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  • Kian Smith

The history of gold and how it came to become of value

Previously, Gold was considered the money of kings and while it is no longer a portfolio item or a trading vehicle, it is still considered a lifeline and a bag of dust on it does not change its nature or hamper its value. Since time immemorial, gold has occupied a unique social status and has a legacy as the most malleable and ductile metal. Before this legacy was built, let’s take a brief look at the controversial history of this valuable metal.

Till date, the origins of gold is still the subject of heated debate in the industry and the only thing the industry agrees about this yellow corrosion-resistant element is that it requires the most extreme conditions (fire) to create. It is formed in the highest densities and the highest temperatures.

Flakes of gold have been found in Paleolithic caves dating back as far as 40,000 B.C. however, many believe that the first human interaction with gold occurred in ancient Egypt at around 3,000 B.C. The first known currency exchange ratio which mandated the correct ratio of gold to silver originated from Egypt and gold also played an important role in the country’s mythology as Egyptians loved gold and even had maps made of gold.

The Aztecs (members of the indigenous people dominant in Mexico before the Spanish conquest of the 16th century), on the other hand, have a contradicting history. They strongly believe that gold is the sweat of the sun and that it represented the sun's regenerative powers. They believe that gold literally falls from the sun to the earth and they thereafter collected it as dust and ingots from parts of Oaxaca and Guerrero that were under Aztec control.

While the notion that gold is sun sweat seems highly unlikely, it is an accurate metaphor and it is the history that the Aztecs choose to uphold.

The history of gold differs from country to country. For the Romans, gold was the metal of the gods, and much like the Aztecs, they believed gold descended from the sun. As a highly religious nation, the Romans believed that Pluto, the god of wealth, was the giver of gold and other metals.

The Incans of the pre-Columbian American empire and other highly religious people believe that Gold originates from the lands of Havilah, near Eden. This is because it was mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 2:10-12 and gold can be found there.

While none of the theories have been proven or generally accepted, the idea that the element can form following the collision of two neutron stars and form gold has been gaining a lot of traction. They believe that an extremely dense core (gold) forms when a massive stare which is at least eight times more massive than the sun collapses.

Some scientists on the hand believe gold is created when a “rock star” collapses and becomes a very heavy neutron star or a black hole, creating supernova nucleosynthesis. For them, gold is created when supernova nucleosynthesis caused by extreme density and heat during the rock star’s explosive process.

For some others, planet earth was molten when it was formed and during that time, almost all of the gold sank into its planetary core and was delivered by asteroid impacts during the Late Heavy Bombardment about 4 billion years ago.

While the origin of gold is currently not a debate in West Africa, between the 6th and 13th century, the Ghana Empire which is located in modern-day southern Mauritania and mali (which was then French West Africa) became famous for its gold. The empire earned itself the nickname the ‘land of gold’ and back then, the Portuguese regularly sailed down the Atlantic coast to Africa to obtain gold because they needed it to pay merchants in Asia.

The trade of gold in West Africa goes back to antiquity with one of the earliest examples being the voyage of the Carthaginian explorer Hanno in the 5th century BCE. By the 15th century, West Africa was producing 10 percent of the world’s gold. On average, some 400-550 kilos a year were being handled by the Portuguese alone in the 1500s century. In all, the history of gold in West Africa cannot be complete without the mention of the modern state of Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast.

The gold trade in Nigeria has overshadowed the of the metal, however, production of gold dates back to 1913. Gold origins may not be constituted or contracted by stipulation or agreement, however, the value is widely agreed upon and the mysticism surrounding this malleable and ductile metal has increased its value and added to its use.

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