‘All the gold ever mined would fit into 3.27 Olympic sized swimming pools…’
I came across this fun fact after losing myself in a deep Google hole, with the search ‘what makes metals precious?’ Surely this couldn't possibly be true? Surely, more gold has been mined than the sum of three large swimming pools? Well, it turns out to be correct and it made me think about the preciousness of jewellery. I came to the conclusion that there are two (rather obvious) contributing factors why precious metals are special to us… Number one, it turns out they are considerably rarer than I would have thought. Number two, humans have constructed a value system around them.
Although this isn’t exactly a revolutionary finding, I think the history and information surrounding both these factors is really interesting…
Precious metals are rare because…
A metal is only considered precious if it is naturally occurring in nature. Gold, Silver, Platinum, and Palladium are found in the Earth's crust, but they aren’t easy to find, making them rare and, therefore, precious. Copper is sometimes mistaken as a precious metal because of its use in jewellery and currency, but there is an abundance of it making it too common to count as precious.
Aluminium used to be considered a precious metal because it was so difficult to mine and refine. At one time it was more expensive than gold, but nowadays it’s easy to find, so lost its status when modern mining techniques were introduced.
Precious metals are valuable because...
The earliest form of metal currency did not consist of coins, but of un-minted metal rings, ornaments or weapons, used by the Egyptian, Chaldean and Assyrian empires. Adorning one's self with rare metals was a way to show stature and wealth. One of the earliest known coins, the Lydian Lions, was made of electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver but of variable precious metal value. Gold has been used as currency in almost every major civilisation in history. Even today, Gold bullion is still used as a hedge for investors in times of economic instability.
Gold and silver are now also vital to the electronics industry while the majority of the palladium and platinum produced today is snapped up by automobile manufacturers to produce catalytic converters.
So, all in all, the rarity of precious metals has given them an embedded societal value that has evolved over time. Modern applications have added to that value. Like the Egyptians, some people still wear jewellery to demonstrate wealth and status, but it often has an even greater social value - we wear it to make us feel good, we take care of it, own it for a long time, it often inherits sentimental value and then we pass it on. At Meta- Studio we add to this value by using important data to influence the designs of our pieces - jewellery, to us, is more more precious and valuable than the sum of its raw materials.