Noticias / 23 agosto 2017
Gold is unlike any other metal, certainly any other element. It doesn’t play by the same rules as iron or tin or aluminum, and its value has nothing to do with its utility—or lack thereof. People valued the yellow metal for its beauty and malleability eons before they knew of its usefulness in conducting electricity or its chemical inertness.
That gold is so chemically “boring,” though, is one of the main reasons why it’s so highly valued, even today.
This is the conclusion of Andrea Sella, distinguished professor of chemistry at University College London. In 2013, Sella spoke with Justin Rowlatt of the BBC World Service, walking him through all 118 elements of the periodic table.
Gold, according to Sella, is the best possible candidate for a currency of any value.
As he points out, we can automatically eliminate whole swaths of the periodic table for various reasons. We can cross out gases, halogens and liquids such as helium, fluorine and mercury. No one wants to carry around vials of a colorless gas or, in the case of mercury and bromine, a poisonous substance.
We can then rule out alkaline earth metals such as magnesium and barium for being too reactive and explosive. Carcinogenic, radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium are too impractical, as are synthetic elements that exist only momentarily in lab experiments—seaborgium and einsteinium, for example.
That leaves us with the 49 transition and post-transition metals: titanium, nickel, tin, lead, aluminum and more.
But many of these pose problems that should immediately exclude them from consideration as a currency. Most are too hard to smelt (titanium), too flimsy for coinage (aluminum), too corrosive (copper) and/or too plentiful (iron).
We are now left with just eight candidates, the noble metals: platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium, ruthenium, silver and gold. These are all attractive as currencies, but except for silver and gold, they’re simply too rare.
So: silver and gold.
What gives gold the edge over silver, however, is—once again—its chemical inertness. Unlike its white cousin, gold doesn’t tarnish. It’s nonreactive to air and water. Add to this its softness, and it easily emerges as the perfect currency. Ancient peoples recognized this, and no one now would have any problem coming to the same conclusion either.