Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 19, 2012

Rock Doc: Gold is precious in more ways than one

By E. Kirsten Peters

CNHI News Service

With the price of gold well over $1,000 per troy ounce, people have asked me if they should sell Great Aunt Edna’s rings and bracelets.

Is the price of gold going to go up more based on fears of economic troubles? Will governments around the world take actions that change the price, one way or another?

And what value should we put on loyalty to Great Aunt Edna’s memory?

A geologist cannot usefully advise you about economic policy or about balancing Edna’s memory with paying the rent. But the high price of gold has led me to some rumination about the world’s first, extraordinarily precious metal.

Not all that glitters is gold, to be sure, but when I once had the chance to personally heft a gold bar (no easy feat for a lightweight), I surely admitted that gold has a strong allure.

I was visiting a geologist at Round Mountain, Nevada, where gold comes out of an open-pit mine and is processed on-site.

The final step of the work creates gold bars, called “dore.” That term means they have not yet been highly purified, so they can have some silver and other metals in them. But they’re mostly gold.

It’s tough to think clearly about gold when you’re in the presence of a lot of it, like it’s tough to be completely unemotional in the presence of the Hope Diamond.

But here, in the safety of print and away from stacks of gold bars, let me lay out a bit of what I know about gold.

People likely learned to mine gold long ago where it occurred in the richest stream and beach deposits.

If gold grade is high enough, you can literally look down at your feet as you walk along a sandy beach and pick out small nuggets and grains of gold.

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