Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au (Latin: aurum) and an atomic number of 79. It has been a highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewelry, and other arts since the beginning of recorded history. The metal occurs as nuggets or grains in rocks, in veins and in alluvial deposits. Gold is dense, soft, shiny and the most malleable and ductile pure metal known. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Gold is one of the coinage metals and has served as a symbol of wealth and a store of value throughout history. Gold standards have provided a basis for monetary policies. It also has been linked to a variety of symbolisms and ideologies.
A total of 161,000 tonnes of gold have been mined in human history, as of 2009. Modern industrial uses include dentistry and electronics, where gold has traditionally found use because of its good resistance to oxidative corrosion and excellent quality as a conductor of electricity.
Chemically, gold is a transition metal and can form trivalent and univalent cations in solutions. Compared with other metals, pure gold is more chemically unreactive, but it is attacked by aqua regia (a mixture of acids), forming chloroauric acid, and by alkaline solutions of cyanide but not by single acids such as hydrochloric, nitric or sulfuric acids. Gold dissolves in mercury, forming amalgam alloys, but does not react with it. Gold is insoluble in nitric acid, which dissolves silver and base metals. This property is exploited in the gold refining technique known as "inquartation and parting". Nitric acid has long been used to confirm the presence of gold in items, and this is the origin of the colloquial term "acid test", referring to a gold standard test for genuine value.
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