This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
5th, They are of uniform quality. Gold and silver are always and everywhere the same. Found in California, Australia, or Russia, gold is everywhere gold. The iron of different countries varies greatly. The copper of Siberia is better than that of Germany, while that of Sweden is better than that of Siberia, and that of Japan surpasses that of Sweden. It is not so with the precious metals.
6th, They may be readily alloyed or refined. By alloy they are made harder, and so adapted to use as money. However alloyed, they can easily be restored to their original purity without loss.
7th, They are indestructible by accident. Fire does not consume them; atmospheric influences cause no decomposition: so that the gold and silver in use in the time of the Ptolemies may form a part of the currency of the world to-day.
8th, They are universally appreciated. The precious metals are regarded as beautiful and desirable in all countries, and among all races, civilized or savage. The demand for them is without limit.
9th, They are generally diffused. These metals are found in every principal section of the globe, — Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Australia.
10th, They are sufficiently plentiful. Not more than two thirds of the gold and silver now in the possession of man is believed to be used as money, the balance being in plate or other objects of utility and ornament.
11th, They are nearly inconsumable by use. The use of almost all other commodities causes their rapid destruction. Articles used as food or clothing, for example, disappear entirely in a comparatively short period. Even iron, as used for most purposes, — in railroads, agriculture, the mechanic arts, &c.,— lasts only a few years.
With gold and silver it is quite different, though the exemption from waste is more remarkable in the case of gold. Indeed, its ordinary and principal use can scarcely be called consumption, it is so gradual.
It has been ascertained, from data carefully obtained in the Bank of England, that gold in coin loses only 4.16 per cent in one hundred years, or about one per cent in twenty-five years.
The following comparison exhibits approximately the great difference in this respect between gold and other commodities: —
Potatoes consumed within...... 1 year.
Wheat „ „ say..... 2 years.
Cotton „ „ average, say . . 4 years.
Wool „ „ „ „ . . 5 years.
Lead „ „ „ „ . . 10 years.
Iron „ „ „ „ . . 20 years.
Gold in coin „ „ „ „ . . 2400 years.
Investigations made at the United States Mint, as by Report of 1862, showed that the wear and tear of gold was only as 1 to 2,400; that is, a gold dollar would be worn out by 2,400 years service, or the loss annually of 1/2400 of one per cent.
When used for gilding and similar purposes, it is much more rapidly consumed; but the amount so employed is very small, in comparison with the whole mass. When used in plate, the consumption is even less than in coin; and a larger part of that which goes into jewelry returns into bullion in the lapse of time. So that we must estimate the yearly consumption of gold, in all its uses, exceedingly small as compared with the annual production.