A few weeks ago, I put on some rubber boots, grabbed a shovel, and went gold prospecting. There’s allegedly gold throughout the river systems near my home in western Washington state, and I made it my goal to find some. I went partly to tick another “things The Verge paid me to do” box and partly to demystify one of the most enduring and unique commodities in the world.
Gold has been highly valued for pretty much as long as humans have been formally valuing things. It’s been used as jewelry, money, a dental filling, a garnish, a critical component in electronics, and even a medicine. It’s malleable, conductive, harmless to ingest, noncorroding, and captivating to look at.
A big part of gold’s value is predicated on its scarcity. But the idea of scarcity is about more than just how much gold there is in the ground. It’s also about how costly it is to find, process, and use. It’s about the lengths that people and industries are willing to go in order to maintain a supply of this stuff that we’ve all agreed is precious.
Check out the video above to find out what “gold scarcity” really means and to see what I found on my expedition.