The Strangest Uses of Gold
What do coinage, dentistry, and electronics have in common? If you said gold, you’re either a great guesser (you are, after all, reading an article about gold on the website of a gold and precious metals refiner) or you know your stuff. Most of us are familiar with these more common ways gold is used beyond jewelry. But there are many more strange, fascinating, and unusual ways gold is used today. Here are a few of the strangest.
Gold is non-toxic and biologically inert (that is, it just passes right through your body without being digested, making for an interesting trip to the bathroom). So of course, as soon as chefs realized this, they began using gold to class up an already expensive meal. If amandine, duxelles, or chiffonade isn’t fancy enough for you, how about a layer of gold foil on top of your $400 steak? If you want to garnish your home-cooked meals with 23.75 karat gold flake, you can buy a 150mg jar for $33.99 on Amazon.
This paragraph may have given you an idea, but you might want to reconsider: if you’re thinking about straining the gold out of your bottle of Goldschlager and selling it to us, it’ll only net you about $4.
The gold used in food isn’t harmful, but it doesn’t add any nutritional value, either. However, science has found a beneficial use for gold in medical compounds. According to University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, gold salts are used to treat arthritis, providing relief from swelling and stiffness. Gold treatment for arthritis can also help prevent bone deformity. The treatment isn’t for everybody, though: only about 50% of patients see relief from gold treatment, and 10-20% of patients gain no benefit at all from the treatment.
A 2018 article published in the Journal of Nanobiotechnology suggests that gold nanoparticles could also help patients lose weight. Researchers treated obese mice with gold nanoparticles, and after 15 weeks the mice “showed improved glycaemic control and reduced blood lipid levels.” How exactly does gold help control blood sugar and lipid levels? We’re metal refiners, not doctors! You’ll have to ask the medical experts.
Do you still have boxes and boxes of compact discs in jewel cases piled up in your basement, or one of those zip-up CD organizers in your car even though you only listen to Spotify these days? Computers and cars don’t even come with CD players anymore, but it seems that kids are listening to CDs again. Rolling Stone reports that CD sales increased in 2021 for the first time since 2006, driven by the connection to the music that comes with owning a piece of physical media.
Even more shocking than the fact that people still listen to CDs is the fact that almost as long as CDs have been around, there have also been gold CDs for sale. (You would think all CDs were made of gold in the 90s, back when you’d pay $18 for one or two good songs.) Gold CDs supposedly sound better, but this claim is up for debate. If a gold edition does sound better than a standard CD edition, it’s probably because the gold edition was remastered.
If the “sounds better” argument doesn’t hold water, maybe you can be convinced by the fact that they last longer. Gold doesn’t tarnish or rust, so if you bought a gold CD copy of Dark Side of the Moon back in 1983, it probably still sounds great today.
The implications for data storage are even more important. Because of gold’s longevity, your family photos and important documents will be much safer stored on gold CDs than on standard aluminum-plated CDs. Now if only you could find a CD-ROM drive…
Though he has denied it, President Erdogan of Turkey is said to be the owner of a golden toilet. Back in 2015, in order to draw attention to the extravagant spending of government officials, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu seemed to accuse Erdogan of owning a gold-plated toilet seat. Erdogan challenged the claim, suing Kilicdaroglu and inviting inspectors to search the presidential palace for any sign of a golden toilet seat.
While it is up for debate whether or not Turkey’s or any other country’s president conducts official business from a golden throne, the existence of golden toilets is not. You could be the proud owner of one for just $2,499 from a company called Royal Toiletry.
Valuable and Versatile
According to the USGS, almost half of all gold mined ends up in jewelry. Another third is used in bullion, 10% ends up in coins and medals, and about 6% is used in electronics. These weird and unexpected uses of gold comprise the remaining 1%.
The chemical properties that make gold a perfect store of value also make it useless for toolmaking: it’s too soft to make a knife or axe or hammer out of, but it is easy to work into any shape and doesn’t rust or tarnish. As this article demonstrates, from steaks to toilets, imagination is the only limit to what we can make out of gold.