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GOLD

Production and uses of gold

Production

Table I. Value ratio of gold to silver through the ages (1)

Year Value ratio Remarks, authority, etc. (2)
Before 3500 B.C. 1 or less No records
3500 B.C. 2.5 In Egypt. Code of Menes
708 B.C. 13.5 In Assyria. Cuneiform inscriptions at Nineveh
500 B.C. 13.0 In Persia. Herod III
400 B.C. 12.0 In Greece. Plato
404-336 B.C. 12.0 In Greece, Peloponnesian war to time of Alexander
300 B.C. 10.0 In Greece. Fall in gold value due to influx of Alexander's spoil
207 B.C. 13.7 In Rome
186 B.C. 10.0 In Rome
58-49 B.C. 8.9 In Rome. Fall in gold value due to influx of Caesar's spoil
1-37 A.D. 10.9 In Rome. Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius
54-68 11.8 In Rome. Reign of Nero
81-96 11.3 In Rome. Reign of Domitian
312 14.4 In Byzantium. Reign of Constantine
438 14.4 In Rome and Byzantium. Theodosian code
864 12.0 In Europe. Edictum Pistense
1344-1482 11.1 In England. Mint returns
1482-1492 12.2 In Europe
1492 11.0 In Europe. Discovery of America
1497 10.1 In Spain
1550 12.0 In Europe
1641 14.0 In Europe. Moran and John Locke on money
1690 16.0 In Europe. Sir Isaac Newton
1730 16.0 In Europe. Kelly's "Cambist"
1760 14.3 In London. Del Mar
1800 15.7 In Europe & USA EMJ.
1850 15.7 In Europe & USA EMJ.
1886 22.0 In Europe & USA Discovery of the Rand
1890 22.1 In Europe & USA EMJ.
1900 34.4 In Europe & USA EMJ.
1910 38.2 In Europe & USA EMJ.
1915 38.2 In Europe & USA 1st Great War, EMJ.
1920 20.8 In Europe & USA EMJ
1930 60.8 In Europe & USA EMJ
1935 45.5 In Europe & USA EMJ
1940 50.0 In Europe & USA 2nd Great War, EMJ
1950 41.2 In Europe & USA EMJ
1960 38.5 In Europe & USA EMJ
1970 21.1 In Europe & USA EMJ
1975 41.9 In Europe & USA EMJ
2006 60 In Europe & USA Press

(1) The figures given are calculated value ratios in the currency of the time and all should be read as follows: 2.5 indicates that at the stated time gold was two and one-half times the value of silver; 12 that it was twelve times, and so on.

(2) Sources of information include various documents in the British Museum and British Library, London; National Museum, Athens, Greece; Vatican Library, Rome; Jacob (1831), and Del Mar (1880). The values since 1800 were obtained mainly from the Engineering and Mining Journal (EMJ) annual volumes. No attempt was made to authenticate all of the values shown, and no adjustments have been made to compensate for differences between the various currencies of different countries. For a thorough discussion of the value ratios prior to 1880 see Del Mar (1880).

Table II, World gold production

Country Average annual production for years 1971-1975 (oz x 106)
South Africa 27.5
Russia 10.5
Canada 1.9
United States 1.5
Australia 0.8
Ghana 0.7
Others 6.0
Total 48.9

Sources; US Department of the Interior, Minerals Yearbook (1971-1975); Mining Annual Review (1971-1975); Canadian Mining Journal, Annual Mineral Industry Review (February issue) (1971-1975); Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Canadian Minerals Yearbook (1971-1975). The figure given for the Russia is estimated.

Uses

The historical uses of gold are of interest: From the dawn of civilization until about 1000 B.C. the uses were restricted mainly to ornamentation, decoration and the display of princely power. This has often been called the decorative or ornamentative stage in the history of the precious metal. After 1000 B.C. gold came into general use as money and freely circulated until about 1916. This was the monetary stage in the history of the metal, although considerable amounts continued to be used for ornamental purposes. After World War I the movement of gold and its use as money was greatly curtailed and eventually restricted in many countries, most of the metal, except that permitted for the manufacture of jewellery, going straight from the mints into the vaults of most countries. This period continues to the present day, although there has been a relaxation in a number of countries that permit their citizens to own and trade in the metal. Since 1950 there has been increased industrial use of gold - sufficient it would seem to suggest that we are entering the industrial age in the history of the metal.

Specifically, the uses of gold depend essentially on its traditional role as a monetary measure by governments and central banks in the settlement of international balances; on its intrinsic quality as the most beautiful of metals; and on its chemical inertness, great malleability and high electrical and thermal conductivity. In its international monetary role gold is utilized mainly in the form of high purity bars, tablets or more rarely as coins with a specified gold content. In its other roles the metal is employed in the pure form or alloyed with other metals such as silver, copper and the platinum metals.


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This document is in the public domain.

March, 2011