Number 79 on the periodic table, Au. From the Latin, aurum.
The most precious and prized of metals, used for currency beginning with the Egyptian pharaohs in 2,700 B.C. and down through the ages by all nations as the metal of choice in the manufacture of those coins of highest value, like the aureus, the solidus, the ducat, the guilder, the sovereign, the double eagle, the Krugerrand. A malleable and forgiving metal, an ounce of pure gold can be beaten into a sheet large enough to gild the roof of a small home, although it is denser than lead. It doesn’t corrode, which makes it perfect for jewelry, although in its pure state it is too soft to stand up to repeated use and so is alloyed with other metals—copper, silver, nickel, or palladium—so that a wedding ring will last through a golden anniversary.
Gold is tasteless, although in the 1500s a Dutchman invented a liqueur called Goldwasser in which he sprinkled gold . akes. Medieval chefs used gold to garnish sweets before sending them up to the high tables.
Gold is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, and resistant to oxidation and corrosion, making it useful in electronics and dentistry. It was used to plate the copper disk of recorded greetings on board Voyager 1, a hundred astronomical units out and counting. It is included in speculative designs for solar sails for spaceships and solar collectors for space habitats. Scientists have built gold nanospheres to work with lasers on a cure for cancer.
Gold is rare. Of all the noble metals, only mercury is more infrequently found in the earth’s crust.
Mythological gold is as seductive as gold manifest. Midas asked Dionysus for the gift of turning everything to gold with his touch, only to discover a mixed blessing when gold food and drink proved to be indigestible. Jason’s .eece, Kidd’s trea sure, Pizarro’s El Dorado, Sutter’s Mill, Siwash George’s Rabbit Creek, Yamashita’s Buddha—in any reality, in any century gold enthralls, enchants, intoxicates, and is the downfall of many an otherwise sensible man and woman who succumb to its siren song.
At last report, $940.48 per troy ounce on the world market. . . .
Excerpted from A Night Too Dark by Dana Stabenow.
Copyright © 2010 by Dana Stabenow.
Published in January 2010 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction
is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or
medium must be secured from the Publisher.