Gold is one of the oldest known metals and one of the first to be used, especially for ornaments and jewelry due its malleable nature that made it impossible to turn it in to tools and its resistance to tarnishing that made it one of the most precious metals.

The world oldest known gold artifacts date back to roughly seven thousand years ago and they were found in the necropolis of Varna (modern day Bulgaria). The treasure consists in a collection of bracelets, necklaces and other decorative gold objects for a total of 3,000 artifacts belonging to 294 graves.

Perhaps the most known ancient culture that had a consistent use of gold is the Egyptian one. For them gold was the skin of gods and goddesses and was reserved to pharaohs and nobles only. It was very common to bury pharaohs with gold masks, caskets entirely covered in gold and even reproductions (in gold obviously) of objects that they used on a daily basis, like Carter discovered in Tutankhamun's tomb (sandals, walking sticks and even a full size war chariot).

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1.Detail from Tutankhamun's throne, Egyptian Museum (Cairo) 2.Tutankhamun's sandals, Egyptian Museum (Cairo)

The use of gold in Europe reached the highest point with christian art.
From the bizantine 5th century CE mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy (cover image) with its blue and gold mosaic ceiling, to the gold foil used throughout middle ages for backgrounds and saints' halos on altarpieces. From small reliquaries that could be worn as a necklace to books covers decorated with gold and precious stones and even book pages decorated in gold (illuminated manuscripts).

beautiful, books, and jewels image art, illumination, and nun image
1.Lindau Gospels Crucifixion Cover, Morgan library (New York) 2.Codex Gisle, Osnabrück

The South American Inca culture was famous in 16th century Europe for a gold cache that its people supposedly had. Even though we'll never know if the treasure ever existed, we know Inca thought that gold was the sweat of Inti, the sun god, and that incas were skilled artisans when it came to gold sheets that where carefully hammered into the desired form.

While europeans fantasized about a hidden gold treasure in Japan a new form of art that evoked the wabi-sabi aesthetic took place. According to the legend Kintsugi was invented during 15th century and it consists in repairing pottery with a substance enhanced with gold, silver or platinum.

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Examples of contemporary kintsugi

Between 19th and 20th century gold returned to mainstream art thanks to a middle ages art revival and later to art nouveau visionary Gustav Klimt and paintings like The Kiss and Judith, see my article about it here:

Image by tenderly art, klimt, and Gustav Klimt image
1.Pallas Athene - G.Klimt, Wien Museum 2.Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I - G. Klimt, Neue Galerie (New York)
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