I blame my kid. As someone who used to do gold evaporation for my PhD thesis, I was always shocked at just how heavy it it. We always talk about uranium and tungsten as being dense, and they are. They’re also hard, high-melting refractory materials, so they do occupy a unique place in the hearts of ammunition designers everywhere.

Gold, on the other hand, actually has remarkable atomic mobility even at room temperature. It’s malleable – almost the definition of malleable – since it can be pounded and drawn to remarkably thin or fine layers.

But most of all, it’s heavy. The density of uranium is about 19 g/cc, and tungsten and gold are both 19.3 g/cc. There aren’t many heavier, and these are all about 2.5x heavier than steel.

At my desk at work – well, next to it – I have a chunk of titanium. Ti-13-11-3 alloy, specifically. It’s maybe 3″ tall and perhaps a foot square. I barely remember why I have it, but there it is. It weighs about 67 pounds – metal is remarkably heavy in big chunks.

Well, that same size piece of gold? 286 lbs.

Fort Knox?


  • Highest gold holdings this century: 649.6 million ounces (December 31, 1941). 
  • Size of a standard gold bar: 7 inches x 3 and 5/8 inches x 1 and 3/4 inches. 
  • Weight of a standard gold bar: approximately 400 ounces or 27.5 pounds. 

That’s 18.2 million kg, or 943 cubic meters of gold. A block 9.8m on a side, or roughly 30′ x 30′ x 30.

18,200 tons. Or enough to build two solid-gold Arleigh Burke class destroyers, if one were inclined.

Which you wouldn’t be.

The value of that giant block? About $800 billion.

Now that’s enough to build a giant honkin’ castle.

4 thoughts on “The Obsession with Gold

  1. By comparison, that would be enough to build nearly 254 solid-gold B-2 bombers. Depending on how you calculate the unit cost, they might well be cheaper than the real thing.

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