Chapter 9 -- Gold & Silver

Chapter 9 -- Gold & Silver - THE THIRD PLANET E. R....

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THE THIRD PLANET E. R. SWANSON – spring 2009 GOLD AND SILVER Introduction 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 platinum’s uses. 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. Although 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 is valuable. 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 1607. 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 today). The recognition that Reed’s rock was made of gold started the first gold rush in
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This note was uploaded on 09/09/2009 for the course GEO 301 taught by Professor Long during the Spring '07 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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Chapter 9 -- Gold & Silver - THE THIRD PLANET E. R....

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