Besides its status as one of the most attractive of metals, gold has some amazing properties that make it unique among all the different metals, precious or otherwise. The beauty and non-tarnishing properties of gold make the metal an obvious – as it has been for millennia – choice for jewellery and decorations. Those and other properties also make gold a unique fit for certain industrial uses.
One of the special properties of gold is its tremendous malleability. Pure gold is soft, with about the same hardness as a fingernail. It can be worked with bare hands or with simple tools. The metal can be twisted, stretched, flattened and molded to extreme dimensions. Here are a couple of examples of what can be done with gold:
- One ounce of gold can be formed into a wire 5 miles or 8 kilometers long.
- Gold can be hammered so thin that light will pass through a sheet of thin gold and yet the metal will retain its integrity.
- Those gold visors and goggle worn by astronauts, military pilots and rich snow skiers actually have a very, very thin layer of gold. Another property of gold – it stops ultraviolet radiation even when passing regular light – is the reason behind this use of the precious metal.
Gold is also an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Combine those properties with the fact that it is basically indestructible, and you see why gold is used in the electrical components of equipment that must function in very hostile environments, such as satellites in space and the circuits of your cell phone.
So the next time you are admiring some especially nice gold jewellery – yours, or someone else’s, or in a store – think about all of the other uses that would only be possible due to the unique properties of gold.