Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au (from Latin: aurum, “shining dawn”, hence adjective, aureate) and an atomic number of 79. It has been a highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewelry, and other arts since the beginning of recorded history. The native metal occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks, in veins and in alluvial deposits. Less commonly, it occurs in minerals as gold compounds, usually with tellurium. Gold metal 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 oxidizing in air or water. Gold is one of the coinage metals and has served as a symbol of wealth and a store of value throughout history. Gold standards have provided a basis for monetary policies. It also has been linked to a variety of symbolisms and ideologies.

    A total of 165,000 tonnes of gold have been mined in human history, as of 2009. This is roughly equivalent to 5.3 billion troy ounces or, in terms of volume, about 8,500 m³, or a cube 20.4 m on a side. The world consumption of new gold produced is about 50% in jewelry, 40% in investments, and 10% in industry.

    Although primarily used as a store of value, gold has many modern industrial uses including dentistry and electronics. Gold has traditionally found use because of its good resistance to oxidative corrosion and excellent quality as a conductor of electricity.

    Chemically, gold is a transition metal. Compared with other metals, pure gold is chemically least reactive, resisting individual acids but being attacked by the acid mixture aqua regia, so named because it dissolves gold. Gold also dissolves in alkaline solutions of cyanide, which have been used in mining. Gold dissolves in mercury, forming amalgam alloys. Gold is insoluble in nitric acid, which dissolves silver and base metals, a property 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.

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