Elements for Kids
Characteristics and Properties
Under standard conditions gold is a shiny yellow metal. It is very dense and heavy, but also fairly soft. Gold is the most malleable of the metals meaning that it can be pounded into a very thin sheet. It is also one of the most ductile metals and can be easily stretched into a long wire.
Gold is more than just a beautiful metal. It is an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. It is also one of the most resistant metals to corrosion and rust when exposed to air and water.
Where is it found on Earth?
Gold is an extremely rare element on Earth. Because it doesn't react with very many other elements, it is often found in its native form in the Earth's crust or mixed with other metals like silver. It can be found in veins underground or in small fragments in sandy riverbeds.
Gold is also found in ocean water. However, the process for retrieving gold from ocean water costs more than the gold itself.
How is gold used today?
Gold has been used for thousands of years to make jewelry and coins. Today it is still used for jewelry and for some collector's edition coins. Gold is also considered an important and reliable investment.
When gold is used as jewelry or for coins, it is generally not pure gold. Pure gold is called 24 karat gold and it is very soft. Generally gold is alloyed with other metals such as copper or silver in order to make it harder and more durable.
Gold is used a lot in the electronics industry because of its good electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion. Many electrical contacts and connectors are plated with gold for protection and reliability.
Other applications for gold include heat shielding, dental work, cancer treatment, and decoration such as gold thread and gold plating.
How was it discovered?
Gold has been known about since ancient times. Civilizations such as Ancient Egypt used gold over 5000 years ago. It has long been a substance of value and wealth.
Where did gold get its name?
Gold gets its name from the Anglo-Saxon word "geolo" for yellow. The symbol Au comes from the Latin word for gold, "aurum."
Gold has only one naturally occurring stable isotope: gold-197.
Interesting Facts about Gold
- A single ounce of gold can be pounded into a sheet 300 feet wide by 300 feet long. That's bigger than a football field! That same ounce can form a wire nearly 100 kilometers long.
- South Africa used to be the largest supplier of the world's gold, but today China and Australia produce the most gold.
- Gold flakes were sometimes sprinkled on the food of the wealthy during the Middle Ages.
- Many people traveled to California during the Gold Rush in the late 1840s when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill.
- Gold can be pounded thin enough to allow light to shine through.
- If all the gold ever discovered by man was melted down it would form a cube with sides of about 25 meters each.
More on the Elements and the Periodic Table
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