Aubrey Lee

Senior Geologist

Gold is a unique substance with extraordinary properties. An element, a mineral and a metal, gold occurs in nature alloyed commonly with silver but also with palladium, mercury, and copper. Adding to it’s allure, gold is one of only nine elements that occur in nature in its native or uncombined form.

Because it’s so soft, gold can collect and form nuggets in fluvial beds and even be absorbed by trees. Though gold nuggets as big as several feet in diameter have been discovered, single crystals are quite rare and small. Native gold crystals usually form skeletal rounded octahedrons, cubes, and dodecahedrons. Sometimes they are elongated in specific crystallographic directions forming herringbone or dendritic twins. Others may be flattened with octahedral, cubic, or triangular faces.

Gold at the molecular Level

Gold’s crystal structure is close-packed, face-centered cubic – imagine an atom of gold at each corner of a cube and in the middle of each face. Using up 74% of the space, this is one of the most efficient ways for spheres to pack together. Gold shares its face-centered cubic crystal structure with copper, nickel, platinum, and lead.

Interesting Facts About Gold

The Rarest Type:



Also known as “Wire Gold,” the largest specimen is called “The Ram’s Horn”

The Largest Crystal:

217.78 G


Unearthed in Venezuela, the trapezohedron specimen is stored at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Physical Characteristic:

Extreme Malleability


Just 1 gram of gold can be flattened into a 1 meter square sheet!

Gold Crystallography In Pictures

On Gold’s Enduring Mystique

“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace