Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

12.2 Uses of Gold


12.2: Uses of gold

Gold has a pleasing heft to it and a brilliant shiny color that doesn‘t tarnish, corrode, or rust. It‘s a rare mineral (known as a "precious mineral"), and that rarity along with its shiny beauty gives it value. It‘s also a soft mineral. The most malleable and ductile of our metals, it can be beaten into sheets as thin as a few microns thick. Because it‘s so easy to work with, it has many uses, which further adds to its value. It also conducts heat and electricity very well. Have kids learn why gold is considered valuable and explore its many uses. Then encourage them to publish their findings in the club newsletter or give a presentation at a club meeting.

A good resource for this assignment is the web site of the Mineral Information Institute or MII. MII is a nonprofit organization that provides educational programs to teach kids about the importance of natural resources, how we use them in everyday life, and where they come from.

To give you a start, here‘s a partial listing of some of gold‘s many uses:

economics (gold is melted and formed into bricks or ingots and held in gold reserves by many nations, like the supply the U.S. keeps at the Fort Knox Bullion Depository)

jewelry (this is where most gold ends up)

medallions and coins (some medallions used as awards—such as Olympic Gold Medals or the Nobel Prize—are crafted from gold, and although we no longer do so, for thousands of years many countries used precious metals such as gold and silver in making their coins; the U.S. stopped using gold in common coinage in 1933)

architecture (you‘ll see 'gold leaf' on the domes of many state capitol buildings)

dentistry (nearly 50 pounds of gold are used in dental work every day for procedures such as crowning teeth or for permanent bridges)

medicine (a radioactive isotope of gold is used in some cancer treatments, and another variety has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis)

scientific and electronic instruments (gold has a pure, stable nature and seldom oxidizes or combines with other elements; due to this, as well as a good capacity for conducting electricity, gold is a key part of semiconductor circuits)

the space program (for electronic components and to reflect heat off satellites and space capsules)

the electro-plating industry (as an electrolyte)

photography (gold toners shift black-and-white tones to brown or blue, and on sepia-tone prints, gold toners produce red tones)

glass and acrylic coating (gold-coated acrylic windows are used in the cockpit of some airplanes to keep windows clear of frost and fogging and to help maintain temperatures in the cabin; it also coats visors in astronaut helmets; and the world‘s largest telescopes have mirrors coated with pure gold)

Note: Kids who give a presentation or write an article can use this activity toward earning their Communication badge simultaneously (Activities 7.1 and 7.2).