General Question

cadetjoecool's avatar

Why do we value minerals like silver and gold?

Asked by cadetjoecool (215 points ) April 28th, 2012 from iPhone

This probably sounds dumb, but here it is anyway.

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12 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

Pretty. Rare (relatively). Useful.

TexasDude's avatar

Both have industrial and ornamental uses. The latter are obvious, but silver and gold are used in computer parts and machinery. Coupled with the expense of extracting them, this makes these metals valuable.

Trillian's avatar

Shiny. I want to put it in my nest!

El_Cadejo's avatar

Ohhhhhhhh shinnnny

Jeruba's avatar

Gold is beautiful and does not rust or tarnish, and it can be shaped into gorgeous ornamental forms.

Silver has similar properties, although it does tarnish.

Rarity and desirability affect their value. Value is, after all, not inherent but a quality assigned to them by people.

SavoirFaire's avatar

It just seems to be habit at this point. Money has to be difficult to duplicate or else it loses its usefulness. As such, using rare materials engraved with complicated designs made perfect sense for a long time. Gold and silver thus became associated with wealth, and so jewelry made of them became popular as a form of conspicuous consumption. Nowadays, however, we use special papers and inks (again, with hard to replicate designs). These are of just as much value as gold and silver in terms of their usefulness for legal tender, but they can’t really be worn. Thus the metals have retained their historical preciousness. Industrial uses can’t really justify current prices, so it seems that gold and silver remain valuable for no other reason than because we continue to value them. It’s a bit silly when you look at this way.

YARNLADY's avatar

Beautiful, but rare, therefore valuable.

laureth's avatar

It’s sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Other people want bits of them, so if you have some, they are valuable because they’re in demand. Because they’re in demand and therefore valuable, other people want bits of them. Likewise, if nobody wanted precious metals anymore, you wouldn’t be able to trade them, because no one would want them, because no one else wanted them. ;)

filmfann's avatar

Look at the periodic table, and you will find Gold and Silver near the center. What that means is that they are not magnetic, and don’t rust.

cazzie's avatar

This is weird. We were just talking about this at Science Friday. Did you know that Aluminium was considered even MORE precious before modern day industrial methods for extraction were invented? When Napoleon was expecting the really important guests, he put away his gold plated and silver service and took out his aluminium one.

It is the rarity and longevity of the minerals that we tend to value. Our civilisations have been known by the metal they valued and left behind. The Iron Age, The Bronze Age, The Copper Culture. The procurement and use of metals and minerals define culture.

The discussion at Science Friday was about the very real plans to begin mining asteroids. Most are made up of iron and nickel, but they are sure they will find things like gold, platinum and silver as well. This led to discussions about precious metal markets and what will happen to their value and how disastrous would it really be if the market was suddenly flooded with cheap silver or nickel. The futures market would probably see in an initial boost in trading as they speculate on the success of the missions, but I’m sure it would all end up like Napoleon’s aluminium serving set.

Haleth's avatar

Silver and gold, silver and gold/ means so much more when we see/ silver and gold decorations/ on every Christmas tree. I love those old claymation Christmas specials.

tranquilsea's avatar

Perceived scarcity.

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