The story of gold


Gold was probably first smelted as long ago as 3600BC. It seems to have happened first in ancient Egypt. Goldsmiths used blowpipes made from fire-resistant clay to get a furnace to the heat needed to melt out the gold from ore.

1300 BC

A golden discovery

Famously, the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun brought to light the extraordinary gold funeral mask ­­– a triumph of gold craftsmanship last seen by its creator around 3,000 years ago, until Howard Carter uncovered it in the 1920’s.

The development of the earliest coinage was simultaneous in China and Asia Minor. It seems that gold currency was first created by the legendary King Croesus in Lydia. His improved gold refining techniques allowed him to mint the world’s first standardised currency. With a uniform gold content, ‘Croesids’ as the coins became known, could be traded with confidence.

4th Century

Ancient Coinage

More ancient coinage started appearing in many corners of the globe. At the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, their other outpost in the east in Byzantium (or Roman Constantinople) minted coins with the portrait of their ruler, Theodoric, on one side and a figure of Rome on the other, with the caption ‘Invicta Roma’ (unconquered Rome).

Celtic peoples settled in the British Isles and developed their own distinctively Celtic coinage in the late pre-Christian era, imitating the gold and silver coins with which they were most familiar – the gold staters of the Alexandrine Empire and its Hellenistic successors.


A world first

Here in England, the world’s first hallmarking system was established at Goldsmith’s Hall in London around the year 1300. The London Assay Office is still in the same place, 700 years later, doing the same job of guaranteeing the purity of gold.


The Age of Steam

The advent of steam power in the 18th century totally transformed the way coins were made. Previously, the maximum output using horsepower was around 40 coins per minute: using steam presses doubled that number immediately. This compares to today’s high-speed electric presses that can make over 700 coins a minute.

Matthew Boulton and James Watt invented milling and blank-cutting machinery powered by steam. First installed in 1786 at their Soho Mint in Birmingham, it was used to strike coins for the East India Company and many British trade tokens. In 1809 the firm began to supply the Royal Mint with steam powered machinery, which was then first used in the ‘Great Recoinage’ of 1816-17.

1848 and beyond

The Californian Gold Rush

One of the greatest events in the history of gold took place in 1848. John Marshall discovered gold flakes when he was building a sawmill near Sacramento, California. In the rush that followed, around 40,000 diggers flocked from all over the world to try their luck.

40 years later there was another gold rush in South Africa when Australian miner George Harrison found gold ore near Johannesburg. South Africa went on to become the source of around 40 per cent of the world’s gold.

Here & Now

Gold Today

Modern technology has discovered new uses for gold that would make the ancients covet the precious metal even more. These rare properties mean that satellites, mobile phones, computers and advanced electronics now need gold in ever greater quantities. Indeed, many examples of modern technology would simply not be possible without tiny amounts of gold. Your smart phone, for instance, contains microscopic amounts of gold without which its complex internal circuitry would simply not work.

Gold is helping in medicine, too, where it’s being used to build highly-targeted drugs for the human body. Gold is also being used to create conducting plastics, to make specialised pigments, and advanced catalysts which can purify water or air.

From the mask of Tutankhamun to your smart phone, gold is one of the greatest metals known to man. It never corrodes and never rusts away, not even after a million years.

Eternal, solid, precious: no wonder so many people continue to put their trust in gold.

Contact us


We understand that buying gold isn’t to be taken lightly, and selecting the right products is a big decision. That’s why the team at Rosland are on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Complete the form below and a gold specialist will be in touch. Alternatively, you can call us on 0800-902-0000 for a friendly, no pressure conversation.