Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Millennium Point

The gold in wedding bands and what will make Meghan Markle’s ring different

Image credit: Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA Wire

What is it about gold? What is it that fascinates us so much? Every culture, in every age, just about anywhere in the world, prizes the element. It’s been mined, worked, worn, loved, borrowed, fought over, buried, recycled, stolen and just about anything else you can think of for thousands of years. It’s even been eaten. E&T’s special gold coverage looks at many of these aspects and more.

I admit I have tended to think of gold as an over-rated precious metal, generally preferring the cleaner whiteness of silver or the purity of platinum. It can be just a little, well, vulgar. That’s probably because it is the choice of the ostentatious. When billionaires or dictators want to flaunt their wealth or power they don’t usually yearn for tin or aluminium, they go straight to gold for their bathroom makeovers or huge selfie-statues.

Yet gold can be so much more. In our special gold coverage we learn that it can be woven into antennas for communications satellites, underpin economies or even help with a potential cure for cancer. It’s fascinating, strange stuff.

Scientists are just now learning more about where gold came from in the first place. Observations of distant galaxies millions of years ago indicate that heavy elements like gold or platinum were cinders made in the billion-degree remnants of merging neutron stars. Why there is so much gold relatively accessible near the surface of the Earth remains a bit of a mystery, though.

Much of gold’s recent life story is also secret history and that is a problem. Gold is bought, sold, stolen, melted down, reformed and on and on over hundreds or thousands of years. So your wedding ring might contain gold from ancient Egypt, mined by slaves, or even Nazi gold. A scary thought, but there’s simply no way of knowing. Meghan Markle is just one bride looking forward to ‘ethical gold’ this year and the manufacturing industry is concerned too. Josh Loeb finds why it’s so hard to achieve and looks at efforts to trace and audit newly mined gold.

It would all be a whole lot simpler if we could make gold. That’s just what alchemists spent so much effort trying to do, without much luck – but they made some surprising breakthroughs along the way.

Muppet Labs nearly succeeded where so many scientists had failed. “For centuries alchemists have laboured in vain trying to turn lead into gold. Woo-hoo! That would be so snazzy!” enthuses Dr Bunsen Honeydew, showing rare emotion about his alchemy machine. “Now this machine cannot turn lead into gold but it can do the next best thing: it can turn gold into cottage cheese...”

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