For centuries, gold has been desirable for its rarity, beauty and unique properties. Since gold is highly valued and in very limited supply, it has long been used as a medium of exchange.
Today, about 78% of the gold consumed each year is used to manufacture jewelry, and approximately 12% of demand for gold is from industrial uses. Gold is an excellent conductor of electricity, is extremely resistant to corrosion and is one of the most chemically stable elements, making it critically important in electronics and other high-tech applications.
The most important industrial use of gold is in the manufacture of electronics. A small amount of gold is used in almost every sophisticated electronic device. Gold's unique properties make it also useful in medical applications.
Silver has traditionally served as a medium of exchange, much like gold. Silver's strength, malleability, ductility, thermal and electrical conductivity, sensitivity to light and ability to endure extreme changes in temperature combine to make it a widely used industrial metal. While silver continues to be used as a form of investment and a financial asset, the principal uses of silver are industrial, primarily in electrical and electronic components, photography, jewelry, silverware, batteries, computer chips, electrical contacts and high technology printing. Silver's anti-bacterial properties also make it valuable for use in medicine and in water purification. Additionally, new uses of silver are being developed in connection with the use of superconductive wire.
Copper is the world's third most widely used metal, and is mostly used in industries such as construction and industrial machinery manufacturing. Copper has the second highest electrical conductivity of any element after silver and may be alloyed with zinc, producing brass.