Monday, 18 February 2013

Aureity

AUREITY

Noun. Early 19th century.
[medieval Latin aureitas, from aureus, from Late Latin aureatus, from aureus golden, from aurum gold]

The peculiar quality of gold.

Gold is a singularly peculiar element. It is a heavy, shiny, and exceptionally malleable metal (a single gram of gold can be beaten into a sheet of one metre squared). It is one of the least reactive elements, which is why it doesn't rust or corrode, making it ideal for coinage and jewellery. It's edible (well, it's approved and used as a food additive in its pure form - don't go tucking into your wedding ring any time soon). It has an unparalleled position in human history, traditionally prized for both its beauty and utility. Despite this, only approximately 170,000 tonnes of gold has been mined in all of human history and, because of its value, most of the gold ever mined is still in circulation today.

Perhaps my favourite fact about gold, however, lies in its extraterrestrial origins. Since gold is a heavy element, almost all of the Earth's original gold is thought to have sunk to its core during the time when the Earth was molten. The gold that humans have been using, from the crust, arrived via asteroid when the Earth had already solidified. Think of that the next time you lose an earring; that gold has travelled all the way through interstellar space, from its creation in a supernova, hitching a ride on an asteroid, eventually slamming into the Earth to be dug out, refined and crafted, only for you to lose it down the back of someone's sofa while watching the X-Factor. Nice one.

2 comments:

  1. I think it's just indigestible and non-harmful, not edible.

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    1. Ha! Yes, there was a bit of a raised eyebrow when I wrote that. I suppose it would depend on your definition of edible - you certainly couldn't live on it! And you're right: I believe because of its complete inertness, you're not going to get any nutrition from it and it will pass straight through the body unchanged. However, it's long been used as a food additive and decoration, is approved as a food additive in the European Union, and even has it's own E-number, so on that score, pure gold is without a doubt edible. If your definition stretches to gaining some nutritional benefit from it, or having it as a part of one's overall diet, then no, it's not. Some interesting links regarding gold's edibility:

      http://candy.about.com/od/candyglossary/g/What-Is-Edible-Gold-Leaf.htm
      http://www.ediblegold.com/ediblegoldhistory.asp

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