History of Gold
Gold was probably first found on the ground and used by prehistoric man as a tool. The first known use of gold was in parts of central and eastern Europe, in 4000BC. Highly ophisticated gold art objects and jewelry dating back to around 3000BC have been discovered by aeologists in the Sumerian Royal Tombs at Ur, in what is now southern Iraq. The Egyptians used gold to adorn their kings in life and death and, by 1500BC, gold had become a standard medium of international trade. Similarly, goldsmiths of the Chavin civilization in Peru were making ornaments by hammering and embossing gold by 1200 BC.
There are many stories and legends that relate an association of famous people and places with gold. The gold mask that intricately details the facial features of King Tutankamen, the youthful ruler of ancient Egypt, retained its untarnished brilliance when it was uncovered in 1927, after being entombed for more than 3000 years.
The Old Testament tells of the wealth of King Solomon's Mines and how his fleet would return from legendary Ophir laden with gold for his treasury. The Queen of Sheba would visit Solomon bearing gifts of gold in appreciation for his advice and wisdom.
According to Greek legend, Midas, king of Phrygia, was granted a wish by the god Dionysius in exchange for a favor, that everything he touched would turn to gold. He begged to have his power removed after realizing how foolish he had been. The search for the Golden Fleece by Jason and the Argonauts was probably based on the method of gold recovery used. At that time, miners extracted most of the gold from alluvial sands in rivers and streams. By washing the gold bearing sand through the sheepskins, gold particles would be trapped by the wool fibres. The fleece would then be dried and burnt in a fire leaving remnant blobs of melted gold.
Around the fifth century BC, the Greek, Chinese and Arabic cultures began to develop ideas about alchemy, in a pseudo-scientific attempt to change base metals into gold. Alchemists searched for the Elixir or Philosopher's Stone, a substance of high purity, that would not only convert metals to gold, but also restore health and provide immortality. These alchemists provided the basis for the modern science of chemistry.
The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus was thought to be an indirect result from the endeavor to uncover the source of China's gold, which had riches beyond any of those of Europe. The lure of gold led the Conquistador's to murder and pillage the central American civilizations of the Aztecs and Incas. These Spanish invaders melted down centuries old artifacts and icons of exquisite craftsmanship into ingots.
About 600BC the Greeks began to use gold coins and many 'city-states' minted their own money in order to conduct trade between states. The rarity and metallic properties of gold made it the ideal choice in the development of coinage.
Currency has remained one of gold's primary uses. It is considered so valuable that we measure all other values by it. In 1944, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were created, setting a new international currency standard in terms of gold.
Gold is still considered to be an extremely safe form of financial security, many preferring to hold gold coins and bullion rather than government bonds because of its intrinsic value. Gold has long been used as a store of wealth, with most countries and financial organizations holding gold as part of their financial reserve.