Gold

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Posted by r2d2 03/17/2009 @ 11:07

Tags : gold, mining, business

News headlines
PRECIOUS METALS: NY Gold Seen Down $2, Silver Down 1 Cent - Wall Street Journal
By Matt Whittaker Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--June gold futures are expected to open floor trading in New York around $2 an ounce lower Friday, based on electronic activity ahead of the pit session at the Comex division of the New York...
Ward's road to boxing elite not paved with Athens gold - USA Today
By Ben Margot, AP By J. Michael Falgoust, USA TODAY Five years after winning gold in Athens, Andre Ward is getting around to taking on a dangerous opponent — namely, former world title contender Edison Miranda on Saturday (Showtime, 9 ET/PT)....
PRECIOUS METALS: NY Gold Rises Slightly On Stock Mkt Declines - Wall Street Journal
By Matt Whittaker Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Gold futures settled marginally higher Friday on flight-to-quality buying as equities declined. June gold gained $2.90 to settle at $931.30 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York...
'Sunnyside: A Novel' by Glen David Gold - Los Angeles Times
By Richard Rayner Glen David Gold's massive new novel begins with a trick, a coup, the literary equivalent of sleight of hand. For a writer whose first book, "Carter Beats the Devil" (2001), concerned the grand story of a 1920s magician,...
Gold prices inch higher on consumer price data - The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Gold prices closed slightly higher Friday, finishing the week with a gain amid signs that a drop in consumer prices is moderating. Energy and agriculture futures retreated. The Labor Department said consumer prices were flat in April...
Paulson's Hedge Fund Bought Gold Stock, Miners in First Quarter - Bloomberg
By Katherine Burton May 15 (Bloomberg) -- Paulson & Co., the hedge-fund firm run by billionaire John Paulson, increased its investment in gold and gold-mining shares in the first quarter, according to a regulatory filing....
Premium Gold wins Belmont feature - ESPN
AP NEW YORK -- Premium Gold beat Expansion by 1 3/4 lengths Thursday in the $48000 allowance feature on the turf at Belmont Park. In his debut on grass, Premium Gold ran the 1 1-8 miles on the firm course in 1:47.86. The 4-year-old trained by John...
Marcos Ambrose most likely is Sprint Cup's top gold prospector - Detroit Free Press
But when he's not at the track, he's ... you guessed it ... prospecting for gold across the United States! Yep, it had might as well be 1849 again. "I can take you out tomorrow to a place where we can find a quarter ounce (of gold) in about 2 hours,"...
AngloGold Posts Its First Profit in Seven Quarters - Bloomberg
“The earnings performance shows strong leverage to higher gold prices,” Chief Executive Officer Mark Cutifani said in an e-mailed statement. “Our strategy of reducing the hedge book by almost half over the past year is yielding real results,...
From 'Pink Films' to Oscar Gold - New York Times
By MIKE HALE YOJIRO TAKITA has surprised American audiences before. In 1986, when he was known only as a director of the soft-core features called pink films, he broke into the Japanese mainstream with “Comic Magazine,” a low-budget guerrilla...

Gold

Native gold nuggets.jpg

Gold (pronounced /ˈɡoʊld/) is a chemical element with the symbol Au (Latin: aurum) and atomic number 79. It is a highly sought-after precious metal, having been used as money, as a store of value, in jewelry, in sculpture, and for ornamentation since the beginning of recorded history. The metal occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks, in veins and in alluvial deposits. Gold is dense, soft, shiny and the most malleable and ductile pure metal known. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without rusting in air or water. It is one of the coinage metals and formed the basis for the gold standard used before the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971.

Modern industrial uses include dentistry and electronics, where gold has traditionally found use because of its good resistance to oxidative corrosion. Chemically, gold is a transition metal and can form trivalent and univalent cations upon solvation. At STP it is attacked by aqua regia (a mixture of acids), forming chloroauric acid and by alkaline solutions of cyanide but not by single acids such as hydrochloric, nitric or sulfuric acids. Gold dissolves in mercury, forming amalgam alloys, but does not react with it. Gold is insoluble in nitric acid, which will dissolve silver and base metals, and is the basis of the gold refining technique known as "inquartation and parting". Nitric acid has long been used to confirm the presence of gold in items, and this is the origin of the colloquial term "acid test", referring to a gold standard test for genuine value.

Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all metals; a single gram can be beaten into a sheet of one square meter, or an ounce into 300 square feet. Gold leaf can be beaten thin enough to become translucent. The transmitted light appears greenish blue, because gold strongly reflects yellow and red.

Gold readily creates alloys with many other metals. These alloys can be produced to modify the hardness and other metallurgical properties, to control melting point or to create exotic colors (see below). Gold is a good conductor of heat and electricity and reflects infra red radiation strongly. Chemically, it is unaffected by air, moisture and most corrosive reagents, and is therefore well-suited for use in coins and jewelry and as a protective coating on other, more reactive, metals. However, it is not chemically inert. Free halogens will react with gold, and aqua regia dissolves it via formation of chlorine gas which attacks gold to form the chloraurate ion. Gold also dissolves in alkaline solutions of potassium cyanide and in mercury, forming a gold-mercury amalgam.

Common oxidation states of gold include +1 (gold(I) or aurous compounds) and +3 (gold(III) or auric compounds). Gold ions in solution are readily reduced and precipitated out as gold metal by adding any other metal as the reducing agent. The added metal is oxidized and dissolves allowing the gold to be displaced from solution and be recovered as a solid precipitate.

High quality pure metallic gold is tasteless; in keeping with its resistance to corrosion (it is metal ions which confer taste to metals).

In addition, gold is very dense, a cubic meter weighing 19300 kg. By comparison, the density of lead is 11340 kg/m³, and that of the densest element, osmium, is 22610 kg/m³.

The color of pure gold is metallic yellow. Gold, caesium and copper are the only metallic elements with a natural color other than gray or white. The usual gray color of metals depends on their "electron sea" that is capable of absorbing and re-emitting photons over a wide range of frequencies. Gold reacts differently, depending on subtle relativistic effects that affect the orbitals around gold atoms.

Common colored gold alloys such as rose gold can be created by the addition of various amounts of copper and silver, as indicated in the diagram below. Alloys containing palladium or nickel are also important in commercial jewelry as these produce white gold alloys. Less commonly, addition of manganese, aluminium, iron, indium and other elements can produce more unusual colors of gold for various applications.

In various countries, gold is used as a standard for monetary exchange, in coinage and in jewelry. Pure gold is too soft for ordinary use and is typically hardened by alloying with copper or other base metals. The gold content of gold alloys is measured in carats (k), pure gold being designated as 24k.

Gold coins intended for circulation from 1526 into the 1930s were typically a standard 22k alloy called crown gold, for hardness. Modern collector/investment bullion coins (which do not require good mechanical wear properties) are typically 24k, although the American Gold Eagle, the British gold sovereign and the South African Krugerrand continue to be made at 22k, on historical tradition. The special issue Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin contains the highest purity gold of any bullion coin, at 99.999% (.99999 fine). The popular issue Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coin has a purity of 99.99%. Several other 99.99% pure gold coins are currently available, including Australia's Gold Kangaroos (first appearing in 1986 as the Australian Gold Nugget, with the kangaroo theme appearing in 1989), the several coins of the Australian Lunar Calendar series, and the Austrian Philharmonic. In 2006, the U.S. Mint began production of the American Buffalo gold bullion coin also at 99.99% purity.

Since the abandonment of the gold standard and the forced conversion of bullion gold and circulating gold to silver in 1933 by the United States Government, gold has not generally been used in daily commerce. Many holders of gold in storage (as bullion coin or bullion) hold it as a hedge against inflation or other economic disruptions. The ISO currency code of gold bullion is XAU.

Because of the softness of pure (24k) gold, it is usually alloyed with base metals for use in jewelry, altering its hardness and ductility, melting point, color and other properties. Alloys with lower caratage, typically 22k, 18k, 14k or 10k, contain higher percentages of copper, or other base metals or silver or palladium in the alloy. Copper is the most commonly used base metal, yielding a redder color. Eighteen carat gold containing 25% copper is found in antique and Russian jewellery and has a distinct, though not dominant, copper cast, creating rose gold. Fourteen carat gold-copper alloy is nearly identical in color to certain bronze alloys, and both may be used to produce police and other badges. Blue gold can be made by alloying with iron and purple gold can be made by alloying with aluminium, although rarely done except in specialized jewelry. Blue gold is more brittle and therefore more difficult to work with when making jewelry. Fourteen and eighteen carat gold alloys with silver alone appear greenish-yellow and are referred to as green gold. White gold alloys can be made with palladium or nickel. White 18 carat gold containing 17.3% nickel, 5.5% zinc and 2.2% copper is silver in appearance. Nickel is toxic, however, and its release from nickel white gold is controlled by legislation in Europe. Alternative white gold alloys are available based on palladium, silver and other white metals (World Gold Council), but the palladium alloys are more expensive than those using nickel. High-carat white gold alloys are far more resistant to corrosion than are either pure silver or sterling silver. The Japanese craft of Mokume-gane exploits the color contrasts between laminated colored gold alloys to produce decorative wood-grain effects.

Gold is attacked by and dissolves in alkaline solutions of potassium or sodium cyanide, and gold cyanide is the electrolyte used in commercial electroplating of gold onto base metals and electroforming. Gold chloride (chloroauric acid) solutions are used to make colloidal gold by reduction with citrate or ascorbate ions. Gold chloride and gold oxide are used to make highly-valued cranberry or red-colored glass, which, like colloidal gold sols, contains evenly-sized spherical gold nanoparticles.

Gold has been known and highly valued since prehistoric times. It may have been the first metal used by humans and was valued for ornamentation and rituals. Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 2600 BC describe gold, which king Tushratta of the Mitanni claimed was "more plentiful than dirt" in Egypt. Egypt and especially Nubia had the resources to make them major gold-producing areas for much of history. The earliest known map is known as the Turin papyrus and shows the plan of a gold mine in Nubia together with indications of the local geology. The primitive working methods are described by Strabo and included fire-setting. Large mines also occurred across the Red Sea in what is now Saudi Arabia.

The legend of the golden fleece may refer to the use of fleeces to trap gold dust from placer deposits in the ancient world. Gold is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament, starting with Genesis 2:11 (at Havilah) and is included with the gifts of the magi in the first chapters of Matthew New Testament. The Book of Revelation 21:21 describes the city of New Jerusalem as having streets "made of pure gold, clear as crystal". The south-east corner of the Black Sea was famed for its gold. Exploitation is said to date from the time of Midas, and this gold was important in the establishment of what is probably the world's earliest coinage in Lydia between 643 and 630 BC.

From 6th or 5th century BCE, Chu (state) circulated Ying Yuan, one kind of square gold coin.

The Romans developed new methods for extracting gold on a large scale using hydraulic mining methods, especially in Spain from 25 BC onwards and in Romania from 150 AD onwards. One of their largest mines was at Las Medulas in León (Spain), where seven long aqueducts enabled them to sluice most of a large alluvial deposit. The mines at Roşia Montană in Transylvania were also very large, and until very recently, still mined by opencast methods. They also exploited smaller deposits in Britain, such as placer and hard-rock deposits at Dolaucothi. The various methods they used are well described by Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedia Naturalis Historia written towards the end of the first century AD.

The European exploration of the Americas was fueled in no small part by reports of the gold ornaments displayed in great profusion by Native American peoples, especially in Central America, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

Although the price of some platinum group metals can be much higher, gold has long been considered the most desirable of precious metals, and its value has been used as the standard for many currencies (known as the gold standard) in history. Gold has been used as a symbol for purity, value, royalty, and particularly roles that combine these properties. Gold as a sign of wealth and prestige was made fun of by Thomas More in his treatise Utopia. On that imaginary island, gold is so abundant that it is used to make chains for slaves, tableware and lavatory-seats. When ambassadors from other countries arrive, dressed in ostentatious gold jewels and badges, the Utopians mistake them for menial servants, paying homage instead to the most modestly-dressed of their party.

There is an age-old tradition of biting gold in order to test its authenticity. Although this is certainly not a professional way of examining gold, the bite test should score the gold because gold is a soft metal, as indicated by its score on the Mohs' scale of mineral hardness. The purer the gold the easier it should be to mark it. Painted lead can cheat this test because lead is softer than gold (and may invite a small risk of lead poisoning if sufficient lead is absorbed by the biting).

Gold in antiquity was relatively easy to obtain geologically; however, 75% of all gold ever produced has been extracted since 1910. It has been estimated that all the gold in the world that has ever been refined would form a single cube 20 m (66 ft) on a side (equivalent to 8000 m³).

One main goal of the alchemists was to produce gold from other substances, such as lead — presumably by the interaction with a mythical substance called the philosopher's stone. Although they never succeeded in this attempt, the alchemists promoted an interest in what can be done with substances, and this laid a foundation for today's chemistry. Their symbol for gold was the circle with a point at its center (☉), which was also the astrological symbol, and the ancient Chinese character, for the Sun. For modern creation of artificial gold by neutron capture, see gold synthesis.

During the 19th century, gold rushes occurred whenever large gold deposits were discovered. The first documented discovery of gold in the United States was at the Reed Gold Mine near Georgeville, North Carolina in 1803. The first major gold strike in the United States occurred in a small north Georgia town called Dahlonega. Further gold rushes occurred in California, Colorado, Otago, Australia, Witwatersrand, Black Hills, and Klondike.

Because of its historically high value, much of the gold mined throughout history is still in circulation in one form or another.

In nature, gold most often occurs in its native state (that is, as a metal), though usually alloyed with silver. Native gold contains usually eight to ten percent silver, but often much more — alloys with a silver content over 20% are called electrum. As the amount of silver increases, the color becomes whiter and the specific gravity becomes lower.

Ores bearing native gold consist of grains or microscopic particles of metallic gold embedded in rock, often in association with veins of quartz or sulfide minerals like pyrite. These are called "lode" deposits. Native gold is also found in the form of free flakes, grains or larger nuggets that have been eroded from rocks and end up in alluvial deposits (called placer deposits). Such free gold is always richer at the surface of gold-bearing veins owing to the oxidation of accompanying minerals followed by weathering, and washing of the dust into streams and rivers, where it collects and can be welded by water action to form nuggets.

Gold sometimes occurs combined with tellurium as the minerals calaverite, krennerite, nagyagite, petzite and sylvanite, and as the rare bismuthide maldonite (Au2Bi) and antimonide aurostibite (AuSb2). Gold also occurs in rare alloys with copper, lead, and mercury: the minerals auricupride (Cu3Au), novodneprite (AuPb3) and weishanite ((Au,Ag)3Hg2).

Recent research suggests that microbes can sometimes play an important role in forming gold deposits, transporting and precipitating gold to form grains and nuggets that collect in alluvial deposits.

Economic gold extraction can be achieved from ore grades as little as 0.5 g/1000 kg (0.5 parts per million, ppm) on average in large easily mined deposits. Typical ore grades in open-pit mines are 1–5 g/1000 kg (1–5 ppm); ore grades in underground or hard rock mines are usually at least 3 g/1000 kg (3 ppm). Because ore grades of 30 g/1000 kg (30 ppm) are usually needed before gold is visible to the naked eye, in most gold mines the gold is invisible.

Since the 1880s, South Africa has been the source for a large proportion of the world’s gold supply, with about 50% of all gold ever produced having come from South Africa. Production in 1970 accounted for 79% of the world supply, producing about 1,000 tonnes. However by 2007 production was just 272 tonnes. This sharp decline was due to the increasing difficulty of extraction, changing economic factors affecting the industry, and tightened safety auditing. In 2007 China (with 276 tonnes) overtook South Africa as the world's largest gold producer, the first time since 1905 that South Africa has not been the largest.

The city of Johannesburg located in South Africa was founded as a result of the Witwatersrand Gold Rush which resulted in the discovery of some of the largest gold deposits the world has ever seen. Gold fields located within the basin in the Free State and Gauteng provinces are extensive in strike and dip requiring some of the world's deepest mines, with the Savuka and TauTona mines being currently the world's deepest gold mine at 3,777 m. The Second Boer War of 1899–1901 between the British Empire and the Afrikaner Boers was at least partly over the rights of miners and possession of the gold wealth in South Africa.

Other major producers are the United States, Australia, China, Russia and Peru. Mines in South Dakota and Nevada supply two-thirds of gold used in the United States. In South America, the controversial project Pascua Lama aims at exploitation of rich fields in the high mountains of Atacama Desert, at the border between Chile and Argentina. Today about one-quarter of the world gold output is estimated to originate from artisanal or small scale mining.

After initial production, gold is often subsequently refined industrially by the Wohlwill process or the Miller process. Other methods of assaying and purifying smaller amounts of gold include parting and inquartation as well as cuppelation, or refining methods based on the dissolution of gold in aqua regia.

The world's oceans hold a vast amount of gold, but in very low concentrations (perhaps 1–2 parts per 10 billion). A number of people have claimed to be able to economically recover gold from sea water, but so far they have all been either mistaken or crooks. Reverend Prescott Jernegan ran a gold-from-seawater swindle in America in the 1890s. A British fraudster ran the same scam in England in the early 1900s.

Fritz Haber (the German inventor of the Haber process) attempted commercial extraction of gold from sea water in an effort to help pay Germany's reparations following World War I. Unfortunately, his assessment of the concentration of gold in sea water was unduly high, probably due to sample contamination. The effort produced little gold and cost the German government far more than the commercial value of the gold recovered. No commercially viable mechanism for performing gold extraction from sea water has yet been identified. Gold synthesis is not economically viable and is unlikely to become so in the foreseeable future.

The average gold mining and extraction costs are $238 per troy ounce but these can vary widely depending on mining type and ore quality. In 2001, global mine production amounted to 2,604 tonnes, or 67% of total gold demand in that year. At the end of 2006, it was estimated that all the gold ever mined totaled 158,000 tonnes. This can be represented by a cube with an edge length of just 20.2 meters.

At current consumption rates, the supply of gold is believed to last 45 years.

Like other precious metals, gold is measured by troy weight and by grams. When it is alloyed with other metals the term carat or karat is used to indicate the amount of gold present, with 24 karats being pure gold and lower ratings proportionally less. The purity of a gold bar can also be expressed as a decimal figure ranging from 0 to 1, known as the millesimal fineness, such as 0.995 being very pure.

The price of gold is determined on the open market, but a procedure known as the Gold Fixing in London, originating in September 1919, provides a daily benchmark figure to the industry. The afternoon fixing appeared in 1968 to fix a price when US markets are open.

Historically gold coinage was widely used as currency; When paper money was introduced, it typically was a receipt redeemable for gold coin or bullion. In an economic system known as the gold standard, a certain weight of gold was given the name of a unit of currency. For a long period, the United States government set the value of the US dollar so that one troy ounce was equal to $20.67 ($664.56/kg), but in 1934 the dollar was devalued to $35.00 per troy ounce ($1125.27/kg). By 1961 it was becoming hard to maintain this price, and a pool of US and European banks agreed to manipulate the market to prevent further currency devaluation against increased gold demand.

On March 17, 1968, economic circumstances caused the collapse of the gold pool, and a two-tiered pricing scheme was established whereby gold was still used to settle international accounts at the old $35.00 per troy ounce ($1.13/g) but the price of gold on the private market was allowed to fluctuate; this two-tiered pricing system was abandoned in 1975 when the price of gold was left to find its free-market level. Central banks still hold historical gold reserves as a store of value although the level has generally been declining. The largest gold depository in the world is that of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in New York, which holds about 3% of the gold ever mined, as does the similarly-laden U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.

In 2005 the World Gold Council estimated total global gold supply to be 3,859 tonnes and demand to be 3,754 tonnes, giving a surplus of 105 tonnes.

Since 1968 the price of gold on the open market has ranged widely, from a high of $850/oz ($27,300/kg) on January 21, 1980, to a low of $252.90/oz ($8,131/kg) on June 21, 1999 (London Gold Fixing). The 1980 high was not overtaken until January 3, 2008 when a new maximum of $865.35 per troy ounce was set (a.m. London Gold Fixing). The current record price was set on March 17, 2008 at $1023.50/oz (am. London Gold Fixing).

Since April 2001 the gold price has more than tripled in value against the US dollar, prompting speculation that this long secular bear market (or the Great Commodities Depression) has ended and a bull market has returned. In March 2008, the gold price increased above $1000, which in real terms is still well below the $850/oz. peak on January 21, 1980. Indexed for inflation, the 1980 high would equate to a price of around $2400 in 2007 US dollars.

In the last century, major economic crises (such as the Great Depression, World War II, the first and second oil crisis) lowered the Dow/Gold ratio (which is inherently inflation adjusted) substantially, in most cases to a value well below 4. During these difficult times, investors tried to preserve their assets by investing in precious metals, most notably gold and silver.

Although gold is a noble metal, it forms many and diverse compounds. The oxidation state of gold in its compound ranges from −1 to +5 but Au(I) and Au(III) dominate. Gold(I), referred to as the aurous ion, is the most common oxidation state with “soft” ligands such as thioethers, thiolates, and tertiary phosphines. Au(I) compounds are typically linear. A good example is Au(CN)2−, which is the soluble form of gold encountered in mining. Curiously, aurous complexes of water are rare. The binary gold halides, such as AuCl, form zig-zag polymeric chains, again featuring linear coordination at Au. Most drugs based on gold are Au(I) derivatives.

Gold(III) (“auric”) is a common oxidation state and is illustrated by gold(III) chloride, AuCl3. Its derivative is chloroauric acid, HAuCl4, which forms when Au dissolves in aqua regia. Au(III) complexes, like other d8 compounds, are typically square planar.

Compounds containing the Au− anion are called aurides. Caesium auride, CsAu which crystallizes in the caesium chloride motif. Other aurides include those of Rb+, K+, and tetramethylammonium (CH3)4N+. Gold(II) compounds are usually diamagnetic with Au-Au bonds such as 2Cl2. A noteworthy, legitimate Au(II) complex contains xenon as a ligand, (Sb2F11)2. Gold pentafluoride is the sole example of Au(V), the highest verified oxidation state.

Some gold compounds exhibit aurophilic bonding, which describes the tendency of gold ions to interact at distances that are too long to be a conventional Au-Au bond but shorter that van der Waals bonding. The interaction is estimated to be comparable in strength to that of a hydrogen bond.

Well-defined cluster compounds are numerous. In such cases, gold has a fractional oxidation state. A representative example is the octahedral species {Au(P(C6H5)3)}62+. Gold chalcogenides, e.g. "AuS" feature equal amounts of Au(I) and Au(III).

Gold has only one stable isotope, 197Au, which is also its only naturally-occurring isotope. 36 radioisotopes have been synthesized ranging in atomic mass from 169 to 205. The most stable of these is 195Au with a half-life of 186.1 days. 195Au is also the only isotope to decay by electron capture. The least stable is 171Au, which decays by proton emission with a half-life of 30 µs. Most of gold's radioisotopes with atomic masses below 197 decay by some combination of proton emission, α decay, and β+ decay. The exceptions are 195Au, which decays by electron capture, and 196Au, which has a minor β- decay path. All of gold's radioisotopes with atomic masses above 197 decay by β- decay.

At least 32 nuclear isomers have also been characterized, ranging in atomic mass from 170 to 200. Within that range, only 178Au, 180Au, 181Au, 182Au, and 188Au do not have isomers. Gold's most stable isomer is 198m2Au with a half-life of 2.27 days. Gold's least stable isomer is 177m2Au with a half-life of only 7 ns. 184m1Au has three decay paths: β+ decay, isomeric transition, and alpha decay. No other isomer or isotope of gold has three decay paths.

Gold has been associated with the extremities of utmost evil and great sanctity throughout history. In the Book of Exodus, the Golden Calf is a symbol of idolatry and rebellion against God. In popular culture, the golden pocket watch and its fastening golden chain were the characteristic accessories of the capitalists, the rich and the industrial tycoons. Credit card companies associate their product with wealth by naming and coloring their top-of-the-range cards “gold” although, in an attempt to out-do each other, platinum has now overtaken gold.

In the Book of Genesis, Abraham was said to be rich in gold and silver, and Moses was instructed to cover the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant with pure gold. Eminent orators such as John Chrysostom were said to have a “mouth of gold with a silver tongue.” Gold is associated with notable anniversaries, particularly in a 50-year cycle, such as a golden wedding anniversary, golden jubilee, etc.

Great human achievements are frequently rewarded with gold, in the form of medals and decorations. Winners of races and prizes are usually awarded the gold medal (such as the Olympic Games and the Nobel Prize), while many award statues are depicted in gold (such as the Academy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards the Emmy Awards, the Palme d'Or, and the British Academy Film Awards).

Medieval kings were inaugurated under the signs of sacred oil and a golden crown, the latter symbolizing the eternal shining light of heaven and thus a Christian king's divinely inspired authority. Wedding rings are traditionally made of gold; since it is long-lasting and unaffected by the passage of time, it is considered a suitable material for everyday wear as well as a metaphor for the relationship. In Orthodox Christianity, the wedded couple is adorned with a golden crown during the ceremony, an amalgamation of symbolic rites.

The symbolic value of gold varies greatly around the world, even within geographic regions.

Pure gold is non-toxic and non-irritating when ingested and is sometimes used as a food decoration in the form of gold leaf. It is also a component of the alcoholic drinks Goldschläger, Gold Strike, and Goldwasser. Gold is approved as a food additive in the EU (E175 in the Codex Alimentarius).

Soluble compounds (gold salts) such as potassium gold cyanide, used in gold electroplating, are toxic to the liver and kidneys. There are rare cases of lethal gold poisoning from potassium gold cyanide. Gold toxicity can be ameliorated with chelating agents such as British anti-Lewisite.

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Gold mining

Hard rock mining at the Associated Gold Mine, Kalgoorlie, 1951

Gold mining consists of the processes and techniques employed in the removal of gold from the ground. There are several techniques by which gold may be extracted from the Earth.

Gold panning is a mostly manual technique of sorting gold. Wide, shallow pans are filled with sand and gravel that may contain gold. Water is added and the pans are shaken, sorting the gold from the gravel and other material. As gold is much denser than rock, it quickly settles to the bottom of the pan. The silt is usually removed from stream beds, often at a bend in the stream, or resting on the bedrock bed of the stream, where the weight of gold causes it to separate out of the water flow. This type of gold found in streams or dry streams are called placer deposits.

Gold panning is the easiest technique for searching for gold, but is not commercially viable for extracting gold from large deposits, except where labor costs are very low and/or gold traces are very substantial. It is often marketed as a tourist attraction on former goldfields. Before production methods can be used, a new source must be identified and panning is a good way to identify placer gold deposits so that they may be evaluated for commercial viability.

With a metal detector, a person may walk around area systematically scanning below the surface. If the meter gives a positive reading a quantity of gold may be present up to a meter below the surface. This technique is very easy to operate, highly mobile, and very popular among gold diggers.

Using a sluice box to extract gold from placer deposits has been a common practice in prospecting and small-scale mining throughout history to the modern day. A sluice box is essentially a man-made channel with riffles set in the bottom. The riffles are designed to create dead zones in the current to allow gold to drop out of suspension. The box is placed in the stream to catch water-flow and gold bearing material is placed at the top of the box. The material is carried by water through the box where gold and other heavy material settles out behind the riffles. Lighter material flows out of the box as tailings.

Larger commercial placer mining operations employ screening plants or trommels to remove the larger alluvial materials such as boulders and gravel before concentrating in a sluice box or jig plant. These operations typically include diesel powered earth moving equipment including excavators, dozers, wheel loaders and rock trucks.

Although mostly historical, some dredging is done by small scale miners using suction dredges. These are small machines floating on the water and are usually operated by one or two people. A suction dredge consists of a sluice box supported by pontoons, and attached to a suction hose which is controlled by the miner working beneath the water.

Some believe that modern suction dredges have a significant environmental impact on fisheries by disturbing spawning gravels and fish migration. However, most small scale dredging operations affect the local fish only by stirring up additional food from the bottom of the river. State dredging permits in many of the United States gold dredging areas dictate a specific seasonal time period and area closures in order to avoid conflicts between dredgers and the spawning time of fish populations. Other states, such as Montana, require an extensive permitting procedure, including permits from the U.S.Corps of Engineers, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and the local county water quality boards. There is ongoing conflict between environmentalists, fishermen, and miners as to the effect of dredging on fish habitat. Dredging proponents say that dredging loosens the gravels and stirs up food which benefits the fish, while opponents say that the silt from the dredges covers the fish nests and smothers the eggs. Some states prohibit any direct dredge discharge into a running waterway, thus obviating the problem of siltation. Aquatic populations are threatened by siltation far more from agricultural sources than by dredging, but all these problems need to be addressed, along with toxic pollution from urban and highway runoff. There are some large suction dredges (100 hp+ 10 inch) used in commercial production throughout the world. Small suction dredges are much more efficient at extracting smaller gold than the old "bucket line" ever was. This means there is a better chance of finding gold than ever.Smaller ones with 2 to 4-inch (100 mm) suction tubes are used to sample the areas behind boulders and along the potential pay streaks, until color (gold) first appears.

Other larger scale dredging operations take place on exposed river gravel bars at seasonal low water. These operations typically use a land based excavator to feed a gravel screening plant and sluicebox floating in a temporary pond excavated in the gravel bar and filled from the natural water table. Pay gravel is excavated from the front face of the pond and processed through the floating plant, with the gold trapped in the onboard sluicebox and tailings stacked behind the plant, steadily filling in the back of the pond as the operation moves forward. This kind of gold mining is characterized by its low cost, as each rock is moved only once, as well as by its low environmental impact, as no stripping of vegetation or overburden is necessary, and all process water is fully recycled. These operations are typical on New Zealand's South Island and in the Klondike region of Canada.

Gold is also produced by mining in which it is not the principal product. Large copper mines, such as the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, often recover considerable amounts of gold and other metals along with the copper. Some sand and gravel pits, such as those around Denver, Colorado, may recover small amounts of gold in their washing operations.

In placer mines, the gold is recovered by gravity separation. For hardrock mining, other methods are usually used.

Cyanide extraction of gold may be used in areas where fine-gold bearing rocks are found. Sodium cyanide solution is mixed with finely-ground rock that is proven to contain gold and/or silver, and is then separated from the ground rock as gold cyanide and/or silver cyanide solution. Zinc is added to the solution, precipitating out residual zinc, as well as the desirable silver and gold metals. The zinc is removed with sulfuric acid, leaving a silver and/or gold sludge that is generally smelted into an ingot then shipped to a metals refinery for final processing into 99.9999% pure metals.

Advancements in the 1970s have seen activated carbon used in extracting gold from the leach solution. The gold is absorbed into the porous matrix of the carbon. Activated carbon has so much internal surface area, that fifteen grams (half an ounce) has the equivalent surface area of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (18,100 square meters). The gold can be removed from the carbon by using a strong solution of caustic soda and cyanide. This is known as elution. Gold is then plated out onto steel wool through electrowinning. Gold specific resins can also be used in place of activated carbon, or where selective separation of gold from copper or other dissolved metals is required.

The cyanide technique is very simple and straightforward to apply and a popular method for low-grade gold and silver ore processing. Like most industrial chemical processes, there are potential environmental hazards presented with this extraction method in addition to the high toxicity presented by the cyanide itself. This was seen in the environmental disaster in Central-Eastern Europe in year 2000, when during the night of 30 January, a dam at a goldmine reprocessing facility in Romania released approximately 100,000 m³ of wastewater contaminated with heavy metal sludge and up to 120 tons of cyanide into the rivers of Tisza.

A cradle was rocked back and forth while water was poured over it. The sand and gold were washed through the screen of the cradle, leaving the gravel behind.

Romans used hydraulic mining methods on a large scale to extract gold from extensive alluvial deposits, such as those at Las Medulas. Mining was under the control of the state but the mines may have been leased to civilian contractors some time later. The gold helped finance the growth of the empire, and was an important motive in the Roman invasion of Britain by Claudius in the first century AD, although there is only one known Roman gold mine at Dolaucothi in west Wales. Gold was a prime motivation for the campaign in Dacia when the Romans invaded Transylvania in what is now modern Romania in the second century AD. The legions were led by the emperor Trajan, and their exploits are shown on the grand column in City Hall.

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California Gold Rush

Panning for gold on the Mokelumne River

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill, in Coloma, California. News of the discovery soon spread, resulting in some 300,000 men, women, and children coming to California from the rest of the United States and abroad. Of the 300,000, approximately 150,000 arrived by sea while the remaining 150,000 arrived by land. As a result, the foundation of California's make-up was significantly more diverse than other parts of the country.

These early gold-seekers, called "forty-niners," traveled to California by sailing boat and in covered wagons across the continent, often facing substantial hardships on the trip. While most of the newly-arrived were Americans, the Gold Rush attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia and Asia. At first, the prospectors retrieved the gold from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. More sophisticated methods of gold recovery were later developed that were adopted around the world. At its peak, technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required - increasing the proportion of corporate to individual miners. Gold, worth billions of today's dollars, was recovered, which led to great wealth for a few. However, many returned home with little more than they started with.

The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. San Francisco grew from a small settlement to a boomtown, and roads, churches, schools and other towns were built throughout California. A system of laws and a government were created, leading to the admission of California as a state in 1850. However, until 1872, mining law in California - including the Gold Rush - was localized and relied on decisions of a mining towns' inhabitants.

New methods of transportation developed as steamships came into regular service and railroads were built. The business of agriculture, California's next major growth field, was started on a wide scale throughout the state. However, the Gold Rush also had negative effects: Native Americans were attacked and pushed off traditional lands, and gold mining caused environmental harm.

The Gold Rush started at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma. On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found pieces of shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter, along the American River. Marshall quietly brought what he found to Sutter, and the two of them privately tested the findings. The tests showed Marshall's particles to be gold. Sutter was dismayed by this, and wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold. However, rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. The most famous quote of the California Gold Rush was by Brannan; after he had hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies, Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!" With the news of gold, many families trying their luck at Californian farming decided to go for the gold, becoming some of California’s first miners.

On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald was the first major newspaper on the East Coast to report that there was a gold rush in California; on December 5, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in an address to Congress. Soon, waves of immigrants from around the world, later called the "forty-niners," invaded the Gold Country of California or "Mother Lode." As Sutter had feared, he was ruined; his workers left in search of gold, and squatters invaded his land and stole his crops and cattle.

San Francisco had been a tiny settlement before the rush began. When residents learned of the discovery, it at first became a ghost town of abandoned ships and businesses whose owners joined the Gold Rush, but then boomed as merchants and new people arrived. The population of San Francisco exploded from perhaps 1,000 in 1848 to 25,000 full-time residents by 1850. As with many boomtowns, the sudden influx of people strained the infrastructure of San Francisco and other towns near the goldfields. People lived in tents, wood shanties, or deck cabins removed from abandoned ships.

In what has been referred to as the "first world-class gold rush," there was no easy way to get to California; forty-niners faced hardship and often death on the way. At first, most Argonauts, as they were also known, traveled by sea. From the East Coast, a sailing voyage around the tip of South America would take five to eight months, and cover some 18,000 nautical miles (33,000 km). An alternative was to sail to the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama, to take canoes and mules for a week through the jungle, and then on the Pacific side, to wait for a ship sailing for San Francisco. There was also a route across Mexico starting at Veracruz. Eventually, most gold-seekers took the overland route across the continental United States, particularly along the California Trail. Each of these routes had its own deadly hazards, from shipwreck to typhoid fever and cholera.

To meet the demands of the arrivals, ships bearing goods from around the world - porcelain and silk from China, ale from Scotland - poured into San Francisco as well. Upon reaching San Francisco, ship captains found that their crews deserted and went to the gold fields. The wharves and docks of San Francisco became a forest of masts, as hundreds of ships were abandoned. Enterprising San Franciscans turned the abandoned ships into warehouses, stores, taverns, hotels, and one into a jail. Many of these ships were later destroyed and used for landfill to create more buildable land in the boomtown.

The San Francisco gold rush also had a major impact on the laws of mining land ownership in California. California was a lawless place and the compeition for land resulted in mining camps setting down rules to establish property rights to mining claims. Rules evolved to define "abandonment" vs. "work," an "abandonment" site could be "jumped." From 1850-1852, there were 52 mining codes in place. These laws were eventually recognized by the federal government in 1872.

Within a few years, there was an important but lesser-known surge of prospectors into far Northern California, specifically into present-day Siskiyou, Shasta and Trinity Counties. Discovery of gold nuggets at the site of present-day Yreka in 1851 brought thousands of gold-seekers up the Siskiyou Trail and throughout California's northern counties. Settlements of the Gold Rush era, such as Portuguese Flat on the Sacramento River, sprang into existence and then faded. The Gold Rush town of Weaverville on the Trinity River today retains the oldest continuously-used Taoist temple in California, a legacy of Chinese miners who came. While there are not many Gold Rush era ghost towns still in existence, the well-preserved remains of the once-bustling town of Shasta is a California State Historic Park in Northern California.

Gold was also discovered in Southern California but on a much smaller scale. The first discovery of gold, at Rancho San Francisco in the mountains north of present-day Los Angeles, had been in 1842, six years before Marshall's discovery, while California was still part of Mexico. However, these first deposits, and later discoveries in Southern California mountains, attracted little notice and were of limited consequence economically.

By 1850, most of the easily accessible gold had been collected, and attention turned to extracting gold from more difficult locations. Faced with gold increasingly difficult to retrieve, Americans began to drive out foreigners to get at the most accessible gold that remained. The new California State Legislature passed a foreign miners tax of twenty dollars per month, and American prospectors began organized attacks on foreign miners, particularly Latin Americans and Chinese. In addition, the huge numbers of newcomers were driving Native Americans out of their traditional hunting, fishing and food-gathering areas. To protect their homes and livelihood, some Native Americans responded by attacking the miners. This provoked counter-attacks on native villages. The Native Americans, out-gunned, were often slaughtered. Those who escaped massacres were many times unable to survive without access to their food-gathering areas, and they starved to death. Novelist and poet Joaquin Miller vividly captured one such attack in his semi-autobiographical work, Life Amongst the Modocs.

The first people to rush to the gold fields, beginning in the spring of 1848, were the residents of California themselves—primarily agriculturally oriented Americans and Europeans living in Northern California, along with Native Americans and some Californios (Spanish-speaking Californians). These first miners tended to be families in which everyone helped in the effort. Women and children of all races were often found panning next to the men. Some enterprising families set up boarding houses to accommodate the influx of men; in such cases, the women often brought in steady income while their husbands searched for gold.

Word of the Gold Rush spread slowly at first. The earliest gold-seekers to arrive in California during 1848 were people who lived near California, or people who heard the news from ships on the fastest sailing routes from California. The first large group of Americans to arrive were several thousand Oregonians who came down the Siskiyou Trail. Next came people from Hawaii, by ship, and several thousand Latin Americans, including people from Mexico, from Peru and from as far away as Chile, both by ship and overland. By the end of 1848, some 6,000 Argonauts had come to California. Only a small number (probably fewer than 500) traveled overland from the United States that year. Some of these "forty-eighters," as these very earliest gold-seekers were also sometimes called, were able to collect large amounts of easily accessible gold—in some cases, thousands of dollars worth each day. Even ordinary prospectors averaged daily gold finds worth ten to fifteen times the daily wage of a laborer on the East Coast. A person could work for six months in the goldfields and find the equivalent of six years' wages back home, which attracted people of all types and ethnicities including single men and women, families, and married men. Some hoped to get rich quick and return home, and others wished to start businesses in California.

By the beginning of 1849, word of the Gold Rush had spread around the world, and an overwhelming number of gold-seekers and merchants began to arrive from virtually every continent. The largest group of forty-niners in 1849 were Americans, arriving by the tens of thousands overland across the continent and along various sailing routes (the name "forty-niner" was derived from the year 1849). Many came by way of the Isthmus of Panama and the steamships of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. Australians and New Zealanders picked up the news from ships carrying Hawaiian newspapers, and thousands, infected with "gold fever," boarded ships for California. Forty-niners came from Latin America, particularly from the Mexican mining districts near Sonora. Gold-seekers and merchants from Asia, primarily from China, began arriving in 1849, at first in modest numbers to Gum Sam ("Gold Mountain"), the name given to California in Chinese. The first immigrants from Europe, reeling from the effects of the Revolutions of 1848 and with a longer distance to travel, began arriving in late 1849, mostly from France, with some Germans, Italians, and Britons.

It is estimated that almost 90,000 people arrived in California in 1849—about half by land and half by sea. Of these, perhaps 50,000 to 60,000 were Americans, and the rest were from other countries. By 1855, it is estimated at least 300,000 gold-seekers, merchants, and other immigrants had arrived in California from around the world. The largest group continued to be Americans, but there were tens of thousands each of Mexicans, Chinese, Britons, French, and Latin Americans, together with many smaller groups of miners, such as Filipinos, Basques and Turks. A modest number of miners of African ancestry (probably less than 4,000) had come from the Southern States, the Caribbean and Brazil..

A notable number of immigrants were from China. Several hundred Chinese arrived in California in 1849 and 1850, and in 1852 more than 20,000 landed in San Francisco. Their distinctive dress and appearance was highly recognizable in the gold fields, and created a degree of animosity towards the Chinese.

There were also many women in the Gold Rush. They held various roles including prostitutes, single entrepreneurs, married women, poor and wealthy women. They also were of various ethnicities including white, Hispanic, native, Chinese, and European. The reasons they came varied: some came with their husbands, refusing to be left behind to fend for themselves, some came because their husbands sent for them, and others came (singles and widows) for the adventure and economic opportunities. On the trail many people died from accidents, cholera, fever, and myriad other causes, and many women became widows before even setting eyes on California. While in California, women were also widowed quite frequently due to mining accidents, disease, or mining disputes. While it was not an easy place for anyone, life in the west did offer many opportunities for women to break from their typical work.

When the Gold Rush began, California was a peculiarly lawless place. On the day when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill, California was still technically part of Mexico, under American military occupation as the result of the Mexican-American War. With the signing of the treaty ending the war on February 2, 1848, California became a possession of the United States, but it was not a formal "territory" and did not become a state until September 9, 1850. California existed in the unusual condition of a region under military control. There was no civil legislature, executive or judicial body for the entire region. Local residents operated under a confusing and changing mixture of Mexican rules, American principles, and personal dictates.

While the treaty ending the Mexican-American War obliged the United States to honor Mexican land grants, almost all of the goldfields were outside those grants. Instead, the goldfields were primarily on "public land," meaning land formally owned by the United States government. However, there were no legal rules yet in place, and no practical enforcement mechanisms.

The benefit to the forty-niners was that the gold was simply "free for the taking" at first. In the goldfields, there was no private property, no licensing fees, and no taxes until a government formed. The forty-niners resorted to making up their own codes and setting up their own local enforcement. The miners essentially adopted Mexican mining law existing in California. For example, the rules attempted to balance the rights of early arrivers at a site with later arrivers; a "claim" could be "staked" by a prospector, but that claim was valid only as long as it was being actively worked. Miners worked at a claim only long enough to determine its potential. If a claim was deemed as low-value—as most were—miners would abandon the site in search for legendary bonanza sites. In the case where a claim was abandoned or not worked upon, other miners would "claim-jump" the land. "Claim-jumping" means that a miner began work on a previously claimed site. Disputes were sometimes handled personally and violently, and were sometimes addressed by groups of prospectors acting as arbitrators. This often led to heightened ethnic tensions.

The rules of mining claims adopted by the forty-niners spread with each new mining rush throughout the western United States. The U.S. Congress finally legalized the practice in the "Chaffee laws" of 1866.

Because the gold in the California gravel beds was so richly concentrated, the early forty-niners simply panned for gold in California's rivers and streams, a form of placer mining. However, panning cannot be done on a large scale, and industrious miners and groups of miners graduated to placer mining "cradles" and "rockers" or "long-toms" to process larger volumes of gravel. In the most complex placer mining, groups of prospectors would divert the water from an entire river into a sluice alongside the river, and then dig for gold in the newly-exposed river bottom. Modern estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey are that some 12 million ounces (370 t) of gold were removed in the first five years of the Gold Rush (worth approximately US$7 billion at November 2006 prices).

In the next stage, by 1853, hydraulic mining was used on ancient gold-bearing gravel beds that were on hillsides and bluffs in the gold fields. In a modern style of hydraulic mining first developed in California, a high-pressure hose directs a powerful stream or jet of water at gold-bearing gravel beds. The loosened gravel and gold would then pass over sluices, with the gold settling to the bottom where it is collected. By the mid-1880s, it is estimated that 11 million ounces (340 t) of gold (worth approximately US$6.6 billion at November 2006 prices) had been recovered via "hydraulicking." This style of hydraulic mining later spread around the world.

A byproduct of this method of extraction was that large amounts of gravel and silt, in addition to heavy metals and other pollutants, went into streams and rivers. Many areas still bear the scars of hydraulic mining since the resulting exposed earth and downstream gravel deposits are unable to support plant life.

After the Gold Rush had concluded, gold recovery operations continued. The final stage to recover loose gold was to prospect for gold that had slowly washed down into the flat river bottoms and sandbars of California's Central Valley and other gold-bearing areas of California (such as Scott Valley in Siskiyou County). By the late 1890s, dredging technology (which was also invented in California) had become economical, and it is estimated that more than 20 million ounces (620 t) were recovered by dredging (worth approximately US$12 billion at November 2006 prices).

Both during the Gold Rush and in the decades that followed, gold-seekers also engaged in "hard-rock" mining, that is, extracting the gold directly from the rock that contained it (typically quartz), usually by digging and blasting to follow and remove veins of the gold-bearing quartz. Once the gold-bearing rocks were brought to the surface, the rocks were crushed, and the gold was separated out (using moving water), or leached out, typically by using arsenic or mercury (another source of environmental contamination). Eventually, hard-rock mining wound up being the single largest source of gold produced in the Gold Country.

Although the conventional wisdom is that merchants made more money than miners during the Gold Rush, the reality is perhaps more complex. There were certainly merchants who profited handsomely. The wealthiest man in California during the early years of the Gold Rush was Samuel Brannan, the tireless self-promoter, shopkeeper and newspaper publisher. Brannan alertly opened the first supply stores in Sacramento, Coloma, and other spots in the gold fields. Just as the Gold Rush began, he purchased all the prospecting supplies available in San Francisco and re-sold them at a substantial profit. However, substantial money was made by gold-seekers as well. For example, within a few months, one small group of prospectors, working on the Feather River in 1848, retrieved a sum of gold worth more than $1.5 million by 2006 prices.

On average, many early gold-seekers did perhaps make a modest profit, after all expenses were taken into account. Most, however, especially those arriving later, made little or wound up losing money. Similarly, many unlucky merchants set up in settlements that disappeared, or were wiped out in one of the calamitous fires that swept the towns springing up. Other businessmen, through good fortune and hard work, reaped great rewards in retail, shipping, entertainment, lodging, or transportation. Boardinghouses, food preparation, sewing, and laundry were highly profitable businesses often run by women (married, single, or widowed) who realized men would pay well for a service done by a woman. Brothels also brought in large profits, especially when combined with saloons/gaming houses.

By 1855, the economic climate had changed dramatically. Gold could be retrieved profitably from the goldfields only by medium to large groups of workers, either in partnerships or as employees. By the mid-1850s, it was the owners of these gold-mining companies who made the money. Also, the population and economy of California had become large and diverse enough that money could be made in a wide variety of conventional businesses.

Once the gold was recovered, there were many paths the gold itself took. First, much of the gold was used locally to purchase food, supplies and lodging for the miners. It also went towards entertainment, which consisted of anything from a traveling theater to alcohol and gambling to prostitutes. These transactions often took place using the recently recovered gold, carefully weighed out. These merchants and vendors, in turn, used the gold to purchase supplies from ship captains or packers bringing goods to California. The gold then left California aboard ships or mules to go to the makers of the goods from around the world. A second path was the Argonauts themselves who, having personally acquired a sufficient amount, sent the gold home, or returned home taking with them their hard-earned "diggings." For example, one estimate is that some US$80 million worth of California gold was sent to France by French prospectors and merchants. As the Gold Rush progressed, local banks and gold dealers issued "banknotes" or "drafts"—locally accepted paper currency—in exchange for gold, and private mints created private gold coins. With the building of the San Francisco Mint in 1854, gold bullion was turned into official United States gold coins for circulation. The gold was also later sent by California banks to U.S. national banks in exchange for national paper currency to be used in the booming California economy.

The arrival of hundreds of thousands of new people within a few years, compared to a population of some 15,000 Europeans and Californios beforehand, had many dramatic effects.

First, the human and environmental costs of the Gold Rush were substantial. Native Americans became the victims of disease, starvation and genocidal attacks; the Native American population in California, estimated at 150,000 in 1845, was less than 30,000 by 1870. It is estimated that some 4,500 Native Americans suffered violent deaths between 1849 and 1870. Explicitly racist attacks, laws and confiscatory taxes sought to drive out Chinese and Latin American immigrants. The toll on the American immigrants could be severe as well: one in twelve forty-niners perished, as the death and crime rates during the Gold Rush were extraordinarily high, and the resulting vigilantism also took its toll. Joaquin Murrieta was a famous Mexican bandit during the Gold Rush of the 1850s. In addition, the environment suffered as gravel, silt and toxic chemicals from prospecting operations killed fish and destroyed habitats.

However, the Gold Rush propelled California from a sleepy, little-known backwater to a center of the global imagination and the destination of hundreds of thousands of people. The new immigrants often showed remarkable inventiveness and civic-mindedness. For example, in the midst of the Gold Rush, towns and cities were chartered, a state constitutional convention was convened, a state constitution written, elections held, and representatives sent to Washington, D.C. to negotiate the admission of California as a state. Large-scale agriculture (California's second "Gold Rush") began during this time. Roads, schools, churches, and civic organizations quickly came into existence. The vast majority of the immigrants were Americans. Pressure grew for better communications and political connections to the rest of the United States, leading to statehood for California on September 9, 1850, in the Compromise of 1850 as the 31st state of the United States.

Between 1847 and 1870, the population of San Francisco increased from 500 to 150,000. The Gold Rush wealth and population increase led to significantly improved transportation between California and the East Coast. The Panama Railway, spanning the Isthmus of Panama, was finished in 1855. Steamships, including those owned by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, began regular service from San Francisco to Panama, where passengers, goods and mail would take the train across the Isthmus and board steamships headed to the East Coast. One ill-fated journey, that of the S.S. Central America, ended in disaster as the ship sank in a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas in 1857, with an estimated three tons of California gold aboard.

Within a few years after the end of the Gold Rush, in 1863, the groundbreaking ceremony for the western leg of the First Transcontinental Railroad was held in Sacramento. The line's completion, some six years later, financed in part with Gold Rush money, united California with the central and eastern United States. Travel that had taken weeks or even months could now be accomplished in days.

The Gold Rush stimulated economies around the world as well. Farmers in Chile, Australia, and Hawaii found a huge new market for their food; British manufactured goods were in high demand; clothing and even pre-fabricated houses arrived from China. The return of large amounts of California gold to pay for these goods raised prices and stimulated investment and the creation of jobs around the world. Australian prospector, Edward Hargraves, noting similarities between the geography of California and his home, returned to Australia to discover gold and spark the Australian gold rushes.

Generations of immigrants have been attracted by the California Dream. California farmers, oil drillers, movie makers, airplane builders, and "dot-com" entrepreneurs have each had their boom times in the decades after the Gold Rush.

Included among the modern legacies of the California Gold Rush are the California state motto, "Eureka" ("I have found it"), Gold Rush images on the California State Seal, and the state nickname, "The Golden State," as well as place names, such as Placer County, Rough and Ready, Placerville (formerly named "Dry Diggings" and then "Hangtown" during rush time), Whiskeytown, Drytown, Angels Camp, Happy Camp, and Sawyer's Bar. The San Francisco 49ers National Football League team, and the similarly named athletic teams of California State University, Long Beach, are named for the prospectors of the California Gold Rush. The literary history of the Gold Rush is reflected in the works of Mark Twain (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County), Bret Harte (A Millionaire of Rough-and-Ready), Joaquin Miller (Life Amongst the Modocs), and many others.

Today, aptly-named State Route 49 travels through the Sierra Nevada foothills, connecting many Gold Rush-era towns such as Placerville, Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Coloma, Jackson, and Sonora. This state highway also passes very near Columbia State Historic Park, a protected area encompassing the historic business district of the town of Columbia; the park has preserved many Gold Rush-era buildings, which are presently occupied by tourist-oriented businesses.

Scientists believe that global forces operating over hundreds of millions of years resulted in the large concentration of gold in California. Only gold that is concentrated can be economically recovered. Some 400 million years ago, California lay at the bottom of a large sea; underwater volcanoes deposited lava and minerals (including gold) onto the sea floor. Beginning about 200 million years ago, tectonic pressure forced the sea floor beneath the American continental mass. As it sank, or subducted, below today's California, the sea floor melted into very large molten masses (magma). This hot magma forced its way upward under what is now California, cooling as it rose, and as it solidified, veins of gold formed within fields of quartz. These minerals and rocks came to the surface of the Sierra Nevada, and eroded. The exposed gold was carried downstream by water and gathered in quiet gravel beds along the sides of old rivers and streams. The forty-niners first focused their efforts on these deposits of gold, which had been gathered in the gravel beds by hundreds of millions of years of geologic action.

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Source : Wikipedia