With gold being so treasured throughout the ages and with demand for gold always steady, people often wonder what we use gold for. It is of course used as money and a store of wealth, but what else is it used for, and what contributes to demand for gold?
Gold has historically been used in jewelry, though in recent decades in the United States this trend has been on the decline. The biggest consumers of gold are currently industry and dentistry, totalling 11% of of total demand.
Gold is suitable for industry because of its malleability, its resistance to corrosion, and excellence in conducting electricity. These features make it an important component of televisions and computers. Gold is also a durable electrical conductor for switches because of its resistance to tarnishing.
In industry, some common uses for gold are:
Hair-thin gold wire connects circuits to semi-conductors in computers, and every time you push a key on your computer it touches gold circuits that send data to the unit's microprocessor.
The cables that connect your tv and DVD player are gold coated to ensure proper conduction and the relay of a clear signal.
Gold is also used in telephones, and helps change vocal vibrations into electirc current.
Gold coating is used on the contacts of your telephone cable and telephone jack, so that you can remove the cable and use it in various jacks with no compromising of the sound signal. This is because of gold doesn't tarnish
It is also used widely as a coating for metal items that must be prevented from rusting.
Gold is also widely used in dentistry because of its malleability and resistance to corrosion, and also because it is non-toxic to the body. Its softness is offset by the use of platinum, silver, and copper in alloys. The demand for gold dental work is decreasing, however, due to insurance companies' reluctance to pay for gold rather than cheaper metals, and the development of ceramic crowns which make gold often unnecessary.
Gold has many non-dental medical uses as well. Precision lasers used in medicine have gold coating on their inside surfaces to control the beam's focus. Gold vapor lasers are being used to isolate and destroy cancer cells without harming neighbouring cells. And military medics carry gold lasers that can cauterize wounds in the field, potentially saving the lives of wounded soldiers. Doctors also inject tiny gold pellets into the prostate to fight prostate cancer. Another example is the use of gold salts that have long been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
These are just some examples, but we can see that gold is not only the most reliable form of money and longterm wealth protection, it is also a useful commodity that is essential to our modern and advancing way of life. This adds to the demand for gold and adds to its prestige as a precious metal.