Gold rush at Chicago's Field Museum

October 19, 2010 3:55:03 PM PDT
Gold is the one magical element that has fascinated mankind for thousands of years.

A new exhibit "Gold" opens at Chicago's Field Museum, fieldmuseum.org, Friday.

"Five hundred and fifty objects. All sorts of wonderful ornamentation ... We have gold bricks. We have shipwreck treasures ... We have the White Sox World Series trophy," said John McCarter, president of the Field Museum.

Gold is valuable for many different reasons. First of all it's very rare. There isn't enough to go around. Besides that, of course, it's beautiful and it's the most malleable substance known. In other words it's soft and can be shaped into almost anything despite the fact that it sticks together like super glue.

"It's incredibly dense. In fact one ounce of gold can be stretched out into a wire that's fifty miles long. So it's really a remarkable substance. It also resists tarnish.. It stays as shiny and beautiful as the day it came out of the ground," said Hilary Sanders, sr. project manager, the Field Museum.

There's a gold room. Three hundred square feet of wall space and ceiling covered by gold leaf-- from just one ounce of gold.

Also, there's the largest surviving gold brick from the days of the California gold rush. It went down in a shipwreck in 1857 and it weighs 80 pounds. The price of gold right now is over $1300 an ounce. Pure gold, by the way, is absolutely unique. There is nothing else like it.

"It's just plain gold. Sometimes you find it combined with silver or some other metal but it is what it is," said Dr. Lance Grande, Field Museum geologist. "It's gold."

At the end of the tour you can find out how much you're worth in gold? by weight.


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