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Gold has always had tremendous significance, viewed by most cultures as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Since its first appearance, gold has been a symbol of wealth and power. Gold has fascinated most cultures around the world and the desire for it has led to the destruction of some cultures and the growth in status of others.


Gold was highly prized by the Ancient Egyptians. It was believed to be the flesh of the sun god, Ra. Pharaohs and Queens had vast stores of gold. This was considered to be very important because gold was seen as the symbol of eternal life. People of social or religious significance were often buried in caskets inlaid with or made of solid gold. See image 1


The Ancient Irish made golden bracelets and collars (torcs, gorgets and lunula). They would often be secreted deep in bogs and rivers as offerings to the Celtic gods.

Central America

Ancient Central American tribes also gave gold to their gods, usually throwing it into a sacred lake or river.


Many African cultures used gold on a large scale. In most cases, gold was used to create objects to beautify the courts of their chiefs and leaders. Many countries had special workshops used exclusively for the production of gold artefacts. The products from these workshops were often very elaborate and were primarily used for ceremonial purposes. Gold is known to have been exported at different times, mostly from Ethiopia, Sudan and the Bantu region.


In Asian countries, gold was used in varying degrees. Archaeologists have discovered pieces of gold jewellery in Buddhist Afghanistan dating from around the time of the birth of Christ.

China was another country to make extensive use of gold. From around 1100 BC, gold was used as inlay in bronze items and different types of jewellery. Gold craft continued in China throughout the various royal dynasties. When Chinese settlers moved to Korea in around 210 BC, they brought their extensive knowledge of goldcraft with them.

Ancient Rome

Gold was particularly popular during the Roman era. When the cities and culture began to grow, Rome attracted talented artisans who could create a wide range of jewellery, including cameo pins, rings, pendants, headdresses and earrings. Historians believe that the tradition of using a ring to symbolise an engagement came from the Roman era. See image 2

Over time the Romans extended the use of gold beyond jewellery and it began to be used to make pots, ornaments and other household items in the homes of the upper classes. The presence of lots of gold in the home was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Likenesses of the emperor were also cast in gold and these were turned into necklaces.

The advent of Christianity ended the tradition of burying the dead with their jewellery, and for this reason few gold artefacts are now found from the Roman era, except those belonging to royalty and churches.

Discoveries and invasions

The search for gold was responsible for the discovery of America. The attraction of the precious metal led Christopher Columbus to set forth from Spain in 1492. He wanted to find a western route to India and China, in an attempt to find the source of China's gold. In the process he discovered America.

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The presence of gold led to the eventual destruction of the Incan and Aztec cultures. They were plundered for their vast supplies of gold by the invading Spanish conquistadors (conquerors) under their leaders, Pizarro and Cortes.

Gold and religion

Gold is a sacred metal in the eyes of Christians. A gold ring is used to signify the joining together of two people in marriage. Ceremonial cups and chalices are often made of gold. Gold is the only metal considered pure enough to touch the wine representing the blood of Christ. The original book of Mormon is said to have been received by Joseph Smith on tablets of gold. See image 3

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Question 1/5

1. Why did the Ancient Irish make gold collars and bracelets and bury them?

They were making offerings to their gods.

They didn't want them to be stolen.

They needed somewhere safe to put them.

They wanted to keep them for future generations.


No thanks. Remind me again later.