This article concentrates on some of the more bizarre aspects of this amazing metal.

Bacterial Gold Miners

As mentioned in my previous article, atoms of Gold are made in supernova explosions, but this doesn't explain how larger nuggets of Gold are formed. There are physical and chemical explanations for this, but one of the more bizarre methods that has recently come to life through research by Australia's CSIRO is that it has now been shown that certain species of soil bacteria accumulate the stuff and leave it in an aggregated form when their colonies die. It has even been suggested that this is one reason why some Gold nuggets have an almost organic appearance.

Eating Gold

Gold is biologically inert so there is little danger in eating gold. However, it also has little or no flavour, so ostensibly its use is purely cosmetic. Gold even has its own official food additive code (i.e. E175). Examples of its use are Goldwasser (a German root and herbal liquer named literally, 'Gold Water') through to edible decorations on French desserts.

Cultures, both ancient and modern, have used Gold in their medicine. In modern times, Gold is mainly used for making prosthetics and implants because of its non-corrosive and anti-bacterial properties (think Gold fillings among other more advanced uses). However, the ancient civilisations of Egypt, India, China and Japan all used gold-based preparations as medicines for treating diseases such as Small Pox, skin ulcers and Measles. And, if you thought that such treatments are things of the past, then think again. Aurum Metallicum is a gold-based remedy in today's practice of Homeopathy and on an even more esoteric level is the ingestion of a material called White Powder (or Monoatomic) Gold, which supposedly has the ability to give the consumer immortality.

As an aside: I have used this idea in some of my own fiction with the imbiber, a self-made god who has been eating the stuff for millenia, having achieved immortality and a nice golden lustre to boot.

Which leads us nicely to ...

The Philosopher's Stone

Readers of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling will no doubt remember the Philosopher's stone from the first book (i.e. titled "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in the US). Of greater interest to the story was the stone's ability to prolong the life. However, in the real world, the stone's greatest and most sought after capability was the ability to turn base metals into Gold.

Tipping her hat to real world alchemy, in who's province the Philosopher's Stone belongs, Rowling names the creator of the stone in her story, Nicholas Flammel, a real world French Alchemist born in the 14th century who is supposed to have actually created one.

The texts of Flamel were supposedly much sought after by later alchemists to discover the secret of how to make the fabled stone. Funnily enough, the most famous of these alchemists appears to have been Isaac Newton, the famed Physicist, who it seemed dared sanctioning by the Church of England in search of the fabled stone and other such occult secrets.

This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

Isaac Newton, was a renaissance man in many ways because amongst his other claims to fame is the fact that while he held the position of Master of the Royal Mint (1699-1727) he moved the Silver backed English currency to one based on Gold. It was for this, rather than his scientific achievements, that he was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705.

One is left to speculate whether he succeeded in creating the fabled stone after all.

Sounds to me like there's a story in there somewhere, but be warned that Neal Stephenson has already explored this area in fiction in his book The Baroque Cycle and Michael White's non-fiction book Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer also examines Newton's life as an alchemist.

More next week on a subject yet to be determined.


The many uses of Gold as outlined by the World Gold Council.

Bacteria that mine Gold.

For a fuller discussion about Edible Gold and White Powder Gold including references.

J.K. Rowling's official website.

The Wikipedia on Nicholas Flamel.

Sir Isaac Newton, the last of the Magicians.'s_occult_studies

  "Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer" by Michael White, ISBN 073820143X, Published by Perseus Books Group, 1999.

  "The Baroque Cycle" by Neal Stephenson, ISBN 0099410680, Published by Arrow Book, 2004.

The Wikipedia on the Philosopher's Stone.'s_stone

N.B. Please note that I although I use the Wikipedia (and WikiMedia Commons) a lot for references, this is for expediency and the familiarity of my readers. Anyone interested in further studies should make use of the references where available and understand that the Wikipedia is a co-operative project contributable to by anyone and must always be looked at in that light.

Phill Berrie, December, 2008.