Gold has long been synonymous with wealth and luxury around the world. It is easily one of the most recognizable precious metals with its sun-like bright yellow tone.
For thousands of years, civilization has used gold for numerous purposes, including as currency, as a material in technological development, and as jewelry. It has been a symbol of status, something to be treasured,
The widespread popularity of gold largely comes from the element’s unique properties, which allow for a large range of possible applications.
Gold – recognized scientifically with the symbol Au – is a naturally occurring chemical element that can be found around the world. It is dense, soft, and malleable, allowing it to easily be worked into many forms and to withstand a great deal of manipulation. It is a ductile material, meaning it can be stretched out into an incredibly thin wire, and is also an excellent conductor of both heat and electricity.
Most importantly, it is one of the least reactive elements, which means it is a reliable material to work with as it doesn’t tarnish and is resistant to corrosion.
Globally, there is approximately 2,500 to 3000 tonnes of gold mined each year.
Gold is most commonly extracted from lodes (veins) in bedrock, but it can be found as nuggets or flakes in deposits along streams, creeks and rivers, and can also be extricated as a by-product in traditional base-metal mines.
Canada alone can account on average for 170 tonnes of global gold production. Quebec and Ontario mined over 70% of Canada’s gold in 2020, with British Columbia being the next biggest producer. The Malartic Mine in Quebec is Canada’s largest gold mine, and is due to continue operations until 2028.
Around the world, gold is used in a variety of ways:
Approximately 40% of gold on average each year is used to make jewelry, accounting for a large proportion of the global gold output.
Gold is favoured for jewelry because of its longevity and luster. Jewelers like the ease of working with the material, and wearers love that it is a hypoallergenic material that doesn’t tarnish or deteriorate. There are many heirloom gold pieces in families that have been handed down through generations and still wear as well as the day they were purchased.
While jewelry historically has always been the primary use of gold, the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 caused global economic uncertainty that led investors to look for more reliable and stable investments.
Paper money can drastically fluctuate, with currencies rising and falling significantly over decades. Meanwhile, gold has always operated as a good hedge against inflation. Whenever the stock markets plummet, the value of gold has always risen, and when deflation happens gold retains value.
With the option to buy physical gold, Gold ETFs (Exchanged Traded Funds), shares in gold mining companies, or Gold Futures, there are many ways to start investing with the precious metal.
A smaller percentage of the global gold output goes into technology and manufacturing. Some of the properties that make gold useful for creating jewelry also make it practical for use in technology.
As it is resistant to both rust and corrosion, it is a reliable material to use in the construction of computer technology, with a typical laptop containing 1/10th a gram of gold. It is a durable conductor of electricity, which makes it a useful tool in the construction of circuit boards. Even your cell phone includes somewhere around 0.034g of gold.
While the above are the most common uses of gold, you will likely find it present in many other places in the world (and beyond).
You can find it in the dentist’s office, where gold alloy can be used for fillings and crowns, a practice dating back over 4000 years. The resistance to corrosion and wear means a filling can potentially last for decades.
Gold has also found its place amongst the stars, with gold-coated mylar sheets covering satellites to reflect away solar heat. Similarly, the exterior of astronauts' visors is coated with a thin layer of gold that acts as a vital shield against solar radiation.
The precious metal remains a staple in production around the world, still centered on innovation even as new technology and materials are developed.
Most of the world’s gold supply was mined from South African rocks.
Gold is measured in Karats, with 24 Karat being the purest form of gold.
In 2021 China was the single largest producer of gold with approximately 420 tonnes produced. Canada was the fifth largest.
China, India and the United States were the top three gold-consumers in 2021, with China consuming more than India and the United States combined.
The United States holds the largest gold reserves in the world, with over 8,100 tons stored in secure facilities like Fort Knox and the Federal Reserve Bank
The first documented discovery of gold in Canada was in 1823, found along the riverbank of the Rivière Chaudière in Quêbec.
Australia holds the largest unmined gold reserves with an estimated 9,500 tons - around 17% of the global total.