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Gold History

The History Of Gold

National Mining Association
101 Constitution Avenue, NW, Suite 500 East
Washington, DC 20001


· The chemical symbol for gold is Au.

Gold’s atomic number is 79 and its atomic weight
is 196.967.
· Gold melts at 1064.43° Centigrade

The specific gravity of gold is 19.3, meaning gold
weighs 19.3 times more than an equal volume of

1 troy ounce = 1,097 ordinary ounces
1 troy ounce = 480 grains
1 troy ounce = 31.1 grams
1000 troy ounces = 31.3 kilograms
1 gram = .03215 troy ounces
1 kilogram = 32.15 troy ounces
1 tonne = 32.150 troy ounces
1 ordinary ounce = .9115 troy ounces
1 ordinary pound = 14.58 troy ounces


Percent Gold = European System = Karat System

100 % = 1000 fine = 24 karat

91.7 % = 917 fine = 22 karat
75.0 % = 750 fine = 18 karat
58.5 % = 585 fine = 14 karat
41.6 % = 416 fine = 10 karat
4000 B.C.
A culture, centered in what is today Eastern Europe,
begins to use gold to fashion decorative objects. The
gold was probably mined in the Transylvanian Alps or
the Mount Panga ion area in Thrace.

3000 B.C.
The Sumer civilization of southern Iraq uses gold to
create a wide range of jewelry, often using
sophisticated and varied styles still worn today.

2500 B.C.
Gold jewelry is buried in the Tomb of Djer, king of the
First Egyptian Dynasty, at Abydos, Egypt.

1500 B.C.
The immense gold -bearing regions of Nubia make
Egypt a wealthy nation, as gold becomes the
recognized standard medium of exchange for
international trade.

The Shekel, a coin originally weighing 11.3 grams of
gold, becomes a standard unit of measure in the
Middle East. It contained a naturally occurring alloy
called electrum that was approximately two-thirds
gold and one -third silver.

1350 B.C.
The Babylonians begin to use fire assay to test the
purity of gold.

1200 B.C.
The Egyptians master the art of beating gold into leaf
to extend its use, as well as alloying it with other
metals for hardness and color variations. They also
start casting gold using the lost-wax technique
that today is still at the heart of jewelry making.

Unshorn sheepskin is used to recover gold dust from
river sands on the eastern shores of the Black Sea.
After slucing the sands through the sheepskins, they

are dried and shaken out to dislodge the gold particles.
The practice is most likely the inspiration for the
“Golden Fleece”.

1091 B.C.
Little squares of gold are legalized in China as a
form of money.

560 B.C.
The first coins made purely from gold are minted in
Lydia, a kingdom of Asia Minor.

344 B.C.
Alexander the Great crosses the Hellespont with
40,000 men, beginning one of the most extraordinary
campaigns in military history and seizing vast
quantities of gold from the Persian Empire.

300 B.C.
Greeks and Jews of ancient Alexandria begin to
practice alchemy, the quest of turning base metals
into gold. The search reaches its pinnacle from the
late Dark Ages through the Renaissance.

218 B.C. –

202 B.C.
During the second Punic War with Carthage, the
Romans gain access to the gold mining region of
Spain and recover gold through stream gravels and
hardrock mining.

58 B.C.
After a victorious campaign in Gaul, Julius
Caesar brings back enough gold to give 200
coins to each of his soldiers and repay all of Rome’s

50 B.C.
Romans begin issuing a gold coin called the Aureus.

476 A.D.
The Goths depose Emperor Romulas Augus tus,
marking the fall of the Roman Empire.

600 A.D. –
699 A.D.

742 A.D. –
814 A.D.

1066 A.D.

1250 A.D. –
1299 A.D.

1284 A.D.

1284 A.D.

1377 A.D.

1511 A.D.

The Byzantine Empire resumes gold mining in central
Europe and France, an area untouched since the fall of
the Roman Empire.

Charlemagne overruns the Avars and plunders their
vast quantities of gold, making it possible for him to
take control over much of western Europe.

With the Norman conquest, a metallic currency
standard is finally re-established in Great Britain with
the introduction of a system of pounds, shillings, and
pence. The pound is literally a pound of sterling

Marco Polo writes of his travels to the Far East, where
the “gold wealth was almost unlimited.”

Venice introduces the gold Ducat, which soon
becomes the most popular coin in the world and
remains so for more than five centuries.

Great Britain issues its first major gold coin, the
Florin. This is followed shortly by the Noble,
and later by the Angel, Crown, and Guinea.

Great Britain shifts to a monetary system based
on gold and silver.

King Ferdinand of Spain says to explorers, “Get gold,
humanely if you can, but all hazards, get gold,”
launching massive expeditions to the newly
discovered lands of the Western Hemisphere.

1556 A.D.
Georgius Agricola publishes De re Metallica, which
describes the fire assay of gold during the Middle

1700 A.D.
Gold is discovered in Brazil, which becomes the
largest producer of gold by 1720, with nearly two-
thirds of the world’s output.

Isaac Newton, as Master of the Mint, fixes the price
of gold in Great Britain at 84 shillings, 11 & ½
pence per troy ounce. The Royal Commission,
composed of Newton, John Locke, and Lord Somers,
recommends a recall of all old currency, issuance of
new specie with gold/silver ratio of 16-to-1. The
gold price thus established in Great Britain lasted for
over 200 years.

1744 A.D.
The resurgence of gold mining in Russia begins with
the discovery of a quartz outcrop in Ekaterinburg.

1787 A.D.
First U.S. gold coin is struck by Ephraim Brasher, a

1792 A.D.
The Coinage Act places the United States on a
bimetallic silver-gold standard, and defines the U.S.
dollar as equivalent to 24.75 grains of fine gold and

371.25 grains of fine silver.
1799 A.D.
A 17-pound gold nugget is found in Cabarrus County,
North Carolina, the first documented gold discovery in
the United States.

1803 A.D.
Gold is discovered at Little Meadow Creek, North
Carolina, sparking the first U.S. gold rush.

1804 A.D. –
1828 A.D.

1816 A.D.

1817 A.D.
1830 A.D.

1837 A.D.

1848 A.D.

1850 A.D.

1859 A.D.
1862 A.D.

North Carolina supplies all the domestic gold coined
by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia for currency.

Great Britain officially ties the pound to a specific
quantity of gold at which British currency is

Britain introduces the Sovereign, a small gold coin
valued at one pound sterling

Heinrich G. Kuhn announces his discovery of the
formula for fired-on Glanz (bright) Gold. It makes
Meissen gold-decorated china world famous.

The weight of gold in the U.S. dollar is lessened to

23.22 grains so that one fine troy ounce of gold is
valued at $20.67.
John Marshall finds flakes of gold while building a
sawmill for John Sutter near Sacramento, California,
triggering the California Gold Rush and hastening
the settlement of the American West.

Edward Hammong Hargraves, returning to Australia
from California, predicts he will find gold in his
home country in one week. He discovered gold in
New South Wales within one week of landing.
Comstock lode of gold and silver is struck in Nevada.

Latin Monetary Union is established setting fineness,
weight, size, and denomination of silver and gold
coins of France, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland (and
Greece in 1868) and obligating all to accept each

other’s current gold and silver coins as full legal

1868 A.D.
George Harrison, while digging up stones to build a
house, discovers gold in South Africa – since then,
the source of nearly 40% of all gold ever mined.

1873 A.D.
As a result of ongoing revisions to minting and
coinage laws, silver is eliminated as a standard of
value, and the United States goes on an unofficial
gold standard.

1887 A.D.
A British patent is issued to John Steward
MacArthur for the cyanidation process for recovering
gold from ore. The process results in a doubling of
world gold output over the next twenty years.

1896 A.D.
William Jennings Bryan delivers his famous “Cross of
Gold” speech at the Democratic natio nal convention,
urging a return to bimetallism. The speech gains him
the party’s presidential nomination, but he loses in the
general election to William McKinley.

1898 A.D.
Two prospectors discover gold while fishing in
Klondike, Alaska, spawning the last gold rush of the

1900 A.D.
The Gold Standard Act places the United States
officially on the gold standard, committing the United
States to maintain a fixed exchange rate in relation to
other countries on the gold standard.

1903 A.D.
The Engelhard Corporation introduces an organic
medium to print gold on surfaces. First used for

1913 A.D.

1914 A.D. –
1919 A.D.

1925 A.D.

1927 A.D.

1931 A.D.
1933 A.D.

1934 A.D.

decoration, the medium becomes the foundation for
microcircuit printing technology.

Federal Reserve Act specifies that Federal Reserve
Notes be backed 40% in gold.

A strict gold standard is suspended by several
countries, including United States and Great Britain ,
during World War I.

Great Britain returns to a gold bullion standard, with
currency redeemable for 400-ounce gold bullion bars
but no circulation of gold coins.

An extensive medical study conducted in France
proves gold to be valuable in the treatment of
rheumatoid arthritis.

Great Britain abandons the gold bullion standard.

To alleviate the banking panic, President Franklin D.
Roosevelt prohibits private holdings of all gold coins,
bullion, and certificates.

The Gold Reserve Act of 1934 gives the government
the permanent title to all monetary gold and halts the
minting of gold coins. It also allows gold certificate s
to be held only by the Federal Reserve Banks, putting
the U.S. on a limited gold bullion standard, under
which redemption in gold is restricted to dollars held
by foreign central banks and licensed private us ers.
President Roosevelt reduces the dollar by increasing
the price of gold to $35 per ounce.

1935 A.D.
Western Electric Alloy #1 (69% gold, 25% silver,
and 6% platinum) finds universal use in all switching
contacts for AT&T telecommunications equipment.

1937 A.D.
The bullion depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is

1942 A.D.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues a presidential
edict closing all U.S. gold mines.

1944 A.D.
The Bretton Woods agreement, ratified by the U.S.
Congress in 1945, esta blishes a gold exchange
standard and two new international organizations, the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World
Bank. The new standard involves setting par values
for currencies in terms of gold and the obligation of
member countries to convert foreign official holdings
of their currencies into gold at these par values.

1945 A.D.
Gold-backing of Federal Reserve Notes is reduced by

1947 A.D.
The first transistor is assembled at AT&T Bell
Laboratories. The device uses gold contacts pressed
into a germanium surface.

1954 A.D.
London gold market, closed early in World War II,

1960 A.D.
AT&T Bell Laboratories is granted the first patent for
the invention of the laser. The device uses carefully
positioned gold-coated mirrors to maximize infrared
reflection into the lasing crystal.

1961 A.D.

1965 A.D.

1967 A.D.

1968 A.D.

The European Rheumatism Council confirms
intravenously administered gold is an effective
treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

Americans are forbidden to own gold abroad as well as
at home.

The central banks of Belgium, France, Italy, the
Netherlands, Switzerland, West Germany, the United
Kingdom and the United States form the London Gold
Pool and agree to buy and sell at $35.0875 per ounce.

Col. Edward White makes the first space walk during
the Gemini IV mission, using a gold -coated visor to
protect his eyes from direct sunlight. Gold-coated
visors remain a standard safety feature for astronaut

South Africa produces the first Krugerrand. This 1ounce
bullion coin becomes a favorite of individual
investors around the world.

London Gold Market closes for two weeks after a
sudden surge in the demand for gold.

The governors of the central banks in the gold pool
announce they will no longer buy and sell gold in the
private market. A two-tier pricing system emerges:
official transactions between monetary authorities
are to be conducted at an unchanged price of $35 per
fine troy ounce, and other transactions are to be
conducted at a fluctuating free-market price.

U.S. Mint terminates policy of buying gold from and
selling gold to those licensed by the U.S. Treasury to
hold gold.
Gold-backing of Federal Reserve Notes is eliminated.

Intel introduces a microchip with 1,024 transistors
interconnected with invisibly small gold circuits.

1970 A.D.
The charge-coupled device is invented at Bell
Telephone Laboratories. First used to record the
faint light from stars, the device, which uses gold to
collect the electrons generated by light, eventually is
used in hundreds of civilian and military devices,
including home video cameras.

1971 A.D.
On August 15, U.S. terminates all gold sales or
purchases, thereby ending conversion of foreign
officially held dollars into gold; in December, under
the Smithsonian Agreement signed in Washington,

U.S. devalues the dollar by raisin g the official dollar
price of gold to $38 per fine troy ounce.
The colloidal gold marker system is introduced by
Amersham Corporation of Illinois. Tin y spheres of
gold are used in health research laboratories
worldwide to mark or tag specific proteins to reveal
their function in the human body for the treatment of

1973 A.D.
On February 13, U.S. devalues the dollar again and
announces it will raise the official dollar price of gold
to $42.22 per fine troy ounce. Dollar-selling
continues, and finally all currencies are allowed to
“float” freely, without regard to the price of gold. By

1974 A.D.

1975 A.D.

1975 A.D.

1976 A.D.

1976 A.D. –
1980 A.D.

1978 A.D.
1980 A.D.

June, the market price in London has risen to more
than $120 per ounce.

Japan lifts prohibition on imports of gold.

Americans permitted to own gold, other than just
jewelry, as of December 31.

The U.S. Treasury holds a series of auctions at which
is accepts bids for gold in the form of 400-ounce bars.
In January, 754,000 troy ounces are sold and another
499,500 more in June.

Trading in gold for future delivery begins on New
York’s Commodity Exchange and on Chicago’s
International Monetary Market and Board of Trade.

The Krugerrand is launched on to the U.S. Market.

The Gold Institute is established to promote the
common business interests of the gold industry by
providing statistical data and other relevant
information to its members, the media, and the
public, while also acting as an industry spokesperson.

IMF sells one -third of its gold holdings, 25 million
troy ounces to IMF members at SDR 35/ounce in
proportion to members’ shares of quotas on August
31, 1975, and 25 million troy ounces at a series of
public auctions for the benefit of developing member

U.S. Treasury sells 15.8 million troy ounces of gold

to strengthen the U.S. trade balance.

1978 A.D.
Amended IMF articles are adopted, abolishing the
official IMF price of gold, gold convertibility and
maintenance of gold value obligations; gold is
eliminated as a significant instrument in IMF
transactions with members; and the IMF is
empowered to dispose of its large gold holdings. By
Act of Congress, the U.S. abolishes the official price
of gold. Member governments are free to buy and
sell gold in private markets.

1978 A.D.
A weak U.S. dollar propels interest in gold, aided by
such events as the U.S. recognition of Communist
China, events in Iran and Sino-Vietnamese border

U.S. Congress passes the American Arts Gold
Medallion Act, representing the first official issue of a
gold piece for sale to individuals in almost half a
Japan lifts ban on gold exports, touching off a “gold
rush” among investors who can sell as well as buy.

1979 A.D.
The Canadian 1-ounce Maple Leaf is introduced.

1980 A.D.
Gold reaches intra-day historic high of $870 on
January 21 in New York and by year-end closes at

1981 A.D.
Treasury Secretary Donald Regan announces the
formation of a Gold Commission “to assess and make
recommendations with regard to the policy of the U.S.

1982 A.D.

1982 A.D.

1986 A.D.

government concerning the role of gold in domestic
and international monetary systems.”

The first space shuttle is launched, using gold -coated
impellers in its liquid hydrogen fuel pump.

Congress passes Olympic Commemorative Coin Act,
which includes issuing the first legal tender U.S. gold
coin since 1933.

U.S. Gold Commission report recommends no new
monetary role for gold, but supports a U.S. gold
bullion coin.
New gold deposits are discovered in North America
and Australia.

Canada introduces the fractional Maple Leaf coins in
sizes of 1/4 ounce and 1/10 ounce.

China introduces the Panda bullion coin.

The first new gold jewelry alloy this century, 990Gold
(1% titanium) is introduced to meet the need
for an improved durability of 99% pure gold
traditionally manufactured in Hong Kong. The very
malleable alloy is easily worked into intricate design,
but can be converted into a hard, durable alloy by
simply heating it in an oven.

The American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin is
introduced by the U.S. Mint. Treasury resumes
purchases of newly mined gold.

Goldcorp Australia issues the Nugget gold bullion
Gold-coated compact discs are introduced. The gold coated
discs provide perfection of reflective
surfaces, eliminate pinholes common to aluminum
surfaces, and exclude any possibility of oxidative
deterioration of the surfaces.
1987 A.D. British Royal Mint introduces the Britannia Gold
Bullion Coin.
World stock markets suffer sharp reversal on October
19; volatile investment markets increase gold trading
The World Gold Council is established to sustain and
develop demand for the end uses of gold.
1988 A.D. The international media report huge gold purchases by
a “mystery” buyer, later reveled to be the Japanese
government in preparation for the minting of a major
commemorative coin. This coin, honoring the sixtieth
anniversary of Emperor Hirohito’s reign, is issued in
1989 A.D. Austria introduces the Philharmoniker bullion coin.
1990 A.D. United States becomes the world’s second largest gold
producing nation.
1992 A.D. World Gold Council introduces the Gold Mark as an
international identification mark for gold jewelry.

1993 A.D.

1994 A.D.
1996 A.D.

1997 A.D.

1999 A.D.

2000 A.D.

2002 A.D.

Germany lifts its value added tax restrictions on
financial gold, causing a resurgence of private demand
of gold.

India and Turkey liberalize their gold markets.

Russia formally establishes a domestic gold market.

The Mars Global Surveyor is launched with an onboard
gold-coated parabolic telescope -mirror that will
generate a detailed map of the entire Martian surface
over a two-year period.

Congress passes Taxpayers Relief Act, allowing US
Individual Retirement Account holders to buy gold
bullion coins and bars for their accounts as long as
they are of a fineness equal to, or exceeding, 99.5%
percent gold.

The Euro, a pan-European currency, is introduced,
backed by a new European Central Bank holding 15%
of its reserves in gold.

Astronomers at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii use
the giant gold-coated mirrors of the most detailed
images of Neptune and Uranus ever captured.

The Gold Institute ’s Board of Directors votes to
dissolve the association and consolidate its activities
within the National Mining Association, effective
January 1, 2003. The decision was made against the
backdrop of consolidation in the gold sector and
changes in the general business climate.


J. Aron/Goldman Sachs & Company
Gold Fields Minerals Services
The Gold Information Center
The Gold Institute (former)
The Mentor
The Money Encyclopedia
United States Bureau of Mines

The Egyptians, Cyril Aldred, 1961.
Gold – An Illustrated History, Vincent Buranelli, 1979.
The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, 1954.
Life in Ancient Egypt, Adolf Erman, 1971.
The Gold Companion, Timothy Green, 1993.
World of Gold, Timothy Green, 19 91.
Love of Gold, Emily Hahn, 1980.
Archaic & Classical Greek Coins, Colin N. Kraay, 1976.
Gold Fever, Kenneth J. Kutz, 1987.
Your Gold and Silver, Henry A. Merton, 1981.
Gold Institute (former) website, 2004


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