The Density of Gold: A Comprehensive Guide for Physics Students

Gold is one of the most dense and valuable metals on Earth, with a density of 19.32 grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm³). This high density is a result of gold’s atomic structure and the strong intermolecular forces that hold its atoms together. Understanding the density of gold is crucial for various applications, from jewelry making to industrial processes. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of gold’s density, exploring its physical properties, measurement techniques, and practical implications.

Understanding the Density of Gold

The density of a substance is defined as its mass per unit volume. In the case of gold, the density is 19.32 g/cm³, meaning that one cubic centimeter of pure gold has a mass of 19.32 grams. This value is the result of the high atomic number and atomic mass of gold, which is 79 and 196.97 g/mol, respectively.

The formula for calculating the density of a substance is:

Density = Mass / Volume

For gold, this can be expressed as:

Density of Gold = 19.32 g/cm³

This high density is a result of the close packing of gold atoms in the face-centered cubic (FCC) crystal structure. The strong metallic bonds between the gold atoms contribute to the material’s high density and overall stability.

Comparison to Other Metals

gold density

Gold is not the only dense metal, but it is one of the densest. When compared to other common metals, the density of gold stands out:

Metal Density (g/cm³)
Osmium 22.59
Iridium 22.56
Platinum 21.45
Gold 19.32
Mercury 13.53
Lead 11.34
Iron 7.87
Aluminum 2.70

As shown in the table, gold is surpassed in density only by the rare metals osmium and iridium, which are even denser. This high density is a key factor in many of gold’s unique properties and applications.

Practical Applications of Gold’s Density

The high density of gold has several practical applications, including:

Jewelry and Coinage

The density of gold is a crucial factor in the production of jewelry and coins. Jewelers use the density of gold to determine the purity and value of gold items, as well as to create intricate designs that take advantage of gold’s weight and malleability.

Industrial and Medical Uses

Gold’s density makes it an ideal material for use in various industrial and medical applications. In the electronics industry, gold is used in connectors, switches, and other components due to its high conductivity and resistance to corrosion. In the medical field, gold is used in dental work, prosthetic implants, and even in the treatment of certain diseases.

Diving and Ballistics

The high density of gold also makes it useful in diving and ballistics applications. Gold is often used in diving weights due to its ability to sink quickly in water, and its density is also a factor in the design of certain types of ammunition.

Measuring the Density of Gold

Accurately measuring the density of gold is essential for various applications, from determining purity to ensuring the proper use of the metal. There are several methods used to measure the density of gold, including:

Archimedes’ Principle

One of the most common methods for measuring the density of gold is Archimedes’ principle, which states that the buoyant force on an object immersed in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object. By weighing a sample of gold in air and then in a fluid with a known density, such as water, the density of the gold can be calculated.


Pycnometry is a technique that uses a calibrated glass vessel, known as a pycnometer, to measure the volume of a sample. By weighing the sample and dividing its mass by the measured volume, the density can be calculated.

Helium Pycnometry

Helium pycnometry is a more advanced technique that uses helium gas to measure the volume of a sample. Helium is chosen because it can penetrate even the smallest pores in the sample, providing a more accurate measurement of the true volume.

X-ray Densitometry

X-ray densitometry is a non-destructive method that uses X-rays to measure the density of a material. This technique is particularly useful for analyzing the density of gold alloys, as it can provide information about the composition and purity of the material.

Factors Affecting the Density of Gold

While the density of pure gold is well-established at 19.32 g/cm³, there are several factors that can affect the density of gold, including:


The purity of gold is a significant factor in its density. Pure gold has a density of 19.32 g/cm³, but gold alloys, which contain other metals, will have a lower density depending on the composition of the alloy.


The density of gold, like most materials, is affected by temperature. As the temperature increases, the volume of the gold expands, leading to a slight decrease in density.


Pressure can also affect the density of gold. Increased pressure can cause the gold atoms to be packed more closely together, resulting in a higher density.


The presence of impurities in gold can also affect its density. Even small amounts of other metals or contaminants can alter the overall density of the material.

Numerical Examples and Calculations

To better illustrate the concepts of gold density, let’s consider some numerical examples and calculations:

Example 1: Calculating the Mass of a Gold Nugget

Suppose you have a gold nugget with a volume of 5 cm³. What is the mass of the nugget?

– Density of gold = 19.32 g/cm³
– Volume of the nugget = 5 cm³

To calculate the mass, we can use the formula:
Mass = Density × Volume
Mass = 19.32 g/cm³ × 5 cm³
Mass = 96.6 g

Therefore, the mass of the gold nugget is 96.6 grams.

Example 2: Determining the Purity of a Gold Alloy

An alloy sample has a density of 14.6 g/cm³. What is the percentage of gold in the alloy?

– Density of the alloy = 14.6 g/cm³
– Density of pure gold = 19.32 g/cm³

To calculate the percentage of gold in the alloy, we can use the following formula:
Percentage of Gold = (Density of Alloy / Density of Pure Gold) × 100%
Percentage of Gold = (14.6 g/cm³ / 19.32 g/cm³) × 100%
Percentage of Gold = 75.62%

Therefore, the alloy sample contains approximately 75.62% gold.

Example 3: Calculating the Volume of a Gold Coin

A gold coin has a mass of 31.1 grams. What is the volume of the coin?

– Mass of the gold coin = 31.1 g
– Density of gold = 19.32 g/cm³

To calculate the volume, we can use the formula:
Volume = Mass / Density
Volume = 31.1 g / 19.32 g/cm³
Volume = 1.61 cm³

Therefore, the volume of the gold coin is 1.61 cubic centimeters.

These examples demonstrate how the density of gold can be used to solve various problems related to the mass, volume, and purity of gold samples.


The density of gold, at 19.32 g/cm³, is a fundamental property that has significant implications in various fields, from jewelry making to industrial applications. Understanding the factors that affect gold’s density, as well as the techniques used to measure it, is crucial for anyone working with this valuable metal.

By exploring the intricacies of gold’s density, this comprehensive guide has provided physics students with a deeper understanding of this important physical property. Whether you’re interested in the practical applications of gold’s density or the underlying scientific principles, this guide has covered the essential information you need to become an expert on the topic.