Production and uses of gold
Table I. Value ratio of gold to silver through the ages (1)
(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
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.
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.
Rafal Swiecki, geological engineer email contact
This document is in the public domain.