What is gold ?
In turn associated with the sacred, the divine, supernatural powers and even immortality, gold is known since ancient times as a noble material. Most civilizations in fed the symbolic function, made it worth money and it is sometimes even dedicated a cult.
This is probably because pure gold is read-only that he has acquired symbolic and monetary value that it is today. But gold is above all a metal on the periodic table of elements, between the Platinum and mercury, known as 79AU. Its main features are the malleability and resistance to corrosion, which simultaneously allows an easy manufacture and significant durability. Ductility is such that one gram of gold can make a thread of two kilometers, while 10 grams of gold is enough to produce a 10 m gold leaf 2. It is precisely because the gold is easy to work and that it is in the nature that it was the first metal to be worked by the hand of man.
Deposits and exploitation
In nature, gold is manifested in several aspects. It can be found in mineral form, called vein of gold in the Rocky underground or in the form of dust in the beds of the rivers. It is also found as nuggets, more or less large, shaped polymorphic and irregular when it is found under ground or more when she is found in the water. The gold content varies depending on the geology of the land; the average in the Earth’s crust is estimated at 6,000 tons of gold to 1,000 cubic kilometres. There are therefore two extraction methods. Prospectors settled on gold ore-rich plots and are digging mines sometimes very large. With modern mechanical methods, mine took a real look of careers.
They find minerals inlaid with gold particles that it separate according to several chemical methods (cyanide, mercury, etc.). This large-scale exploitation allows a relatively massive extraction. Gold panning, which is the second method requires more patience and practice outdoor in the beds of the rivers. With the help of a beating (a kind of Bowl graduated), the blacksmith collects deposits of a watercourse and sorts them to extract the gold dust and sometimes the nugget hidden. This method, which is also a sport today very ran, is practiced by professionals than by amateurs. It however takes a lot of luck to stumble upon a nugget, and more to unearth a large. Most nuggets weighing a few grams only. In Switzerland, the largest discovered nugget weighs a little over 120 grams, while the largest in the world, discovered in 1980, weighing 27.2 kg.
Gold as a currency is a tradition that dates back to antiquity and Lydia especially. It remains today related to the value that civilizations have given to this metal; melted into ingots of a kilo, it is stored as the value of reserve in the Bank circles. It is very popular especially in times of crisis where it is used as a safe haven. Gold also found in modern industry specific applications. Gold being well tolerated by the human body, it became an important material in dentistry (gold teeth, fillings, crowns). Its biocompatibility rate as it is also used in medicine; It is found in the manufacture of pacemakers and is used to treat the Rheumatoid. In electronics, thanks to its good conductivity and its stability, it has become essential to the reliability of the computer. It is used, for example, as a connector in digital outlets (USB, VGA, etc.) and in the heart of the processor. A laptop has averaged 0.2 gram of gold. But gold – symbol of wealth and power – a place of choice in the fields of art, decoration, watchmaking, jewellery and luxury goods has also invested. And that since antiquity. It is in this tradition that register DeLafée International products.
Gold and ancient times
Gold and religion since the dawn of time maintain a symbolic link. Many civilizations, which however did not trade or exchange between them, have adopted the gold as a symbol of the deity. Two properties of this metal to explain this phenomenon: its yellow color and light radiation recall the Sun, while its inalterability in fact an incarnation of immortality. It is therefore not surprising to observe that the exploitation of gold in ancient civilizations is closely linked to the practice of a cult or a ritual.
Gold in Egypt
In ancient times, the Egyptians considered gold as the flesh of the gods. They used gold in divinatory rituals or funeral precise, for example performing funeral masks that should fix the image of the deceased for eternity and identify it to the stars. Therefore, were found in the tombs of Pharaohs of the colossal amounts of pure gold. The only tomb of Tutankhamun would have contained more than a ton of gold, while it is one of the least of the Valley of the Kings. Each sarcophagus is in solid gold, serious and sometimes set with precious stones. Only persons of high social rank were buried in sarcophagi (and according to the height of the row, the sarcophagus is wooden, stone, silver or gold for the rulers). External sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, solid gold, is in laid with semi-precious stones and glass paste. It represents the Pharaoh in the posture of Osiris (arms folded across the chest, with its attributes – spectrum and whip). Nothing that the Golden mask, that mark the upper part consists of eleven kilograms of solid gold. But gold remains in civilization Egyptian very closely linked to the history of the Pharaohs and their link sacred with the gods that had, in the imagination of the time, the gold skin. This is no doubt because of its symbolic power and divinity that gold was not found, in ancient Egypt, a monetary value. On the other hand, all known at the time deposits were placed under the monopoly of the State. Gold was either mined in mines (Ouadi Hammamat, Namibia, Ethiopia, Saudi, Syria, Mesopotamia, etc.) in the alluvial deposits of the Nile. The Turin papyrus is such a full teaching document because it shows the location of more than one thousand gold mines and is the oldest known geological map. The Egyptians are also the first to have developed any knowledge making in the factory of gold. Some reliefs and murals of the old Kingdom tombs illustrate the manufacturing process, of the weight of the metal until the presentation of the finished object. The consumption of gold during this time remains, despite the large quantities found, pretty moderate; It was estimated in a ton of gold per year (against 1400 tonnes/yr for the Romans). In addition to the funerary masks, there are small statues of gods, which were probably used during religious ceremonies, jewelry, vases in gold for offerings and various objects but which belonged to the State exclusively. Gold, indeed, was not used in everyday life, as currency or material. It is the divine symbol par excellence and a brand to spiritual.
Gold in ancient Greece
It is in Greek Antiquity to look for the origin of monetary gold. Indeed, the most ancient gold coins were found to date were circulating in Lydia in the 6th century BC. The proverbial wealth of the Lydians dynasties, which marked their contemporaries by their opulent offerings in the main shrines (Delphi, Ephesus, etc), is such that the ancient authors (Herodotus, Plutarch) spoke of those to designate the coins minted under Croesus (561-546 BC). The latter was originally also the expression “rich as Croesus”. Gold which constitutes this richness and which served the coins is derived from alluvial residues of the River Pactolus, where the other expression “touch the jackpot.” The creseides are the oldest currencies known to date. If they do not actually participate in a history of decorative gold, they are no less fundamental in the sense that they initiate a monetary tradition that refine in ancient Rome, allow a broad dissemination of the image and will guarantee to an empire as vast as that of César impressive political unity. The currency of the Greeks comes to intervene also in the funeral arts – or rather in rituals – since wont want that we place a mite in the mouth of the deceased in order to enable it to pay Charon, leading the boat to cross the river Styx and reach the world of the dead (the Greek Underworld). The mite is however struck in silver or bronze. If, during the golden age of Greek (5th – 3rd century BC) Gold becomes a major element in trade between communities and empires, is that it inspires confidence. This economic fact considerably slows the use decorative and artistic gold. It observed during this period a democratized use of jewellery, glass, bronze, silver or gold, including in daily life. The dead are buried with their jewelry and utensils of daily life so that they can continue to ‘live’ in the world of the dead. The most important personalities are buried beneath sarcophagus in large tombs that reproduce inside their house. It is in such a set of graves that have been found, in 1876, the famous funerary mask of Agamemnon.
In reality, there is a false attribution. The mask is part of a set of five pieces and graves updates may seem to be Royal. It is actually a tomb of Lords Achaeans (ancestors of the Greeks) buried there in the 16th century BC. The mask testifies to the desire in the emerging phase of the Mycenaean civilization to implement a funerary ritual similar to that practiced for the Pharaohs by equipping the monarchs of a striking face that perpetuating the image over time. But this ritual was not taken over by the Greeks. So, the mask of Agamemnon is an exception in the artistic and funerary practices of Greek Antiquity, which marks a first step towards a monetary valuation of the gold. However, it remains closely linked to power, because mining control becomes a major issue for the empires and the nobility’s family continues to be displayed by the possession of richly worked gold jewellery.
Rome and the use of gold
The Roman Empire will see the implementation of massive exploitation of gold mining techniques. Thus, in Spain, in the mine of Las Médulas, the Romans, under the auspices of the Emperor Augustus, will achieve significant aqueducts in the mountains and relentlessly exploit the resources of the region (they draw no less than 30 million ounces of gold). The health of the Roman economy dependent on discoveries, farms and cows of gold throughout the empire. Since Jules César, gold is at the centre of the Roman monetary system. The emperors are hitting coins to their portrait, which is a capital revolution in the management of an empire and will allow a broad expansion. In fact, the reproduction of the portrait of the Emperor, who is seen as an incarnation in the collective imagination of the time, allows a kind of ubiquity. It is present everywhere, in the pocket of each. It is a founding act of political propaganda. We see arise also from small portraits of emperors in gold which seem to have circulated in different political buildings throughout the empire. Of such effigies were likely produced in several identical copies, as seems indicated the bust of Marcus Aurelius, larger and solid gold also, preserved in Avenches (Switzerland) and there are several other copies, including a preserved in Tunisia. Thus, the Romans consume significant quantities of gold (estimated at 1400 tons of gold per year), but do not make a major artistic or decorative use. The use of gold in the Roman Goldsmith is widespread and women wear daily jewelry, rope, stone or metal. Bracelets, earrings, pendants represent the bulk of this production.
Even at the Court of the Emperor, it does not show a very strong interest in gold as a decorative element. It is however in the Roman Empire, in Alexandria, that will be born a new technique in the manufacture of glass, which will involve, aesthetic gold this time. The master glassmakers of Alexandria, city which has the best manufacturers of glass of the Roman Empire, will create the technique of ‘ glass sandwich gold. It is placed between two layers of glass, a sheet engraved gold which, depending on how it worked the glass, will remain in place or not. The glass can make bottles, glasses and vases more or less translucent and decorated with gold reflections.
At the margin of the great civilizations.
In the lesser-known civilizations, there is also a first quality production. In Costa Rica, for example, in the Diquis region, was found from important sets of solid gold jewelry, which gave rise to the birth of a Museum of gold (San José) as found also in the Peru and Colombia, whose collections are property of the National Bank. These objects have specific and very precise symbolic. The frog is a symbol of fertility and the Eagle represents the vision and spirit. In some tribes, gold is worn on a daily basis, including by warriors, in the form of bracelets, necklaces, headbands, earrings. The fact that this type of object is massively present in the Amerindian necropolises gave places to number of excavations and illegal looting. They are the consequence of the myth of El Dorado that existed in South America, a land of gold. He was one of the main motivations of the colonization of Latin America.
Gold and clothing
The link between the gold to the garment goes back to the tradition of court costumes that takes place at the end of the middle ages, as we have seen, with the dress of the Queen Margaret of Denmark. The Costumes of course have perpetuated the tradition of the gold clothes and found in religious use, in India the habit of dressing gold. Thus the Hindu traditional sari can be embroidered patterns or simply woven with threads of gold or silver, these sons called jari are often used for wedding saris. DeLafée International innovated by creating ephemeral tattoos, which complement a tradition of dress adornment or gold jewelry of gold by the application on itself of the precious metal.
Gold is earned
Outside a symbolic power politics or any link religious, gold is now also symbol of merit. In our contemporary society, and since the end of the 19th century, gold found a symbolic use in the awards, mainly sports. In such a way that the football World Cup is solid gold, just like the ballon d’Or which is distributed each season to the best day of the year. Competitions, Olympic and other medals, better still show a hierarchy of metals, since the gold, silver and bronze are used to distinguish between, respectively, the first, second and third place. Owning gold, it is therefore not only a sign of wealth and power, but, as it was already in the middle ages, a sign of merit and dignity.