For thousands of years, gold has been used as a foundation for commerce and trade by many great civilizations. In fact, the best estimates suggest that more than 190,000 tons of gold have been mined throughout history. This makes it easy to look at gold solely through the lenses of it being an incredible financial asset – but the truth is, it also possesses remarkable physical characteristics. Gold is a great electrical conductor and is malleable, making it useful for applications in jewelry and dentistry. Completely resistant to corrosion, it sometimes seems like gold is indestructible. Today, we’ll explore whether fires or chemical substances can destroy gold.
Gold Can’t Be Destroyed, only Dissolved
As it stands, it is not possible to destroy gold on a molecular level with any naturally occurring substance on earth. Pure gold is virtually indestructible. It will not corrode, rust or tarnish, and fire cannot destroy it. This is why all of the gold extracted from the earth is still melted, re-melted and used over and over again. A great example of this is the Perth Mint in Australia, which produces well-known silver and gold bullion coins. They host a public gold pour multiple times a day. Since 1993, they have melted and recast the same gold bar over 65,000 times. Throughout this time, none of the recast gold has been irrecoverably destroyed.
The only way gold could truly be destroyed is through nuclear reactions. However, there does exist a way to dissolve gold using “Aqua Regia,” which is a mix of hydrochloric and nitric acids. Even so, this does not mean the gold is destroyed after exposure. After dissolving, it exists as gold particles in a more widely dispersed form.
Let There Be Gold
Fortunately, the fact that gold is extremely difficult to destroy is a good thing. If gold were to disappear, we would see devastating consequences. Aside from the negative effects it would have on the economy, how we manufacture electronic devices would have to be completely reimagined, and we would even see special treatments for diseases like cancer and arthritis disappear. Gold is an extraordinary precious metal that is here to stay.