The Dazzling History of Gold in America
July 6, 2023

For more than 6,000 years, people have been captivated by gold. That’s as old as some of the most ancient civilizations. We’ve used it in everything from sacred adornments to currency and we’re still enraptured by this most valued of metals. In the United States, gold has a special place because it has shaped the country in so many ways. Let’s take a quick look into the shimmering history of this prized metal in America.

Divine Inspiration

Before European colonizers arrived on the shores of what would become North, Central and South America, certain indigenous civilizations appreciated gold as a way to reach out to the divine. They created gold objects to connect with powerful supernatural forces, particularly the sun. Gold was first fashioned by the Andes of South America before making its way northward to Central Mexico. There the craft of goldsmithing was perfected by Aztec artisans. To this day, their brilliant and inventive metalworking techniques remain unparalleled. 

The Search for Golden Cities

Some European colonizers who came to the Americas hoped to discover heaps of gold. Indeed, there were Spanish legends told of seven cities of gold, including the myth of El Dorado. These stories lured folks to undertake expeditions that ultimately ended with the explorers returning home empty-handed. 

 

In 1607, the London Virginia Company, a joint stock company, arrived in Virginia seeking gold. They founded Jamestown and discovered hardship rather than the precious metal they sought. So, they pivoted. Instead of using gold to make their fortune, they cultivated tobacco as a cash crop. This was true for many early colonies: rather than relying on gold, they too turned to tobacco and cotton, which would become staples of the American economy for years to come.

A Monumental Purchase

What can you buy with 3 million dollars worth of gold? As it turns out, you can buy the future of an entire nation.

 

After the American Revolution, the United States was in a vulnerable position. While it had faced off with the most powerful empire in the world, Great Britain, it was still a new nation and its position was uncertain. One reason was that a vast amount of land to the west, known as the Louisiana Territory, was claimed by France. If the U.S. could own this land, they would have more room to expand and wouldn’t be fenced in by a potential enemy. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson oversaw the purchase of the Louisiana Territory for 3 million dollars worth of gold. With this purchase, Jefferson doubled the size of the early United States, paving the way for the future. 

The Fever of Gold Rushes

While the California Gold Rush, which reached a peak in 1849, is the most well-known gold rush, it is by no means the only gold rush in America. A series of gold rushes, beginning with the North Carolina Gold Rush of 1799, were responsible for spreading people throughout the United States and attracting them to places as far as Alaska. For 100 years, gold rushes in Colorado (1859), Wyoming (1867), North Dakota (1884), Idaho (1890) and other territories and states drew people seeking their fortunes and led to the colonization of the United States. 

The Gold Standard

Currency in the United States had a pretty wild history, from the early Colonial days to the beginning of the 20th century. The “dollar” – whatever form it took at the time – constantly fluctuated and wasn’t always attached to a set standard, such as gold. Sometimes the standard was both gold and silver, causing a certain level of economic confusion. In 1900 President McKinley put an end to these monetary shenanigans with the Gold Standard act, which made gold the standard basis for redeeming paper money. Finally the dollar had a more stable and set value. Fast forward to the end of World War II. The U.S. dollar and its gold standard was so robust that major global powers agreed to make the dollar the worldwide currency. This made America a major player in the international economy for decades to come. 

Through Boom and Bust

Gold has had quite an impact on the U. S. throughout the years, changing the course of the country’s history on more than one occasion. And though there’s been ups and downs with the economy, one thing has always been fairly certain: gold has always been a solid investment. While other assets might lose value over time or when the market fluctuates, gold maintains its shining quality. 

Let Jewel-Craft Handle Your Precious Gold

Here at Jewel-Craft, we’re crazy about precious metals, including gold. We love the history and the lore just as much as we adore working with the metal and crafting it into gorgeous pieces every day. So, if you’ve got gold jewelry which needs some TLC, such as repair work, send it off to us and we’ll return it in perfect condition. If you’re looking for a custom gold piece, we have expert artisans who can bring your dreams to life. We can also do laser engraving and stone-setting for your gold items. Don’t be shy. Contact us today and see what we can do for you.

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Margaret, Engelberts
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Greg, Windsor Jewelers
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I am a goldsmith but do not have all of the tools and time to do my own custom work, so I work directly with Jewel Craft to make it easy for me and perfect for my clients. If I need a shank that is 2.35mm wide and provide my own diamonds, Jewel Craft follows all of my design details and makes the ring 2.35mm wide and sets the diamonds to perfection.
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Carol Taylor, Forever Knot in Jackson, TN
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