A long, long time ago
What's the big deal?
We’ve all grown up in a world that respects and values gold. It’s a respect that dates back many thousands of years, and shapes how the metal’s viewed today by investors, businesses and virtually everyone else. As far back as 4,000BC, gold was being used in Eastern European cultures to make decorative objects, and across millennia its primary use was in jewellery and objects of religious worship. Despite this, it really wasn’t until around 1,500BC that gold first became a kind of global “money”. Egypt, whose Nubia region was rich in gold, made it an official standard of value and the first international medium of exchange.
Skim forward a couple of centuries and we find a kingdom in Asia Minor called Lydia, where the first gold coins were minted. By 50BC, the Romans had started using a gold coin they called the Aureus (literally, “golden”). Eventually, gold coins started changing hands all over the world. The Republic of Florence, in what today would be Italy, had the Ducat, while Great Britain had its Florin. The Ducat, in fact, ended up being the world’s top gold currency for another 5 centuries!
So, why’s the world still so excited about gold? After all, it’s too soft and too scarce to build anything useful out of, isn’t it? Even the gold used in jewellery often needs to be blended with other metals to give it strength. In fact, some people reckon we really shouldn’t be using it as a measure of value at all anymore.
To be fair, gold goes have some interesting properties. It’s non-toxic and never rusts and that softness we talked about makes it easy to work with. It’s even great for electronics, since it conducts electricity so well. If you want to get into the deep science of it, it’s ideal for nanotechnology, resists bacteria and can even be used in the fight against cancer! In real terms, though, the simple truth is that gold is beautiful, ageless and really rare - and eventually enough people decided that these factors made it important and valuable.