Diamonds may be many girls’ best friend, but they need a worthy setting to be worn with style, and that setting is very often the most precious of precious metals – gold. People love gold so much we use it as a reference for a whole range of things we value. Gold medals. Gold stars. Hearts of gold. Streets paved with gold. Just look at the impact of someone discovering gold in California on American history. How different the USA would be if there had not been gold in them there hills. The region produces some great wines, but one hears little about a historic grape rush.
People have used gold since the Stone Age. We love gold because it is gorgeous and glittery, but if that were all it had to offer it wouldn’t be so special. Gold has other qualities that make it the extraordinary material it is and explain why it has been so important in human history. Three very practical qualities make gold stand out from other precious metals aside from its beauty.
Gold’s main two roles in history have been as jewelry and as currency. Many materials are beautiful, but both of these jobs require a lightweight material. You’ve heard the expression that something ‘went down like a lead balloon’. If people had to use a heavier metal as currency, the credit card might have been invented centuries sooner. And while wrought iron can certainly be beautiful and ornate, it’s a safe bet it will never be a popular material for a pendant chain and setting. Gold is practical because it is light enough to carry and wear.
Gold jewelry is often very detailed, especially Celtic pieces. While Celtic designs have been carved in rock, to replicate them on a delicate piece of jewelry, a malleable material is essential. Gold is often described as a ‘soft’ metal because it is relatively easy to work with, but it is also durable enough to withstand ordinary wear without losing the detail of the design or its rich shine.
The value we place on gold is obviously influenced by its scarcity. After all, we could pop out to the back yard and mine a few pounds of it when the mood struck, it would still be beautiful but not valuable. But part of what makes gold stand apart from other materials is that it is unlike them. With the exception of copper, other metals are greyish in color, but gold has a distinct look. Its scarcity would not have so much importance if other metals were similar enough to be comparable replacements. So gold is not only scarce; it is unique.
So when you consider it, gold is extremely practical. And who doesn’t love a practical gift?