Gold is as old as the progress of human civilization. When we think of our cultural and economic evolution, gold has always been a part of it. Some may even say it was at the center of our evolution – of value long before the concept of money even existed. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the human race first encountered gold in its natural state. People discovered shiny, yellow nuggets inside streams all over the world. Since then, numerous civilizations have gone to extraordinary lengths to obtain it.
Mining for gold was a worldwide endeavor that started thousands of years before coins appeared. Ancient Egyptians adorned their tombs with gold artifacts. Many believe the gold for these artifacts came from the Red Sea, Nubian Desert, and the upper Nile regions. Mining for gold started in Ancient Greece. By 550 BC, the Greeks were mining for gold across the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. People like Aristotle and Plato waxed eloquently about gold and posited theories on its origins. Although mining was primitive in Ancient Greece, the practice offered great insights into the practicalities and possible roadblocks.
The Greeks made tremendous progress, and by the time Alexander of Macedon died, they had mined gold from Gibraltar to Egypt. Some mines were state-owned, while others operated independently with a royalty payment to the state. Eventually, Greek gold coinage would be known for its impeccable artistry. The Roman quest for gold The Roman Empire furthered gold mining ambitions. They were responsible for designing sophisticated engineering and advanced mining to new heights. Practices involved diverting streams for hydraulic mining, and building long toms, and sluices. They directed mining efforts underground and introduced water wheels. What’s more, they were able to separate gold from rocks by roasting the ores.
By 700 BC, the first gold coins appeared – unsurprising, since gold was scarce, beautiful, heavy, easy to melt, and mint. Gold’s effortlessness made it a natural trading medium. From gold, the idea of money arrived. Soon, gold and silver coins replaced old barter systems, transforming trade in the Classic period. World economies expanded and flourished with a monetary standard that made the world economy possible. During the Classic period, both gold and silver flowed across the seas to China and India. Money had arrived in the world, all thanks to gold. Closer to home, the Californian Gold Rush in the mid-1800s symbolized the gold mania of our times. Governments come and go. Economies crash, burn and rise. Through all of it, gold and its value have remained constant.