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Properties of gold and silver

Demand-relevant properties of the precious metals

Silver has an official currency code (XAG) according to ISO 4217.

The many uses of gold and silver are related to their special properties. Gold has a higher melting and boiling point, and its mass and specific gravity are each just under twice that of silver. Silver, on the other hand, surpasses gold - as well as all other metals - in terms of thermal and electrical conductivity, and the same applies to color brightness, polishability and reflectivity. In addition, silver is soft, ductile and malleable, corrosion resistant, tensile, fatigue, wear and heat resistant. It also has antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

Properties of the precious metals gold and silver

Property Gold Silver
 Atomic number  79  47
 Mass  197  108
 Melting point  1065°C  961°C
 Boiling point  2856°C  2162°C
 Specific gravity  19,3 g/cm²  10,5 g/cm³
 Thermal conductivity  317 W/m/K  429 W/m/K
 Electrical conductivity  42.6 x106 S/m  62.9 x106 S/m

Gold has been processed by man for six and a half years, silver for just under five thousand years, i.e. much longer than is the case for most other metals. This is due to the fact that precious metals are also found in the ground in pure form, i.e. in elemental form, which has the advantage that they do not first have to be chemically isolated from ores.[2] For this reason, it was possible to extract gold and silver without sophisticated technical processes. Since they are easy to work, they could easily be shaped into objects of value and use (for example, one gram of gold can be drawn into a wire more than three kilometers long).

Advanced civilizations such as Egypt or India, and in the as yet undiscovered "New World" also the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs, initially used gold and silver primarily for ritual purposes (e.g. as grave goods). The incomparable brilliance of the precious metals and their mantra of immortality elevated them to an almost sacred status. No wonder, then, that they eventually played an exposed and absolutely incomparable role in the decoration of churches as well as in the arts and crafts of jewelry.

Durability, divisibility and rarity are properties that predestine precious metals for another application of great importance, namely as a means of exchange and store of value.[3] For two and a half millennia, gold and silver were the sole authoritative currency, which they are increasingly becoming again against the backdrop of the infirmity of paper currencies (see again the explanations in Chapter 5). As a store of value and an investment, they are of outstanding importance anyway, whether as coins, medals, bars, jewelry, art objects or consumer goods.

Due to its unique physical, chemical and biological properties, silver is also a highly sought-after industrial raw material, which applies to a much lesser extent to gold (see again the comments in Chapter 6). Silver in particular is indispensable for numerous industrial applications, and new areas of application are being discovered all the time. The dynamically growing emerging countries in particular are experiencing rapidly expanding industrial demand.


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[1] Vgl., Kupfergruppe (Internet: kupfergruppe, Abruf vom 01.10.2012); Wikipedia, Kupfergruppe (Internet: wiki/Kupfergruppe, Abruf vom 01.10.2012). – Siehe auch die weiterführenden Links zu Gold auf den genannten Internetseiten.

[2] Vgl., Die Geschichte des Goldes (Internet-Abruf vom 01.10.2012).

[3] Vgl., Die Geschichte des Goldes (Internet-Abruf vom 01.10.2012).