gold

Early civilizations offered it to appease their gods. Ancient Egyptians placed it in tombs to support the dead on their journey to the afterlife. It was used in coins as early as 560 BC, and is still used in financial transactions. Today, it is also used in dentistry, computers, and even spacecraft. And you might be wearing it on your body right now. It is gold--a precious, shiny, yellow metal.

Definition: precious metal used in jewelry, coins, and industry
Chemical symbol: Au (from the Latin “aurum,” meaning “glowing dawn”)
Color: golden yellow in its pure state
Properties: extremely dense, malleable, metallic luster, soft, excellent conductor of electricity and heat.
World’s leading producers of gold: Republic of South Africa, Australia, and the United States

Image credits: main image, courtesy of AMNH; Jim Webster: courtesy of AMNH.