Archeologists working in Ireland have discovered bodies decorated with gold ornaments, these finds dating from about 2,200 BC. Later in the bronze age about 1,750 BC fine examples of gold artifacts have been unearthed. The people who made these articles were obviously skilled at their craft, and seemed to have access to an abundant supply of gold.
The questions is often asked where did this gold come from, did Ireland have an El Dorado ? The landscape was very different in those early times. Much of the land inhabited by these people is now covered by blanket bog obscuring the potentially gold bearing rock from present day vision.
It is still possible to find gold on the surface today albeit in small quantities, streams in many of our mountain ranges contain small amounts. No evidence has ever been found of an early gold mine in Ireland. Today there is a very productive mine in County Meath owned by Tara Mines, and one opened recently near Omagh County Tyrone.
It appears from chemical analysis that a lot of this early gold came from an area around Croagh Patrick in County Mayo. Gold is formed deep within the earth and percolates up through the rocks, it is almost always found in quartz veins, as everyone knows it is quite rare being 75th in order of abundance of the elements in the crust of the Earth. It is almost always associated with varying amounts of silver, the silver content is usually fairly constant in a particular area, it is the silver content that is used to determine the location from which the gold originates.
The early miners would not have had the technology to mine the gold to any depth, the most effective tool at their disposal was fire. When they found a vein they would have lit their fire and heated the rock, they may then have quenched it with water, and then pulverized it with stone hammers, this material could then have been panned to remove the flakes of gold. Another possibility is that they placed their gold bearing rocks in something resembling a furnace and kept it at a high temperature for a period, the gold would trickle to the bottom of the fire to be collected later. This method may not work if the flakes were very small, although it would work for larger nuggets, which are quite rare, however if the contents of the furnace were pulverized when cold and then panned all or at least most of the gold present could be retrieved
Gold was and still is a symbol of wealth and status, and as such would only have been worn by people of rank and standing in the community, in Dublin museum is a gold cloak clasp found in Clones Co Monaghan weighing one kilogram (2.2 lb.).
The Mooghaun Gold Hoard was found by workmen building the West Clare railway in 1854, this find contained an enormous number of objects, unfortunately a large number of these were spirited away and probably melted down, how they came to be there and who buried them and when is a complete mystery. It is probably safe to assume they were buried for safekeeping in a time of unrest, and that whoever buried them took the knowledge of the location to their grave. Some of the surviving pieces are on display in The National Museum in Dublin.
Small gold rings of various diameters and weights have been found, some suggest these may have been an early form of currency, if this is the case these articles predate the first coins minted in 997 AD by King Sitric Silkenbeard by a considerable time, although this 'Ring Money' may have simply been earrings or some other form of jewelry.
Irish gold articles have turned up in locations across Europe, some may have got there by legitimate trade, it is thought the Irish exported finished gold articles to Spain. Others may have been carried of raiders, the spoils of war and plunder.
The sea contains 9 billion tons of gold, it is not economically possible to recover it at this time.
The Welcome Stranger, weighing about 70.8 kg (about 156 lb), was turned up accidentally, just below the surface of the ground, by a wagon wheel in Victoria, Australia, in 1869.
Early Irish gold production was probably at its peak around 700 BC.
In 1854 workmen building the Ennis railway in County Clare discover a hoard of over 500 gold ornaments dating form about 500 BC, many of these were spirited away before they could be properly recorded.
Pure gold is the most malleable and ductile of all the metals. It can easily be beaten or hammered to a thickness of 0.000013 cm (0.000005 in), and 29 g (1.02 oz) could be drawn into a wire 100 km (62 mi) long. It is one of the softest metals (hardness, 2.5 to 3) and is a good conductor of heat and electricity. Gold is bright yellow and has a high luster. Finely divided gold, like other metallic powders, is black; colloidally suspended gold ranges in colour from ruby red to purple
Gold is extremely inactive, it is unaffected by air, moisture, and most solvents, it will, however, dissolve in aqueous mixtures containing various halogens such as chlorides, bromides, or some iodides. It will also dissolve in some oxidizing mixtures, such as cyanide ion with oxygen, and in aqua regia, a mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids. The chlorides and cyanides are important compounds of gold. Gold melts at about 1,064° C (about 1,947° F), boils at about 2,808° C (about 5,086° F), and has a relative density of 19.3; its atomic weight is 196.967.
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