Gold is a beautiful matter that you can find in jewelry. In science, you can classify matters according to the physical property of it. Now you might be wondering, to which category does gold belong?

Is gold an element, compound, or mixture?

Pure gold is an element because it only consists of 1 type of atom, Aurum (Au). However, gold jewelry is a mixture because it consists of various elements that vary in ratio.

Now that you realized that there are two types of gold and to which classification they belong, you might want to know the reason behind it.

So, keep reading and learn more about the topic! 

What Is An Element?

You might have heard something about the atom, right?

Every matter of this world consists of the atom(s).

There are various atoms in this world with unique characteristics.

A matter can consist of 1, 2, or many types of atoms. By that, the matter can fall into one category: either element, compound, or mixture.

When a matter consists of only 1 type of atom, the matter is considered an ELEMENT.

What are some examples of elements?

  • Oxygen (with the chemical formula of O2) is an element because it only consists of atom Oxygen.
  • Diamond (with the chemical formula of C) is scientifically an element because it only consists of atom Carbon.
  • Graphite (also with the chemical formula of C) is an element because it only consists of atom Carbon.

So, an element is basically a substance that is PURE without any addition. It may consist of A HUGE NUMBER of atoms (atoms are super tiny), but those are all one single type of atom. 

Oh, and because an element is pure, it cannot be broken down. 

What Is A Compound?

You have learned what an element is, now you might be wondering, what is a compound?

A compound is something that is happened when two or more elements are combined AND bonded chemically to each other. It means that you cannot physically break down a compound into something simpler. A compound always has the same composition, no matter where you find it.

What are some examples of compounds?

  • Water, it’s probably the most famous example of a compound. Water has a chemical formula of H2O, which means it consists of 2 Hydrogen atoms and 1 Oxygen atom. The molecule of water is always the same no matter where you find it. Water cannot be physically broken down. But you can chemically do it using a process called water electrolysis.
  • Salt, which is another famous example of a compound. Salt has a chemical formula of NaCl, which means it consists of Na atom (sodium) and Cl atom (chlorine). Just like water, salt can be separated using electrolysis too.
  • Cupric carbonate (CuCO3). It consists of three types of atoms (Copper, Carbon, and Oxygen). To break down this compound into something simpler, you need to heat it up so that it decomposes into copper oxide (CuO) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

What Is A Mixture?

After learning about element and compound, now let’s talk about something a bit more complex.

It’s a mixture.

What is a mixture in science?

Scientifically, a mixture is a matter that happens when two or more elements are combined without having to adhere to a definite ratio of composition. It means that the same kind of mixture found from different places of the world can have a different ratio of composition. Usually, a mixture can be separated physically, but it’s not always the case.

What are some examples of mixtures?

  • Mud. Mud is a mixture that happens when water and a massive amount of dirt are combined well. Is it possible to physically break down mud? Yes, it’s possible. The process is called PHYSICAL FILTRATION.
  • A bowl of cereal and milk. No matter how good you are at stirring your cereal bowl, you can still separate it from the milk, right? You can use simple physical filtration using a filter that you have in the kitchen and then separate the cereal from the milk.

Sometimes a mixture cannot be separated trough a physical process.

The surefire way to identify a mixture is, to see the ratio of composition and compare it to the same kind of mixture.

For example, steel is a mixture of iron and carbon. But there are different types of steel with different qualities. The composition of iron and carbon is not definite. A manufacturer can make some changes to the composition.

Is Pure Gold An Element Compound or Mixture?

Now, we have learned about element, compound, and mixture.

And what do you think about a pure gold?

To which category should it belong?

Is pure gold an element, compound, or mixture?

Pure gold belongs to the element category because pure gold only consists of 1 type of atom, which is Au (Aurum). 

It’s so pure that it cannot be broken down. No matter how many times you break it down, it’s still pure gold.

The element of gold (Au) in the periodic table has an atomic number of 79. It’s a solid element that belongs to the transition element (transition metal).

Gold has a melting point of and a melting point of 1,063 degrees Celcius and a boiling point of 2,966 degrees Celcius.

Is Gold Jewelry A Compound or Mixture?

If pure gold is an element, what about gold jewelry?

Now, let’s take a moment to realize that pure gold is expensive and pretty.

Due to its beauty, no wonder that so many people want to have gold as jewelry or decoration.

But pure gold is considered too soft for everyday wear, especially when people wear it for many years.

Therefore, gold is often mixed with other elements to produce cheaper and stronger jewelry. This is called a gold alloy.

So, is gold jewelry a pure substance?

No, the typical gold jewelry is NOT a pure element as it’s been mixed with other elements to make it stronger and more affordable.

Is gold jewelry a compound or mixture?

Although it’s formed by various types of atoms, gold jewelry is NOT a compound. It’s a mixture because gold has no definite composition. There are abundant types of gold jewelry in this world that vary in composition.

Have you ever heard about Karat?

Karat is a way to indicate the quality of gold. The higher the Karat is, the purer the gold is. It means that the composition of gold is not ‘uniform’ between one and another.

Thus, gold jewelry is considered a mixture.

Where Does Gold Come From?

Scientists believe that gold is an extraterrestrial element that happened in outer space and then fell to earth, either by supernovae or delivered by meteorites. 

Today, all of the 5 continents have their own journeys of gold-mining. 

There are various ways to find gold in nature. Although it’s possible to find gold in the river or even in the backyard, most of the gold we see today is retrieved from under the earth’s surface.

Can You Make Gold?

Well, technically, it is possible to synthesize gold.

Dr. Glenn Theodore Seaborg, who had won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, had transmuted bismuth atoms into gold through a nuclear reaction.

However, gold synthesis through nuclear reaction is super expensive and dangerous. It’s easier to buy it directly from the market (bullion trader, for example).

Final Thought

Although only found in a small amount in everyday life, gold is still considered a matter, and you can classify it according to its physical property.

Pure gold belongs to ELEMENT because it purely consists of one single element, which is Aurum (Au.)

When pure gold is mixed with other elements to make jewelry, it becomes a mixture.

Have a good day, learners!

Daniel Smithson

Hi, I'm Daniel Smithson, a Chemistry teacher for over 35-years and the founder of Learning should be fun and accessible to all. Find out more about our mission here:

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