The ancient Egyptians were the first to smelt gold around 3600 B.C. A thousand years later, gold jewelry emerged as the goldsmiths of ancient Mesopotamia crafted a burial headdress made of lapis, carnelian beads and leaf-shaped gold pendants. Since these early days, mankind has been captivated by gold, and the desire to own it has led to great gold rushes and wars. In 1511, King Ferdinand of Spain declared, "Get gold, humanely if you can, but at all hazards, get gold!” Today, gold is sought after for investment purposes and a strong jewelry market and is also used in the manufacturing of numerous electronic and medical devices.
Gold-mining operations take place on every continent except Antarctica. Much of the world's gold was mined in the modern, post-war era. In recent decades, more countries have emerged as gold producers. As a result, gold mining has become less geographically concentrated and more stable. Today, the top producing countries are China, Australia, Russia, the U.S., Canada, South Africa and Peru.
Gold has experienced some of the most dramatic price fluctuations in the commodity markets. Some factors that drive price include:
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