Gold derives its name from the Latin word aurum, which means "gold." The Latin word for gold refers to the element's color, which ranges from a pale yellow to a shimmery sandstone color or a deep, rich brassy hue. Although its name stems from Latin origins, people around the world generally refer to gold by its Anglo-Saxon name.
Gold, by any name, enjoys a long history of human use. Its discovery dates back to approximately 3000 B.C. Gold first appeared in streams and riverbeds. Historians consider gold one of the earliest metals discovered by ancient civilizations. Gold, then and now, serves primarily aesthetic purposes and boasts a high value. It serves few, if any, significant biological roles, but appears in decorative items, coins and jewelry.
Gold boasts several significant physical and chemical properties making it suitable for numerous applications. Its purest form, which is 24 carat gold, features a soft and malleable texture. Gold of this magnitude forms jewelry and compresses into thin sheets. Although less pure, many jewelers use gold alloys, such as 18 carat and 19 carat gold. These alloys contain traces of other minerals, but prove sturdier and more durable than pure gold. Gold exists in limited areas around the world; most gold derives from mines in Russia and South Africa.