[AS.] A precious metal, one of the metallic elements. It is distinguished by its bright-yellow color, its great ductility and malleability. It is nearly as soft as lead. It has always been highly prized for its beauty of color and lustre, and its power of resisting oxidation (not tarnishing in the air), and for the ease with which it can be worked into artistic and ornamental articles. Its scarcity has led to its adoption as a convenient medium of exchange. Gold is always found in the metallic state. It occurs in grains and strings, and occasionally in lumps or nuggets, and is found dispersed through the gravel deposits in districts where gold-bearing quartz veins traverse the solid rocks. In order to obtain the gold from the gravel or placer deposits, the sand containing the metal is washed in an apparatus called a cradle; by this means the lighter materials are washed away, and the gold being heavy, sinks to the bottom. Much gold is also obtained from quartz veins in the rocks, by costly processes of mining and extraction. Gold is found in nearly all countries. It occurs abundantly in Australia, North America, and Africa. Very rich deposits were discovered in Australia and California about fifty years ago, and in South Africa at a much later date. Much gold is now obtained in Alaska.