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:

  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 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?)

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    How Will E-Cigarettes Affect Big Tobacco?

    E-cigarettes have emerged as a threat to cigarette makers. Will they be able to ward off this threat?
  2. Investing Basics

    A Gluten-Free Makeover For A Supermarket Near You

    The gluten-free diet is changing the food choices of a large number of consumers, and the food industry is taking note and making the needed adjustments.
  3. Chart Advisor

    Despite Unchanged Rates, Gold Set For A Move Lower

    Despite the Fed's news of leaving interest rates unchanged, 3 charts are suggesting that gold prices are setting up for a move lower.
  4. Retirement

    These 10 States Have the Priciest Long Term Care

    There’s a huge need that people often ignore when planning for their golden years: long-term care. Here's where not to enroll.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    How to Day Trade Using Leveraged ETFs

    Think you have the stomach to handle these volatile instruments? Then read on to find out how you can profit from their wild swings.
  6. Retirement

    Top 10 States for Affordable Long-Term Care

    Every state varies on the average cost of long-term adult care. Here's a list of states where these types of services are the most affordable.
  7. Stock Analysis

    4 Companies to Watch in the Health and Wellness Space

    Understand changes that are taking place in the health and wellness space. Learn about four leading companies that are making an impact.
  8. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 4 Inverse Commodities ETFs

    Learn about inverse commodity exchange traded funds that investors may want to consider to take a short position in certain commodities.
  9. Economics

    The US Will Remain the World's Reserve Currency

    Learn why the U.S. dollar is not in any danger of losing its reserve currency status and understand how China is pushing the yuan to be a reserve currency.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 5 Precious Metals Mutual Funds

    Obtain information and analysis of some of the top-rated and most popular mutual funds that offer investors exposure to the precious metals industry.
  1. What techniques can be used for hedging exposure to the electronics sector?

    Hedging exposure to the electronics sector offers an investor a way to insulate his portfolio from losses during periods ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What techniques are most useful for hedging exposure to the banking sector?

    The banking sector moves in the same direction as the broader market, but its volatility is much lower. The sector's stability ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Is credit a form of fiat money?

    To understand why credit is a form of fiat money, one must first understand what money is. At its most basic level, money ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Why should you invest in tangible assets?

    Savers who deliberately buy tangible assets for investment purposes value their tangible goods as a form of value diversification ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Is fiat money more prone to inflation than commodity money?

    The value of fiat money is based largely on public faith in the issuer. Commodity money's value is based on the material ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Is all paper money fiat money?

    The majority of currency on paper is considered fiat money. Fiat money is money that can be used as tender but does not have ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  2. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  3. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  4. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
  6. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's costs of production by assessing the input costs of each step ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!