THE THIRD PLANET
E. R. SWANSON – spring 2009
GOLD AND SILVER
There are about 30 metallic elements, and all of them are useful to some degree.
Iron is an element used to make steel, the “backbone of industry”.
There are a whole
host of metals like nickel, manganese, titanium, molybdenum, etc. that are commonly
alloyed with iron to make various steels of desired strength or hardness, or to make the
steel corrosion resistant or capable of bending without breaking like that in a spring.
Uranium atoms can be encouraged to split (fission), a process that produces heat for the
generation of electricity.
Copper is used to transmit that electricity, aluminum containers
hold our beverages, platinum catalysts clean the air, make fertilizers, increase the octane
rating of gasoline, and put extra hydrogen (hydrogenate) into lard to name just a few of
Why then, should we spend time talking about two of the less useful
metals, gold and silver?
To be fair, gold and silver are not completely useless.
these metals may not do any of the things mentioned above, people will accept gold and
silver to pay for having these things done.
Gold has an attractive yellow color, it is very
heavy, extremely soft, chemically inert, gold commonly occurs in the native state and it
is very rare.
Gold’s properties make it among the most desirable of metals and its rarity
ensures that gold remains valuable.
Everyone wants something that they can’t have.
Gold has, therefore, intrinsic or natural value.
It is valuable because people think that it
It will remain valuable as long a people continue to think that it is valuable.
People want it, they search for it, they kill or die for it, they lust after and hoard it and
much history surrounds this heavy, yellow metal.
History of Gold and Silver in U.S.
Southern Appalachian Gold
There were already legendary silver and gold mining camps in Latin America
when the British established their settlements at Roanoke in 1584 and Jamestown in
These settlements, in fact, were founded in part because of the hope of finding
gold, but the settlers sent back only worthless rocks and tobacco.
The Roanoke settlers
disappeared with almost no trace, and there was no trace of gold at Jamestown, but that
didn’t stop the guys for looking.
Letters still exist from wives writing back home and
complaining about the men-folk out search for gold and neglecting to tend the fields.
Ultimately, some gold was found in the northern part of the Americas, but its first
discovery would have to wait another two centuries.
In 1799, 12-year-old Conrad Reed found a 17-pound gold nugget in Meadow
Creek just east of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The boy lugged the specimen home to his
father who, not fully appreciating his son’s find, used the heavy rock as a doorstop until
1802 and then sold for $3.50 (it would be worth about a quarter of a million dollars
The recognition that Reed’s rock was made of gold started the first gold rush in