Gold's position as the ultimate storer of value has remained largely unchallenged for centuries.
The metal's rarity not only meant it became a recognised and trusted form of payment, but also bestowed upon it an almost mystical allure.
This came about not through historical accident or coincidence, but for the simple reason that nothing else fitted the bill; almost every other element is either too common, reactive, corrosive or gaseous. And most of those that aren't are just too scarce.
Throughout history emperors, kings and queens, governments, central banks and investors have trusted gold to maintain its value.
This is simply because gold is a physical asset with a finite supply, unlike cash, equities and bonds, which can be printed or issued at will.
For investors, therefore, it has always been seen primarily as a good hedge against inflation - traditionally, few people bought gold to make money, simply to protect themselves against losing it.Price surge
But all this is changing. Gold has risen in value every year for the past 10 years, during which its price has risen fivefold to more than $1,500 an ounce.
No longer, therefore, is gold seen simply as a way to store value, but as a genuine investment opportunity offering the potential to make a serious return.
BBC 15May 2011 - read full report