The world carefully monitors the price of gold because of its association with banking and monetary systems around the world. Aside from using gold as money, humans have fashioned it into decorations since at least 4000 B.C. But gold has many unique properties that make it useful for other applications. With spot gold prices currently over $1100, let's take a look at some uses of this precious metal. (For info on gold investing, check out Getting Into The Gold Market and 8 Reasons To Own Gold.)

  1. Pharmaceuticals
    Credited with curing or warding off everything from smallpox to measles, for centuries, the Chinese have used gold as a vaccine.

    Gold was a common treatment for rheumatoid arthritis from the late 1920s until the 1990s. According to the JohnsHopkinsArthritisCenter, gold flakes were injected into muscles, into the veins and even given orally. Though gold could sometimes be an effective treatment, it is unclear exactly how it improves the patient's condition. New treatments with fewer side effects are now preferred.

    One of the most exciting uses of gold in medicine is precision delivery of medication to fight cancer. Microscopic gold covered "medicine bullets" are fired at targeted cells then activated to release their load.

  2. Implants
    Most people associate gold body parts with gold fillings or caps on teeth. It can also be used in medical implants from stents to pace makers because it is resistant to bacteria and deterioration.

  3. Health Supplement
    The Japanese originated the tradition of ingesting thin films of gold in beverages and food as a sort of "vitamin". In India and Egypt, it is taken as a powder or a tablet.

  4. Beauty Regime
    Chinese beauty product manufacturer Umo, offers massage cream, facials, and other products containing gold. Check out their website for the entire line: http://www.umosen.com/en/products.html.

  5. Conductor / Connector
    Gold's ability to conduct electricity and facilitate connectivity has been known for decades. Since the 1930s it has been used in telecommunications equipment from fuses to switches. Just about anything electronic contains gold circuits. The microchips in cell computers, cell phones, even that little locator chip embedded under your pet's skin contains gold. It is common to find 24 ct gold plated electrical adapters and plugs for audio and video cables.

  6. Imaging
    Photos printed in gold produce high quality lasting images. New technology uses gold ink in ink jet printing. High quality compact disks coated in gold resist scratches and last longer.

  7. Chemical Cleansers
    Used as a chemical catalyst, tiny gold particles are used in industrial settings to provide a cleaning mechanism for chemical reactions. It is important for pollution control, energy production and food production.

  8. Sun Block
    Astronauts wear gold coated visors in space, not as a fashion statement, but to protect their eyes from dangerous sun rays. Gold covers many parts of space crafts and modules to deflect harmful radiation.

    The windows of entire buildings, like the RoyalBankPlaza building in Toronto, are coated in gold to reflect light and decrease utility bills.

  9. Industrial
    The ability to conduct heat, add strength, and reflect light, makes gold a popular industrial element. Gold is used for everything from coatings to lubricants to moldings in manufacturing.

A recent search for gold plated auction items on Ebay.com turned up 38,302 items, mostly jewelry & crafts. Also found were: musical instruments and curling irons. In addition to plating, gold can be found as a glaze, thin leaf, and liquid. In its solid form coins, jewelry and sculpture are prominent. (For more on gold, read The Midas Touch For Gold Investors and Does It Still Pay To Invest In Gold?)

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