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Physical and chemical characteristics
Latin name Aurum (Au)
Group in Mendeleev's periodic table I
Atomic number 79
Description A precious yellow metal, malleable.
Atomic weight 196.9665
Density 19.32 g/cm3
Melting point t 1,064 °С
Chemical activity Chemically rather inert, exposure to air does not change it in any way, even when heated. Pure gold is extremely soft, liable to swift abrasion, and products made from it are vulnerable to crushing and tearing.

Gold was the first metal to be discovered by man, and is most commonly found in its virgin state, both in core and disseminated deposits. The understanding of what constitutes a nugget in terms of weight or size has changed in the course of time. For example, in the 1954 edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, it is defined as being of 5g or greater in weight, whereas nowadays a nugget can be anything exceeding a weight of 1g. The “Great Triangle” nugget, found in Russia in 1842 in the southern Urals and now kept in the Diamond Reserve, has a weight of 36,015.7g, and a grade of 900.6.

Natural gold is never found in an absolutely pure state, it is always contaminated to some degree by other elements. The colour of natural gold varies in accordance with the presence of other metals and the quality of the admixture.

Being the most valuable of precious metals, gold has long served as a means of exchange in trade, and as a result of this, methods of making gold-like alloys based on copper were devised. As these methods developed and became widespread, they gave birth to what became known as alchemy. The Holy Grail of alchemists was to find means of transforming (transmuting) base metals into gold and silver.