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The History of Metals

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The History of Metals

The History of Metals

We have documented the history if individual metals before and we have also visualized their annual production. However, we have not seen all of the metals on one timeline before such as in this infographic.

Worth noting is gold’s prominence ever since the beginning of history. Because the yellow metal is one of the rare elements that can be found in native form (such as nuggets), it was used by the earliest of our ancestors.

Comparatively, it is only recently that the technology has advanced to allow us to discover or extract the rest of the metals on today’s periodic table. For example, even though we knew of titanium as early as 1791, it was relatively useless all the way up until the 1940’s because of its metallurgy. In the 20th century, scientists advanced a way to remove the impurities, making it possible to get the strong and hard titanium we know today.

Another standout fact is that it took all the way until the early 19th century for two very important elements to be discovered. Both are not found free in nature very often and thus slipped detection for many centuries. Silicon, which actually makes up 26% of the earth’s crust, was discovered in 1823. Then in 1827, aluminum was discovered – we now know today that it is the most common metal in the earth’s crust (it’s actually 1200X more abundant than copper).

Original graphic from: Makin Metals

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Visualizing Global Gold Production in 2023

Gold production in 2023 was led by China, Australia, and Russia, with each outputting over 300 tonnes.

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Graphic breaking down global gold production in 2023

Visualizing Global Gold Production in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Over 3,000 tonnes of gold were produced globally in 2023.

In this graphic, we list the world’s leading countries in terms of gold production. These figures come from the latest USGS publication on gold statistics (published January 2024).

China, Australia, and Russia Produced the Most Gold in 2023

China was the top producer in 2023, responsible for over 12% of total global production, followed by Australia and Russia.

CountryRegion2023E Production (tonnes)
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia370
🇦🇺 AustraliaOceania310
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope310
🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America200
🇺🇸 United StatesNorth America170
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAsia130
🇲🇽 MexicoNorth America120
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia110
🇿🇦 South AfricaAfrica100
🇺🇿 UzbekistanAsia100
🇬🇭 GhanaAfrica90
🇵🇪 PeruSouth America90
🇧🇷 BrazilSouth America60
🇧🇫 Burkina FasoAfrica60
🇲🇱 MaliAfrica60
🇹🇿 TanzaniaAfrica60
🌍 Rest of World-700

Gold mines in China are primarily concentrated in eastern provinces such as Shandong, Henan, Fujian, and Liaoning. As of January 2024, China’s gold mine reserves stand at an estimated 3,000 tonnes, representing around 5% of the global total of 59,000 tonnes.

In addition to being the top producer, China emerged as the largest buyer of the yellow metal for the year. In fact, the country’s central bank alone bought 225 tonnes of gold in 2023, according the World Gold Council.

Estimated Global Gold Consumption

Most of the gold produced in 2023 was used in jewelry production, while another significant portion was sold as a store of value, such as in gold bars or coins.

  • Jewelry: 46%
  • Central Banks and Institutions: 23%
  • Physical Bars: 16%
  • Official Coins, Medals, and Imitation Coins: 9%
  • Electrical and Electronics: 5%
  • Other: 1%

According to Fitch Solutions, over the medium term (2023-2032), global gold mine production is expected to grow 15%, as high prices encourage investment and output.

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Charted: The Value Gap Between the Gold Price and Gold Miners

While gold prices hit all-time highs, gold mining stocks have lagged far behind.

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Line chart comparing gold price and gold mining stocks since 2000.

Gold Price vs. Gold Mining Stocks

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on Apple or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Although the price of gold has reached new record highs in 2024, gold miners are still far from their 2011 peaks.

In this graphic, we illustrate the evolution of gold prices since 2000 compared to the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index (HUI), which consists of the largest and most widely held public gold production companies. The data was compiled by Incrementum AG.

Mining Stocks Lag Far Behind

In April 2024, gold reached a new record high as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled policymakers may delay interest rate cuts until clearer signs of declining inflation materialize.

Additionally, with elections occurring in more than 60 countries in 2024 and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, central banks are continuing to buy gold to strengthen their reserves, creating momentum for the metal.

Traditionally known as a hedge against inflation and a safe haven during times of political and economic uncertainty, gold has climbed over 11% so far this year.

According to Business Insider, gold miners experienced their best performance in a year in March 2024. During that month, the gold mining sector outperformed all other U.S. industries, surpassing even the performance of semiconductor stocks.

Still, physical gold has outperformed shares of gold-mining companies over the past three years by one of the largest margins in decades.

YearGold PriceNYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index (HUI)
2023$2,062.92$243.31
2022$1,824.32$229.75
2021$1,828.60$258.87
2020$1,895.10$299.64
2019$1,523.00$241.94
2018$1,281.65$160.58
2017$1,296.50$192.31
2016$1,151.70$182.31
2015$1,060.20$111.18
2014$1,199.25$164.03
2013$1,201.50$197.70
2012$1,664.00$444.22
2011$1,574.50$498.73
2010$1,410.25$573.32
2009$1,104.00$429.91
2008$865.00$302.41
2007$836.50$409.37
2006$635.70$338.24
2005$513.00$276.90
2004$438.00$215.33
2003$417.25$242.93
2002$342.75$145.12
2001$276.50$65.20
2000$272.65$40.97

Among the largest companies on the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index, Colorado-based Newmont has experienced a 24% drop in its share price over the past year. Similarly, Canadian Barrick Gold also saw a decline of 6.5% over the past 12 months.

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