In 2012, the year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the year the Olympics were held in London, Polly was commissioned by the World Gold Council to make a wreath. This was a dream come true because she’d always wanted to make one, but as they’re not the hottest selling item in the jewellery world, she’d never had a reason to do it.
So a labour of love began; a lot of planning and designing, a lot of trial and error and many ivy leaves later, the wreath started to take shape.
After five months the magnificent finished product made its first appearance being modelled at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the ‘Gold: Power and Allure’ exhibition sponsored by the World Gold Council. What a beautiful thing it is, still waiting in our safe for someone else to love it and need it, but what a happily fulfilled dream for Polly.
During the making of this thing of beauty (and a joy forever) we had a lot of dealings with the WGC and out of these came the most extraordinary facts about gold, none of which I knew.
Did you know, for example, that gold is the most ductile of all metals. One troy ounce (about 31 grams) can be drawn into a wire more than 100 km long? It’s so fine when drawn like this that an Italian artist, Giovanni Corvaja, made ‘hair’ out of the gold and used it as ‘fur’ round a hat.
Gold is also so malleable that the same amount – one troy ounce – can be beaten into a sheet 300 ft square, and it is so rare that there are only about .005 grams per tonne of earth’s rock…no wonder it costs so much! This probably accounts for the fact that gold is one of the most reused and recycled metals on earth, recycled metal accounting for over 1/3 of the supply of gold.
The wonders of gold (which, by the way, doesn’t tarnish in air or water, resists chemical action and is not easily attacked by acids) have been known to man for a very long time. The oldest known example of gold work dates back to the bronze age – c2470 BC – and when it was dug up the gold was as bright as it was when it was buried. And gold is not only used for jewellery, coins, medals (FYI only four Olympids have used solid gold medals, the last one being in Stockholm in 1912) and secular accessories like chalices and fonts, but it plays a huge part in our everyday lives. Because gold is highly conductive to electricity and highly resistant to oxidation and corrosion, it is widely used in industry. Thin layers of gold are used in circuit board contacts where good electrical contact is necessary, and because it is such an excellent reflector of light, including infrared light, it’s the perefect material for shielding the sensitive parts of spacecarft, space suits and missiles, against radiation.
Everyone has seen gold dust in glasses of champage at weddings (or in the movies, anyway) and gold leaf on Micheline starred plates of deliciousness, but I bet you didn’t know that eating gold is a very ancient idea. It has been used since medieval times as decoration on food and in drinks, and while not an essential part of our diet – sadly – it is an inert metal and can be ingested without harm. It is certainly all these properties combined that make gold so useful in dentistry too, but did you know that Sir Winston Churchill had a partial upper denture made of gold which was designed to compensate for his lisp?
I could go on reeling off facts about gold until it gets dull, but most important is the happiest fact about gold for a magpie… gold is mined on every continent on earth except Antarctica – but there are no magpies there either, so happy magpies the world over!