By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Decades ago, someone (who wished to remain anonymous) found a hearty gold chunk in a river in Venezuela. The individual wondered how much the unique looking rock was worth, so they turned to geologists – scientists that study Earth’s solid matter. After several in-depth tests, the researchers found that the yellow metal was a gigantic gold crystal, with an estimated value of $1.5 million.
The gold weighs about 8 ounces and is roughly the same size as a golf ball. However, it’s not a bunch of tiny crystals stuck together like most pieces of gold. To make sure that it was indeed one large crystal, scientists used a bunch of advanced scientific tools from the government and ran multiple experiments. One of the tests involved a single-crystal diffraction (SCD) instrument, which uses X-rays to determine shape at the atomic (tiniest) level. The second tool researchers used was a high-pressure/preferred orientation (HIPPO) instrument that basically determines which way these structures are facing and their relative size. The fact that the gold is in a rare natural crystal form, greatly increases its value.
Gold is worth a lot for a handful of reasons. For one, it doesn’t react with other chemicals like many metals do. This, combined with the fact it doesn’t corrode (chemically weaken) and can conduct electricity, means that the yellow metal is extremely useful in electronics. The medical field benefits from gold as well, since it can be used strategically inside our bodies without poisoning us. And last but not least, the metal has a low melting point, so it’s easy to shape and decorate our bodies with intricate pieces of jewelry. Oh yeah, and it’s a pretty color, too!
Luckily for the owner of the crystal, the price of gold has been increasing over the years, so the already valuable nugget could be worth an even larger fortune in the future.
Images courtesy of LANL.