Gold is probably the oldest precious metal known to mankind, and over the course of history has been the cause of countless bitter conflicts between individuals (or entire cultures) who were either trying to acquire it—or to protect the treasure-hoard they already controlled.
In California, the gold discovery in January 1848 rapidly transformed a quiet pastoral landscape with fewer than 10,000 Mexican and Anglo citizens, into a booming societal melting pot as eager prospectors came from all over the world to seek their fortunes.
Between 1850 and 1859, miners extracted 28,280,711 fine ounces of gold which today would be worth more than $10 billion.
Malleable and beautiful, gold has been prized for millennia as a suitable metal for coinage, jewelry, and other arts. A single ounce can be beaten into 100 square feet. In medieval times, gold was often seen as beneficial for health. Today, because of its ductility and resistance to corrosion, gold has many practical uses in dentistry, electronics, and industry.
Estimates are that 75% of all gold ever produced has been extracted, and that much of the gold mined throughout history is still in circulation in one easily recycled form or another. Through the centuries—at various times and in diverse cultures—gold has been used as a symbol of power, strength, wealth, happiness, perfection, and also as a symbol of wisdom and high achievement.
Gold is the official state mineral in three states of the Union that have experienced a gold rush, albeit in different past decades: California, Alaska, and North Carolina.