Skip to main content

Mystery of Gold, Midas Touch, Stardust

Ottoman Gold Coins and Prayer Beads

Gold has been a highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewelry, and arts since the beginning of recorded history. It has been a symbol of wealth and a store. Gold standards have provided a basis for monetary policies. Gold is thought to have been formed from a supernova, a stellar explosion.



A total of 165,000 tonnes of gold have been mined in human history, as of 2009. [World Gold Council] 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.

Phrygian Pots at Great Tumulus of Midas

Gold has been known and used by artisans since the Chalcolithic. The legend of the golden fleece and Argonauts may refer to the use of fleeces to trap gold dust from placer deposits in the ancient world. 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 around 610 BC.

King Croesus, ruler of Lydia (560–546 BC), began issuing the first true gold coins, in about 643 to 630 with a standardised purity, for general circulation. They were quite crude, and were made of electrum, a naturally occurring pale yellow mixture of gold and silver. The composition of these first coins was similar to alluvial deposits found in the silt of the Pactolus river, which ran through the Lydian capital, Sardis. King Croesus' gold coins follow the first silver coins that had been minted by King Pheidon of Argos around 700 BC. Shortly afterwards, in 546 BC, Croeseus was captured by the Persians, who adopted gold as the main metal for their coins.

Electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, with trace amounts of copper and other metals. It has also been produced artificially. The ancient Greeks called it 'gold' or 'white gold', as opposed to 'refined gold'. Its color ranges from pale to bright yellow, depending on the proportions of gold and silver. The gold content of naturally occurring electrum in modern Western Anatolia ranges from 70% to 90%, in contrast to the 45–55% of electrum used in ancient Lydian coinage of the same geographical area. This suggests that one reason for the invention of coinage in that area was to increase the profits from seignorage by issuing currency with a lower gold content than the commonly circulating metal.

Gold coins then had a very long period as a primary form of money, only falling into disuse in the early 20th century. Most of the world stopped making gold coins as currency by 1933, as countries switched from the gold standard due to hoarding during the worldwide economic crisis of the Great Depression.

Popular posts from this blog

Hattians - First Civilizations in Anatolia

The Hattians were an ancient people who inhabited the land of Hatti in Asia Minor in the 3rd to 2nd millennia BC. They spoke a non-Indo-European language of uncertain affiliation called Hattic (now believed by some to be related to the Northwest Caucasian language group). They eventually merged with or were replaced by the Hittites, who spoke the Indo-European Hittite language.

Etruscans: Anatolian Italians?

The Etruscan civilization is the name given today to the culture and way of life of people of ancient Italy whom ancient Romans called Etrusci or Tusci. The ancient Greeks' word for them was Tyrrhenoi, or Tyrrsenoi. The Etruscans themselves used the term Rasenna, which was syncopated to Rasna or Raśna.

Stoic Philosophers of Tarsus & Soli

When Alexander the Great passed through with his armies in 333 BC and nearly met his death here after a bath in the Cydnus. Strabo praises the cultural level of Tarsus in this period with its philosophers, poets and linguists. The schools of Tarsus rivaled those of Athens and Alexandria. At this time the library of Tarsus held 200,000 books, including a huge collection of scientific works.