What makes gold special?

Gold, a naturally occurring metal, has been used throughout history to symbolise wealth, power, accomplishment and beauty, and as an endurable form of currency. Gold was used as early as 6000 BC, mainly for its beauty and symbolism.

Gold has many unique qualities. Gold has superior electrical and thermal conductivity, which means it easily allows the transport of an electric charge and quickly conducts thermal energy. It also has infrared reflectivity, which means it reflects infrared radiation. It does not react with air, water and most other substances, so won't corrode or tarnish.

Gold combines well with other metals to form an alloy. Gold is also ductile (can be stretched into a wire) and is malleable (can be flattened by hammering or rolling).

Not only is gold often used in implants (in stents or pacemakers, for example) because of its anti-bacterial properties, but gold compounds may also be used in drugs. These have been used as anti-inflammatories for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and more recently researchers have found that gold has the potential for treating HIV and even cancer. And, the beauty fraternity has found its (rather expensive) value for the rejuvenation of aging or sun-damaged skin.

You can even eat gold! Pure gold – in leaf, flakes or dust – has been used by renowned chefs to add a touch of glamour to food and drink. Gold is inert so it passes safely through the body.