79Au Gold

Year Discovered


Discovered By


Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


The meaning of its name is unknown, although its origins are Anglo-Saxon. Gold is a soft, shiny, yellow metal, and has been used and highly valued by humans for 4,500 years. It is the most malleable and ductile of any element and it can be beaten into a metallic film a few microns thick. Gold is also a good conductor of heat and electricity. It must be hardened with another metal to make it useful; pure gold is too soft for most uses. It is used as money and is the standard for monetary systems in many countries. It is also used in jewelry, dental work, electrical contacts and wires, photography, and as a colored coating for special types of glass. Gold is good at reflecting heat, and it is often used as a plating on spacecraft to keep them cool. A radioactive isotope of gold is used to treat cancer. A compound of gold is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The symbol for gold, Au, comes from the Latin word for gold, “aurum.”

Biological Benefits

Gold has no known biological use, although it does stimulate the metabolism.

Role in Life Processes

No known benefits for life processes, but has some medical benefits.


Gold is primarily found as the pure, native metal. Sylvanite and calaverite are gold-bearing minerals. Gold is usually found embedded in quartz veins, or placer stream gravel. It is mined in South Africa, the USA (Nevada, Alaska), Russia, Australia and Canada.