Gold artifacts found at the Nahal Kana cave cemetery dated during the 1980s, showed these to be from within the Chalcolithic, and considered the earliest find from the Levant (Gopher et al. 1990). Gold artifacts in the Balkans also appear from the 4th millennium BC, such as those found in the Varna Necropolis near Lake Varna in Bulgaria, thought by one source (La Niece 2009) to be the earliest "well-dated" find of gold artifacts. Gold artifacts such as the golden hats and the Nebra disk appeared in Central Europe from the 2nd millennium BC Bronze Age.
Egyptian hieroglyphs from as early as 2600 BC describe gold, which King Tushratta of the Mitanni claimed was "more plentiful than dirt" in Egypt. Egypt and especially Nubia had the resources to make them major gold-producing areas for much of history. One of the earliest known maps, known as the Turin Papyrus Map, shows the plan of a gold mine in Nubia together with indications of the local geology. The primitive working methods are described by both Strabo and Diodorus Siculus, and included fire-setting. Large mines were also present across the Red Sea in what is now Saudi Arabia.
The legend of the golden fleece may refer to the use of fleeces to trap gold dust from placer deposits in the ancient world. Gold is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament, starting with Genesis 2:11 (at Havilah), the story of The Golden Calf and many parts of the temple including the Menorah and the golden altar. In the New Testament, it is included with the gifts of the magi in the first chapters of Matthew. The Book of Revelation 21:21 describes the city of New Jerusalem as having streets "made of pure gold, clear as crystal". Exploitation of gold in the south-east corner of the Black Sea is said to date from the time of Midas, and this gold was important in the establishment of what is probably the world's earliest coinage in Lydia around 610 BC. From the 6th or 5th century BC, the Chu (state) circulated the Ying Yuan, one kind of square gold coin.
In Roman metallurgy, new methods for extracting gold on a large scale were developed by introducing hydraulic mining methods, especially in Hispania from 25 BC onwards and in Dacia from 106 AD onwards. One of their largest mines was at Las Medulas in León (Spain), where seven long aqueducts enabled them to sluice most of a large alluvial deposit. The mines at Roşia Montană in Transylvania were also very large, and until very recently, still mined by opencast methods. They also exploited smaller deposits in Britain, such as placer and hard-rock deposits at Dolaucothi. The various methods they used are well described by Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedia Naturalis Historia written towards the end of the first century AD.
During Mansa Musa's (ruler of the Mali Empire from 1312 to 1337) hajj to Mecca in 1324, he passed through Cairo in July 1324, and was reportedly accompanied by a camel train that included thousands of people and nearly a hundred camels where he gave away so much gold that it depressed the price in Egypt for over a decade. A contemporary Arab historian remarked:
Gold was at a high price in Egypt until they came in that year. The mithqal did not go below 25 dirhams and was generally above, but from that time its value fell and it cheapened in price and has remained cheap till now. The mithqal does not exceed 22 dirhams or less. This has been the state of affairs for about twelve years until this day by reason of the large amount of gold which they brought into Egypt and spent there [...].— Chihab Al-Umari, Kingdom of Mali
The European exploration of the Americas was fueled in no small part by reports of the gold ornaments displayed in great profusion by Native American peoples, especially in Mesoamerica, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. The Aztecs regarded gold as literally the product of the gods, calling it "god excrement" (teocuitlatl in Nahuatl), and after Moctezuma II was killed, most of this gold was shipped to Spain. However, for the indigenous peoples of North America gold was considered useless and they saw much greater value in other minerals which were directly related to their utility, such as obsidian, flint, and slate. Rumors of cities filled with gold fueled legends of El Dorado.
Gold played a role in western culture, as a cause for desire and of corruption, as told in children's fables such as Rumpelstiltskin, where the peasant's daughter turns hay into gold, in return for giving up her child when she becomes a princess; and the stealing of the hen that lays golden eggs in Jack and the Beanstalk.
The top prize at the Olympic games is the gold medal.
75% of all gold ever produced has been extracted since 1910. It has been estimated that all the gold ever refined would form a single cube 20 m (66 ft) on a side (equivalent to 8,000 m3).
One main goal of the alchemists was to produce gold from other substances, such as lead — presumably by the interaction with a mythical substance called the philosopher's stone. Although they never succeeded in this attempt, the alchemists promoted an interest in what can be done with substances, and this laid the foundation for today's chemistry. Their symbol for gold was the circle with a point at its center (☉), which was also the astrological symbol and the ancient Chinese character for the Sun.
Golden treasures have been rumored to be found at various locations, following tragedies such as the Jewish temple treasures in the Vatican, following the temple's destruction in 70 AD, a gold stash on the Titanic, the Nazi gold train – following World War II.
The Dome of the Rock on the Jerusalem temple site is covered with an ultra-thin golden glasure. The Sikh Golden temple, the Harmandir Sahib, is a building covered with gold. Similarly the Wat Phra Kaew emerald Budha temple in Thailand has ornamental gold statues walls and roofs. Some European king and queen's crowns were made of gold, and gold was used for the bridal crown since antiquity. An ancient Talmudic text circa 100 AD describes Rachel, Rabbi Akiba's wife asking for a "Jerusalem of Gold" (crown). A Greek burial crown made of gold was found in a grave circa 370 BC.