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Mineral Properties and Uses

Gold nuggets

Gold nuggets from Colorado. These specimens range between three and eight millimeters across.

What is Gold?

Native gold is an element and a mineral. It is highly prized by people because of its attractive color, resistance to tarnish, and its many special properties - some of which are unique to gold. Its rarity, usefulness, and desirability make it command a high price.

Trace amounts of gold are found almost everywhere, but large deposits are found in only a few locations. Although there are about twenty different gold minerals, all of them are quite rare. Therefore, most gold found in nature is in the form of the native metal.

Gold occurs in hydrothermal veins deposited by ascending solutions, as disseminated particles through some sulfide deposits, and in placer deposits.

Physical Properties of Gold

Chemical Classification Native element
Color Gold yellow
Streak Gold yellow
Luster Metallic
Diaphaneity Opaque
Cleavage None
Mohs Hardness 2.5 to 3
Specific Gravity 19.3
Diagnostic Properties Color, hardness, streak, specific gravity
Chemical Composition Gold, Au
Crystal System Isometric
Uses Numerous uses in jewelry; coinage; bullion; currency backing; an electrical conductor used in computers, circuits, appliances, cell phones, etc.; dental work; gilding.

vein gold

Vein gold: White "vein quartz" with gold from Colorado. This specimen is approximately one inch (2.5 centimeters) across.

Uses of Gold

Most of the gold that is newly consumed or recycled each year is used in the production of jewelry. About 10% is used in coinage or in the financial stores of governments. The remaining 12% is consumed in a wide range of other uses which include electronics, medicine, dentistry, computers, awards, pigments, gilding, and optics. More information on the uses of gold.

Mineral collection

The best way to learn about minerals is to study with a collection of small specimens that you can handle, examine, and observe their properties. Inexpensive mineral collections are available in the Geology.com Store.

gold in quartz vein

Vein gold: Vein quartz with gold attached to basalt from California. This specimen is approximately 1 inch (2.4 centimeters) across.

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