What Makes Gold Special?

Gold is a naturally occurring metal. It is prized not only for its alluring brilliance, but also for its vast array of unique qualities that make it valuable in jewellery, electronics, medicine, and food.

Photograph of a small 'button' of gold representing one gram of gold.

Photograph of a small “button" of gold.


Photograph of a sheet of gold foil representing 1 square metre of gold.

Image of a sheet of gold foil that is so thin it can easily wrinkle and tear.

Gold is so soft and malleable that 1 gram of gold can be pounded out to 1 square meter. The malleability of gold makes it much sought after by jewellers and artisans.

Protective Clothing

Photograph of Canadian astronaut Julie Payette in her flight suit, next to her helmet.

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette, STS-127 Mission specialist.


Gold is an excellent conductor of electricity and reflects heat and light. Astronaut’s helmets are coated with a thin layer of gold, which reflects the sun’s harmful rays.

Food & Drink

Photograph of a bottle of Goldschlager, a liqueur that contains gold foil.

Gold is non-toxic, non-allergenic, and has no taste, so it is safe for people to consume. It is often added in small amounts to special desserts and beverages – for that added touch of glamour. In every 750 mL bottle of Goldschläger ® liqueur, there is approximately one tenth of a gram of gold. In 2012 prices, this is about $5.


Close-up of the inside of a Blackberry showing gold in its circuitry.

There’s gold in them there smartphones! Gold conducts electricity and does not rust or tarnish. These properties make it very valuable for use in electronics, particularly in the circuitry of cell phones. There is an average of .001199 troy ounces of gold in every cell phone, which is worth about $2.00, according to 2012 prices.

All That Glitters is Not Gold

Photograph of a large Nova Scotian gold specimen containing 17.7 troy ounces.

Gold, unknown Nova Scotian locality, 17.7 troy ounces of gold.

NSM: 982GE1-1.

Specimen of pyrite that shows the cubic structures it often forms in comparison to gold.

Pyrite, Beaverbank, Nova Scotia. Fred Walsh, Prospector.

Pyrite is shiny and yellow and people so often confuse it for gold it is known as “fool’s gold”. Look carefully at the differences – pyrite is brassy yellow and often forms in cubes. Gold is a brilliant, radiant yellow and tends to form in the shape of wire, leaves, or nuggets.