Prized among civilization for more than 5,000 years, gold’s role as a precious metal influences world commerce and stimulates exploration. Its symbol, AU, represents the Latin word for gold: aurum.
Gold, the most malleable and ductile of metals, is also resistant to chemical attack and is highly reflective. One ounce of gold can be flattened to cover in excess of 150 square feet. Although widely distributed, it occurs in small amounts in less than one seven thousandth of an ounce (0.004g) per ton in the Earth’s crust.
An excellent conductor of electricity and heat, it has been used as a medium of exchange and is invaluable for industrial uses including metal alloys, computer circuitry, solders and jewelry. It was highly sought after by early European explorers including Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s attempt to discover the Seven Cities of Cibola in 1540, and continues to play a critical role in Arizona’s mining history.
Found in hydrothermal quartz veins (lode deposits) and placer (stream) deposits; gold is also a byproduct from copper, lead and zinc mines. By the late 1850s, an influx of gold prospectors arrived in Arizona seeking both lode and placer deposits. Discoveries made around Gila City, La Paz, Lynx Creek, Rich Hill, Vulture and Big Bug contributed to the early settlement of Central Arizona.
Texan Jacob Snively’s discovery of gold placers near the confluence of the Colorado and Gila rivers in 1858 launched Arizona’s first gold rush and established Gila City.