Imagine the year is 1858. News of gold in the Fraser River has spread. Thousands of gold prospectors are descending upon what would soon become the colony of British Columbia, hoping to find their fortune. What drove this? What has driven this fascination with gold that is as old as civilization itself? When you think about it, gold is not the most practical of metals. It is rather soft, making it unsuitable for tool making. It is rare, limiting its widespread application. Yet still, its colour drives a lasting desire for this inert metal. From the Pharaohs of Egypt to the socialites of today, gold has stood as a symbol of wealth and status. So to the prospectors, finding it was a guaranteed payoff. Of course, actually finding it was a long shot – similar to playing a lottery.
But what about other metals? Were there other metals valuable to the prospectors? Iron and its alloy – steel – were both valuable. Tools, ranging from pickaxes and shovels to gold pans were made of iron and steel. Safes, strong boxes, guns, cooking utensils - iron, steel, copper, nickel, lead. The truth is, while it was gold that was sought, it was the far more common metals that proved to be the metals of greatest value to the majority of prospectors (the ones that did not find gold).
Metals were useful to the gold prospectors. Are they useful to warriors though? The answer will come next week.