You may think gold is basically a shiny rock with not much application outside of jewellery and coins, but the uses for gold are way, way wider.

With the gold price at ten-year highs, there’s little wonder that investors are scrambling to find out everything they can about the precious metal.

 

gold price chart
Gold price movement over the past decade. Illustrative only. Past price movements do not indicate future gains.

 

Aside from its history as a store of value, gold has been used in a wide variety of applications — and demand for the stuff keeps on going up.

Jewellery still makes up about 50 percent of total demand but new ways of using gold are being found all the time — and these new applications aren’t just about gold’s appearance…

1. Gold in electronics

It turns out that gold is a super-great conductor of electricity, and because of that you can find small amounts of it in common electronics.

For example, it’s estimated that a tonne of phones may contain as much as 300 grams of gold — which actually makes it way more effective than traditional mining as a source of gold…if you can get your hands on one tonne of old handsets.

READ: Ever wonder what’s in your phone?

Aside from phones, it’s used in computer chips as it’s a great conductor of low currents — and because it doesn’t rust, manufacturers often use it despite it’s higher price.

2. You can eat it!

You’ve probably seen gold leaf desserts floating around Instagram as hip diners attempt to show off their sheer opulence by literally eating gold.

While the verdict is out on its taste, there’s nothing quite like sprinkling gold into a decadent hot chocolate to show the world that you’ve made it.

gold drink
So much gold you can drink it.

Gold is non-toxic in nature, so it can be largely eaten without consequences (we don’t have hard data on what happens if you eat too much, largely because we write for a living!).

What makes gold leaf possible, however, is the fact that gold is really quite malleable in nature — which means that even small amounts can be rolled out into very thin sheets.

3. Gold in health

You may be well-aware of gold’s use in fillings (again, it’s non-toxic so a good candidate for something you have to carry in your mouth at all times) — but it’s also being used in some next-gen medical applications.

While it’s been used to treat skin conditions as far back as ancient China, researchers are finding that it’s very resistant to bacteria.

READ: More health and biotech stories

So, it’s used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions — but gold is also being used in the treatment of cancer.

There have been a few instances of oncologists injecting cancer patients with tiny gold-wrapped spheres (smaller than a red blood cell) and then blasting those specks of gold with near-infrared light.

The light then turns into heat, and literally cooks cancerous cells.

Neat!

4. Gold…in space!

Remember that part about gold being a good reflective surface and not really corrosive — the same principle applies in space.

So each astronaut’s visor is covered in a thin film of gold, which helps reflect rays from the sun (in space there’s no layers of stratosphere to help diffuse rays).

It’s also used on other space equipment to help reflect radiation.

It also absorbs a huge amount of light, which means it doesn’t blind other astronauts in the area.

5. You can smear it on your face

Gold is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties, while it’s also said to improve skin tone and elasticity — so of course the likes of L’Oreal and Dior have piled into using gold nanoparticles in cosmetics.

Although, it should be noted that gold’s usefulness in giving people a golden glow largely depends  on who you talk to.

However, it’s not overly harmful in low concentrations.

So how could cosmetics companies turn down an opportunity to offer potential customers the option of literally smearing gold on their faces?

It turns out that gold’s appeal isn’t all about being a shiny store of value.
Gold’s a fairly flexible metal, and uses for gold can vary — even beyond uses on this list.

 

This content does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.