Gold has been one of mankind’s most revered substances since the beginning of time. Throughout history, great civilizations have built up treasuries of this precious metal, reserving golden objects for their most important rituals and ascribing miraculous powers to it.

The ancient Egyptians equated gold with the sun, the giver of life, and reserved its use for pharaohs only. The Etruscans created meticulously hand wrought objects using fine granules and threads of gold, a technique still practiced today. The Chinese saw gold as the yang of the sun (with silver representing the moon’s ying). To this day, Chinese and Indian brides wear jewelry of no less than 24-karat gold on their wedding day to ensure a lifetime of good luck and happiness. Meanwhile, the Incas called gold the “sweat of the sun.”

In some cultures, gold is even eaten to cure such ailments as arthritis, ulcers and tuberculosis. One sign of gold’s lasting value: it has been used as a currency for more than 5,000 years. It is perceived as permanent wealth as opposed to paper currency and is bought in large quantities during times of crisis. But perhaps the most alluring use of the sun-colored metal has always been in jewelry. In fact, three-quarters of the world’s gold mined each year is used to make jewelry. The metal’s permanence has made it a symbol of enduring love and heritage, and pieces are passed down from generation to generation. It is the recommending jewelry gift for couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

The factors that have driven gold’s everlasting, universal appeal are numerous:

Gold is extremely rare
It is estimated that all the gold ever mined would fit underneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It takes several tones of ore to produce just one ounce of gold.

Gold is beautiful
Jewelers throughout history have preferred gold to all other metals for its warm golden color. The metal also takes well to alloying with other metals, which has allowed metal smiths to create a rainbow of shades for gold. For instance, mixing gold with copper creates rose gold; mixing gold with silver creates green gold; and mixing it with palladium produces white gold.

Gold is durable
The sheer amount of gold jewelry, coins and artifacts from ancient cultures on display in the world’s museums is a testament to the metal’s enduring beauty. It is extremely heavy, with one cubic foot weighing half a ton. Although pure gold is relatively soft, it becomes exceptionally strong when alloyed with other metals. Because of its indestructibility, gold is used by the electronics industry to create 10 billion tiny electrical contacts each year.

Gold is pure
Because of this purity, it is not affected by air, heat or moisture and is resistant to tarnish. These properties have helped make gold bullion such a valuable commodity.

Gold is extremely malleable
Gold is so easy to work with that a single ounce can be drawn out into an unbroken strand approximately 60 miles long. It can be melted or shaped to create any design.