Can Gold Be Destroyed?

July 24, 2019

Image of Gold and Silver Payable Notes

For Millenia, Mankind Has Tried to Transmute Base Metals into Gold.

Despite countless attempts, neither alchemists not physicist has found a commercially feasible way to do so. In theory, gold can be created through nuclear reactions, such as when Glenn T. Seaborg managed created gold from bismuth in the 1980s. Unfortunately or fortunately, gold ridiculous stability demands so much energy to create it that you'd go broke multiple times before creating a mere flake. For now let's turn it around; can gold be destroyed?

Yes. The answer to can gold be destroyed is yes. So what?

To start with, we need to explore what makes gold so special out of 118 elements. Most people associate gold with jewellery and money. Once reason for the latter, i.e. it's use in purchasing goods and services, is gold's scarcity.

As mentioned, gold is an especially nonreactive element. By nature, when mixed with other elements, it remains stable. In fact, gold remains untarnished when mixed with (almost) all other liquids and gases known to man. You could a buy a gold Canadian Maple Leaf coin today and it’ll remain in the same condition 100 years from now. And that is (almost) regardless of what you do to it. This means that we can keep an roughly accurate record of how much gold there is on the planet today. This figure is believed to be around 165,000 metric tonnes. Note that there is more to be mined from the ground, and potentially or discovered from the sea.

All of This is Why Gold Was Used to Back Major Currencies Until the Late 1960's.

Of all the elements, gold had all the necessary and sufficient requisites to create a In fact, as this investigation suggests, platinum was the only other viable option. Silver, on the other hand tarnishes and erodes with high use, by reacting with sulphur in the air. Most other non-perishable elements are too scarce to be used as a currency. With neither rust nor tarnish, gold stands miles ahead of base metals.

That's in addition to the ease by which you can make alloys and shape gold. This in turns creates real demand for it from artists making jewellery industrialists making wiring, and even dentists making teeth alike.

That gold could be destroyed would have little meaningful impact on these particular uses unless we started destroying gold en masse. Where it may play out is with investors who might no longer view it as the intrinsic currency of mankind.

Fact: Dissolving Gold Using Aqua Regia is Not the Same as Destroying it.

Gold does not melt when mixed with acids. Hydrochloric acid doesn’t affect it in any way, and nitric acid only serves to clean it. One good way to test whether gold is real. Most imitations of gold will melt when mixed with nitric acid. (Be careful though, it will acid-burn human skin). If you’re regularly buying gold, you may already have a gold acid-testing kit (bought on Amazon for around USD 20.00).

‘Aqua Regia’ is a mix of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, most commonly in a 3:1 ratio. This is believed to be the only solution known that can "dissolve" gold. But that does not destroy it. Even then, it remains as gold-only particles only in a more widely dispersed state. You could get rid of it it by throwing the liquid gold down the sink, mixing it with water etc, but it’ll still be gold that could potentially be transformed back into solid. In this sense, gold last's forever. Scientists have been experimenting with how gold reacts with chemicals for hundreds of years, and this is about as close as we've come to destroying gold without nuclear reactions.

Can Gold Be Destroyed as a Store of Value?

Although a method of commercially destroying gold has yet to be discovered, and although it would be odd to see it used, gold's market value can be destroyed quickly. Despite  centuries of gold being used a currency and a means of backing currency, it is not a productive asset. Unless you're loaning gold to someone at interest, gold's future value is based only on appreciation. That appreciation happens as more people turn to gold and away from fiat currencies.  In some ways this is not too dissimilar to Bitcoin, which doesn’t even physically exist, but much more established.

If society decided that gold bullion or jewelry wasn’t glamorous or attractive any more, demand for it would drop dramatically. As such, gold dealers would have to lower the price to match this demand. Considering the creation of jewelry is the primary use of gold by some distance, this price lowering would likely represent a material crash. Nevertheless, just as the properties of gold mined thousands of years ago hasn’t changed, the way society values it hasn’t either. Evidence suggests that society’s relationship with gold is as rock solid as the chemical itself.

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