We all know that goldâ€”one of the most precious metals on Earthâ€”is scare. However, the actual dearth of gold is surprising, as Jason Kottke points out:
The estimated total amount of gold mined by humans would fill a cube that’s only 25 meters [about 82 feet] on a side. Platinum is even more rareâ€¦ all of the mined platinum in the world would [fit in a cube that is 6.3 meters (about 20 feet)].
No single element has tantalized and tormented the human imagination more than the shimmering metal known by the chemical symbol Au. For thousands of years the desire to possess gold has driven people to extremes, fueling wars and conquests, girding empires and currencies, leveling mountains and forests. Gold is not vital to human existence; it has, in fact, relatively few practical uses. Yet its chief virtuesâ€”its unusual density and malleability along with its imperishable shineâ€”have made it one of the world’s most coveted commodities, a transcendent symbol of beauty, wealth, and immortality. [â€¦] Nearly every society through the ages has invested gold with an almost mythological power.
N.B. In terms of cost, gold is far from the most precious of metals; that honour goes to rhodium.