Though the ancient dream to brew gold by artificial means was never materialised, the admiration for the gleaming metal never parted with the culture and tradition of the Arab people. Many centuries later, the love for gold would produce effects the alchemists would have only dreamed about. A modern proof of this, the Dubai Gold and Diamond Park, this luxurious variant of a gold souk is the latest addition to the venue of the visually pleasing metal. Just off the highway between interchanges 3 and 4 on Sheikh Zayd Road, its Arabic style façade seems not too different from many others around. Enter inside however, and an array of exquisite glitter strikes the eye. A multitude of jewellery shops exude a delicate sparkling display, reinforcing Dubai’s image as a leader in the industry of gold. The City of Gold, as the emirate markets itself, has become an established trademark. But what is in gold that renders it supreme to have such a modern city proudly make it its symbol?

Gold’s Glowing History

   The oldest precious metal known to man, gold’s gleaming texture caught his attention in the earliest of times. No one can quite determine the date of mankind’s first encounter, and consequent obsession, with the fascinating metal. Artefacts found in Spanish caves suggest Paleolithic man used it as far back as 40,000 BC. Discoveries of more recent epochs reveal gold was a symbol of divinity, royalty, and beauty throughout history.

   The making of jewellery from gold can be traced into history some five to six thousand years ago. Chains, rings, earrings, and all sorts of charms have been part of divine and royal life enhancement. Highly malleable, the precious metal was easily workable, ensuring a relatively smooth moulding process. The great ancient civilizations developed skilful gold artistic traditions. Pharaohs used the relic metal for beautification in ancient Egypt. Greece and Rome too, produced a splendid legacy of golden treasures. Likewise, in eastern civilizations such as those in China and India, gold has been made into articles of ornamentation and into religious icons. Later, during the Middle Ages, the metal found widespread use in Europe for crosses, altars, doors, chalices, and reliquaries. Then came Columbus's discovery of America, which opened an era of gold production the world had not seen to that time. It prompted many to leave for the new world in search of golden riches. A few hundred years later, history witnessed the most famous gold craze in the California gold rush of 1848.

   Today, nearly half of the world's gold is kept by governments and central banks. All countries still regard it as a medium of international payment. Its inimitable virtues have made it the sole stuff accepted globally in exchange for goods and services. In the form of coins or gold bars, gold has been used as a high-denomination currency. It backed paper-currency systems when they became common in the 19th century, and from the 1870s until World War I gold made the basis for the world's currencies. After 1980, gold's formal importance in the international monetary system became obsolete, but the metal is still greatly valued as a reserve asset.

   The presence of gold has indeed made a remarkable impact on the human psyche. Freud, father of psychoanalysis, would argue that our interest in gold has to do with the erotic fantasies of early childhood. A less ambitious presumption simply maintains that the passion for gold comes from the combining of visually pleasing features with scarcity. Indeed, gold is so rare that world steel production for one hour is more than all the gold ever found. The effect of gold is also built up due to its permanence, as virtually all of the yellow metal ever mined is still in existence. Putting it all together, gold is the only precious metal to provide shimmering beauty, high malleability, rarity, and virtual indestructibility. No wonder the passion for gold has been verbalised in the famous saying, “More men have been knocked off balance by gold than by love!”


The Karat System

   The fineness, or purity, of gold is usually expressed in karats, which represent content parts of gold per 24. By this system, pure gold is expressed as 24 karats fine or just as 24K. Pure gold in commercial use is actually 99.95 to fine, but is technically considered 100 percent. The gold content of any gold article depends on the proportion of pure gold it contains. The most popular standard for jewellery gold content is 24 K or pure gold, 18K or 75% gold, 14K or 58.33% gold, and 10K or 41.67% gold.

   In history, the karat system was named after a medieval coin known as a mark. One mark weighed 24 karats. Pure gold was mixed with other metals such as copper in the making of this type of coin, as gold by itself was very soft for such use. When additives were present, a harder alloy was produced, and the purity of the resulting coin was specified according to the proportion of its karat weight that was essentially contributed by gold.

   Pure 24K gold displays the distinctive warm “golden” colour of the unmixed metal, and its shade is alterable only if the purity is decreased. Specific tints are the result of adding in various proportions of other metals, which at the same time increase hardness of gold products. Thus, all the shades of yellow and different degrees of reds, whites, and even greens are achievable. Silver, for example, has the effect of making the alloy greenish-yellow to white. Increased proportion of copper produces a rather red glowing texture. Nickel acts as a whitening substance on gold. In fact, what is known as “white gold” is nothing more than gold mixed with nickel.

Jewellery Making

Indubitably, jewellery is the principal end use for gold. Two-thirds of the metal mined annually goes into the making of jewellery, amounting to over 3,100 tonnes. Due to its easy workability, gold can be hammered so thin that sunlight can shine through it. The options for creative expression are therefore almost endless. One of three types of techniques is employed in the process of jewellery making. The "lost wax" technique, or investment casting, was developed more than 4,000 years ago. It enabled the jewellery maker, and still does so, to make exact replicas of an item. This technique is the most often used one, making for about sixty percent of all gold jewellery produced. The method consists of an article being replicated by forcing moulted gold in to a mould. It duplicates jewellery quickly and precisely. Since its invention, investment casting has transformed the designing and making of jewellery as it can cast an item much less expensively than if it were individually manufactured.

   Chain making is a different technique. In the process, loops of gold wire are joined to create a chain, shaped in such a way as to allow flexibility. Although hand-made gold chains are widely available, computerized machines are beginning to take over and are fabricating a wide variety of different designs.

   Another method is known as stamping, or die-striking. By this approach, pieces of jewellery are pressed out, entirely or in part, by driving hardened steel dies of different forms into a leaf of gold in a stamping motion. This process is also generally used for mass production of a particular design or shape. Cleaning and polishing is the last step in jewellery making, and it applies to all of the above methods.

Dubai – City of Gold

   The city of Dubai has become popular for the superiority of the gold that can be found here. The marvellous metal has been one of the emirate’s earliest objects of trade. Clearly the gold trading hub of the Middle East and India region today, Dubai started out as a historical focal point on the international gold trading routes. Ever since, the emirate has been building up to its present image, earning popularity for its quality products and for the shrewdness in its re-export activity to regional markets. It is one of the biggest physical re-distributors of gold, and the fastest developing gold centre in the world. Every year Dubai imports on an average three hundred tons of gold.

   Harbouring traditional charm, the Dubai Gold Souk remains the most energetic gold retail marketplace. Owing to the emirate’s free trade policy with virtually no taxes, gold jewellery from the main producing centres is offered at competitive prices lower than retailers’ prices in these centres. The principal attitude expressed at the Dubai Gold Souk is one of low profit margins and high volumes. The result is the least expensive gold jewellery one can reasonably wish for. Outstanding quality and seemingly endless variety is on display on all sides, making for an amazing exhibit of gold that can only be witnessed here. Approximately 10 tons of gold is constantly present at the souk. It is available in every possible shape and design, from rings and necklaces to bracelets to simple gold bars. More than a couple of hundred shops and over a hundred wholesale stores are all located within a walkabout of some fifteen minutes.

   The new addition of the Gold and Diamond Park was created to expand the gold and diamond market scene. The site accommodates prominent regional and international jewellery makers and traders. The jewellery is hallmarked as a sign of originality and indisputable quality. All facilities are set to make it a key global-scale location for the gold and diamond jewellery-making industry. Together, the Gold and Diamond Park and the traditional Gold Souk pledge a truly “golden” future for the City of Gold. Indeed, basing its image upon the ardour for gold, Dubai has played an especially strong card. More importantly, living up to this image, the emirate is faithful to its gold-intertwined heritage. If only those alchemists could have imagined.


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