New Bacteria Poses Trouble for Gold Bugs and a Gold Standard

C|NET Bling! Researchers create 24k gold in the lab
There’s gold in them thar chlorides! Researchers at Michigan State University figure out how to transmute a toxic chemical compound into solid gold.

Bacteria Turning Toxins Into 24 Karat Gold

Talk of bringing back the Gold Standard has hit a fevered pitch these past few years driven by the desire of people to have their money “backed” by something “real” (don’t get me started). This begs the question of why gold is considered a great resource for backing a currency – scarcity and ability to trade somewhat easily are usually the answer.

Well, scarcity is always subject to potential revision. For example, what if it was discovered that all those glaciers that are melting actually were covering up massive gold mines that were easily able to be mined? Gold wouldn’t be very scarce, its value would plummet and so would the currency it supposedly supports (just ask the Conquistadors about their silver backed currency).

Last week Michigan State University announced that they discovered a bacteria that literally acts like Rumpelstiltskin (turning straw into gold), well, maybe not literally – but close. This bacteria takes gold toxins and turns them into 24 Karat gold, no joke.

From the C|NET article:

To put it lightly, something sensational happens upon feeding large concentrations of toxic gold chloride (also known as liquid gold) to the bacteria Cupriavidus metallidurans. After about a week’s time, the bacterium creates a 24-karat gold nugget from the digested toxins.

“Microbial alchemy is what we’re doing, transforming gold from something that has no value into a solid, precious metal that’s valuable,” said Kazem Kashefi, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University, where the research is taking place.

The researchers say that it would be cost prohibitive to reproduce the experiment on a large scale, so don’t expect any gold crash anytime soon or potentially ever – but it must be a little spooky now to hold gold knowing that all it takes for it to be worth as much as pyrite is the right person to create a process that could utilize this bacteria on a large scale. Something tells me this won’t be the last time we hear about this bacteria (either as someone making fun of it thirty years from now or someone making fun of those who used to own something valuable).

Scott Dauenhauer CFP, MSFP, AIF


One thought on “New Bacteria Poses Trouble for Gold Bugs and a Gold Standard”

  1. I love what Warren Buffett says about gold: “If you took all the gold in the world, it would roughly make a cube 67 feet on a side…worth at today’s market prices about $7 trillion dollars – that’s probably about a third of the value of all the stocks in the United States…For $7 trillion dollars…you could have all the farmland in the United States, you could have about seven Exxon Mobils, and you could have a trillion dollars of walking-around money…And if you offered me the choice of looking at some 67 foot cube of gold and looking at it all day, and you know me touching it and fondling it occasionally…Call me crazy, but I’ll take the farmland and the Exxon Mobils”.

    I AGREE 100%. I will never buy gold!

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