From the earliest civilizations gold has been an extremely-prized metal used to make jewelry and coins. In essence, the accumulation of gold has continuously meant wealth and prestige for cultures around the world throughout history. Gold is typically found in rocks and appears as nuggets. Pure gold appears bright yellow and is soft and relatively malleable making it a successful medium for artists and metal crafters. Throughout history gold has served as a monetary standard. Some statistics reveal that roughly 165,000 tons of gold have been mined by humans throughout their history.
As an art medium gold has been revered for its shining beauty as well as for its ability to create attractive alloys with other metals. Since it is not affected by air or corrosive agents, gold is well-suited for artistic pursuits. Furthermore, gold is chemically inert and does not react to moisture. This is also why gold is an excellent material with which to make coins. Today historic gold coins, artistically rendered, are extremely valuable to art and history collectors. Since the nineteenth century South Africa has led the world in gold mining, but the United States, Australia, Peru, and Russia also have large stores of the precious metal.
As an art medium gold has been prized by royalty for centuries. Gold was often used to create ceremonial vessels which have been unearthed from royal tombs. From bejeweled gold masks to decorated gold walls gold has been a celebrated art medium for royals and people at the upper levels of their societies. Perhaps the most famous funerary mask belonged to Tutankhamun, an ancient pharaoh of Egypt.
Artists most often use gold to make jewelry. Pure gold (24K) is used to make jewelry, but due to its softness it is often alloyed with other metals like copper, silver, or various base metals. These alloys produce desired effects which are manifested by the jewel’s color and strength. In this way, gold and its alloys have been used to create a staggering array of gold jewelry such as chains, bracelets, earrings, rings, and more. Additionally, gold has been molded into desired shapes such as hearts, animals, shapes, and a variety of other objects.
Objects created from gold were often seen as symbolic and were designed to represent such meanings as power, love, justice, intelligence, and wealth. In some instances gold and the desire for gold has been viewed as evil, particularly in Biblical stories that decry human greed or idolatrous golden objects of worship. Today, artistically rendered objects created from gold are valuable for both their design as well as for the value of the gold itself.