The colours of Christmas are shining brightly, bringing joy at the end of an overwhelmingly gloomy year.
Shining brightest of all, gold stars sparkle atop Christmas trees, gold ribbon bows adorn presents and gold sequins dresses glint in the magical winter light.
“As gold’s unquenchable beauty shines like the sun, people have turned to it to protect themselves against the darkness ahead,” writes Peter L. Bernstein in his book, The Power of Gold.
At the heart of Christmas tradition, gold symbolises one of the gifts brought to Jesus by the three wise men, as well as the star that led them to Bethlehem.
Gold, frankincense and myrrh – all valuable and with spiritual meanings – were accepted as standard gifts to honour a king in the ancient world.
By bringing a gift of gold, a symbol of kingship on earth, the wise men showed that they considered Jesus a king.
Gold is the shining embodiment of wealth and love. It’s practical, it’s beautiful and its radiance will last forever, yet it is also “a mass of contradictions”, according to Bernstein.
It is a relatively rare metal with lots of versatility. It is chemically inert and it conducts both heat and electricity. It is extraordinarily dense, yet soft as putty. It is malleable, yet resilient. Gold is imperishable, but unlike other metals, we can build nothing from it.
“Is that not strange?” writes Bernstein. “Out of steel, we can build office towers, ships, automobiles, containers, and machinery of all types; out of gold, we can build nothing. And yet it is gold that we call the precious metal.
“When all the steel has rusted and rotted, and forever after that, your great cube of gold will still look like new. That is the kind of longevity we all dream of.”
Gold’s elemental abbreviation is Au, derived from ‘aurora’ which means ‘shining dawn’. It reflects the universal quest for eternal life and the fascination, obsession and aggression provoked by this unique metal have shaped the destiny of humanity through the ages.
Gold means many things to many people, but at Christmas, above all else, it shines bright, bringing hope, comfort and joy.