Gold has long been valued by mankind, and may even have been used by humans in prehistoric times. Perhaps one of the most recognisable artefacts in the world today is the mask of Tutankhamen which was discovered in the young Pharaoh’s tomb in 1922.
As well as practical and decorative items, the precious metal has been used throughout history as a currency, and coins from ancient Greece and Rome are found in many museum collections.
The Egyptians mined the metal in the upper Nile region close to the Red Sea. In South America, the Aztecs created many treasures out of the metal which were plundered by the Spanish Conquistadors.
In more recent times, North America experienced ‘gold fever’ when the discovery of significant deposits of the metal in California in 1850.
Gold has properties which earned its place as the most precious metal known to ancient civilisations. It is referred to as a ‘noble’ metal because it does not oxidise and lose its yellow metallic lustre, which is reminiscent of the sun.
It is easy to work with to create objects, and to stamp with dies to create patterns - and in recent times, the hallmarks that indicate its source and quality.
Perhaps the most significant factor in determining its price is supply and demand. That there is a limited amount of the precious metal available at any given time – and the ‘rarity factor’ has maintained the high value and the price through the ages.
In today's global economy, the price of the metal is affected by many complex factors, and it is no longer just a matter of quality and quantity. Prices for gold fluctuate in line with stock markets, currencies and other commodities.