Thursday, June 29, 2017

More Precious than Gold

Years ago on a visit to my home state of Alaska, I purchased a can of "genuine gold-bearing gravel" to be saved as a souvenir or panned. The label said it was "mined from the fabled dutch hills of Mt. McKinley in the Great Land of Alaska" and was "guaranteed gold in each can."

Bob and I decided to open the can on our 50th wedding anniversary on June 10. With great expectations we opened it only to discover that if there ever was any gold in it, it had all turned to dirt!

Sadly, that is exactly what happened to many gold stampeders too. Their dreams turned to dust. Only a few made it rich.

Juneau, Alaska, was founded on gold.
Juneau, where I grew up in the fifties, was founded on gold. It had been the hard rock gold mining capital of the world in the early half of the 20th century, producing billions of dollars worth of gold, but the price of gold dropped too low to make the expensive process of separating gold from the quartz rocks profitable. Now, all the huge gold mines are closed and are only of historical interest to the Alaska tourist industry.*

Gold has long been considered to the most precious of metals.

But how do we know the price of gold?

Twice a day, at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. London time, representatives of the five member firms of the London Gold Market meet in the the Rothschild Bank to set the worldwide price of gold for the day. Traders call this process fixing the daily gold price, which is based on the happy medium price between the buy and sell orders placed with member firms. The price, always stated in U. S. dollars, is then transmitted around the world.

How did gold become the most precious of  precious metals? Here are some facts about gold:

In about 560 BC, King Croesus of Lydia struck the first pure gold coins to be used as an official, respected medium of exchange. Before that, beans, cattle, pigs, and other commodities were used to pay for purchases.

The Romans designed their gold coins with ridged edges to discourage greedy thieves from trying to slice off a few valuable slivers.

In 1531, Spanish conquistadors helped themselves to Inca gold and melted it down into ingots for easier transport. They melted down an estimated 13 tons of gold objects--one of the world's greatest cultural treasures.

In 1827, so much gold was found in Georgia that a branch of the U.S. Mint was opened there. Other branches are found in Denver, Colorado, and San Francisco, California, sites of famous gold rushes.

Gold bars weigh 27.6 pounds, or 400 troy ounces, the standard weight used for international trading. They are also know as "Good Delivery Bars."

The simple gold wedding band, which symbolizes enduring love, probably uses more of the world's gold than any other type of jewelry.

In 1987, it was estimated that about 20 percent of the annual gold production worldwide was stashed away by investors and hoarders. Of the rest, about 75 percent went into jewelry, about 9 percent to electronics, about 9 percent into other industrial uses, and about 4 percent to dentistry.

Gold is so soft and malleable that one ounce can be stretched into a 50-mile long wire. Skilled gold beaters can hammer gold so thin to make gold leaf that it would take 250,000 sheets of it to make a layer an inch think.

About 100 thousand times more gold than has ever been mined from the earth's surface is estimated to be held in suspension in the world's oceans. Unfortunately, the process for recovery is too expensive to be practical.

Before gold is useful, it must be refined. 
Refining with flame is one of the oldest methods of refining metals. Mentioned even in the Bible, refining by fire is the preferable method for larger quantities of gold. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a hot fire with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal. With flames reaching temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius, this job was definitely a dangerous occupation for the gold refiner. The tradition remains largely unchanged today with the exception of a few advancements in safety and precision.

The second method of refining gold involves the use of chemicals. Strong acids (n
itric acid and hydrochloric acid) are used to dissolve the impurities in the gold ore and afterwards, are neutralized and washed away, taking the impurities with them. The resulting product is a muddy substance that is almost pure gold (99.999% or 24K). This muddy substance is dried until it is a powdered residue and then heated with a torch or other source of heat to melt the gold powder into useable gold. 
As enduring and costly as gold is, the Bible tells us that the genuineness of our faith is as precious as gold that perishes. Just as a refiner applies extreme heat or strong acids to purify gold to make it useful, God allows tests to come our way to refine and purify our faith.

 If you are facing hard trials today, just remember, God is not trying to destroy you. He is refining and purifying you your faith. With Job you can say, "When he has tested me, I shall come forth as pure gold" (Job 23:10).

*These old Juneau mines play a part in my historical Christian fiction novel, Till the Storm Passes By, Book One in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy. The third book in the series, Beside Still Waters, features the Klondike Gold Rush.The entire trilogy is now in print in paperback and ebook. See


  1. I enjoyed reading your interesting article AnnaLee, since I've been to Juneau. But also for the application reminder.

  2. Thank you, Deb! My husband and I are going to Juneau the last week of Sept for the 100th anniversary celebration of the church my grandparents founded in 1917. The old landmark of the gold mine is gone now. It was such a prominent feature of Juneau that I miss it. Remember that chorus, "Lord, you are more precious than silver; Lord, you are more costly than gold..." That came to ind as I wrote this post.