Where Does Gold Come From?

Gold has been highly prized in human society for thousands of years, but it until recently its origins have been somewhat of a mystery. During the Middle Ages, alchemists were unsuccessful in their attempt at the impossible, to convert the ordinary into the extraordinary by turning lead into gold. If it could not be made, where did this precious and valuable asset originate?

After mystifying us all for thousands of years, we now have the answers as to how this most precious of metals came to be. Gold actually comes from outer space.

Neutron stars

Just like the ‘big bang’, everything in the history of the universe has collided at some point, and stars are no different. Inside massive stars, nuclear fusion is churning out energy until the star dies, and the centre of the star collapses, forcing protons and electrons to become a neutron, creating a neutron star.

Astronomers have recently realised that the collision of neutron stars are especially interesting when it comes to the formation of certain metals, such as gold.

How do neutron stars form gold?

Around a decade ago, astronomers realised that gravitational waves (ripples in space-time caused by violent processes), produced by two neutron stars coming into collision, are the reason that gold exists here on earth today.

The explosion caused by one of these collisions is a thousand times brighter than a typical nova so has been dubbed a ‘kilonova’, and this can splinter and produce heavy elements including gold. These gold particles were likely then mixed up in the swell of gas and dust that went on to form the Earth.

The first time astronomers witnessed a kilonova was in 2017. Using both optical and electromagnetic telescopes, scientists witnessed two neutron stars, produced by gravitational waves that originated 140 million light-years from earth, collide with one another in real-time.

Where is gold found on Earth?

Despite being a theory for some time, scientists now have proof that gold really is created in space. In the meantime, this means that we now know that the gold in the bars and coins we buy were once forged from the collision of two neutron stars that happened long before the creation of the solar system. This then sank to the Earth’s core until eventually, asteroids crashed through the earth’s crust, causing the gold to surface.

Gold is found today in almost every continent of the world, in rock ores. However, as gold is dense, experts suspect that the majority of it may have sunk to the bottom of the ocean, and there it still remains. It is estimated that there is still eight times more gold under the oceans than has ever been mined in the history of humanity, but has so far been inaccessible or too expensive to mine.

The kilonova witnessed in 2017 alone is said to have produced more than 100 Earths’ worth of precious metals. Does this mean that it is possible that neutron star collisions could send more gold our way in the future? For now, it is quite an interesting thought to know that our gold coins and bars are somewhat extra-terrestrial.

This blog represents one person’s opinion only. Please note, gold and silver prices may go down as well as up. Atkinsons Bullion & Coins accepts no responsibility for any losses based on information we have provided. We do not offer investment advice. Please carry out your own research before making an investment decision.