Can you eat gold?

Chocolate with real gold decoration (photo by jamescronin - CC-BY)

The other day I heard someone saying that Gold is not worth investing in. After all, he said, if the financial system collapses you can’t eat gold, can you? Well, actually you can, unless you have a gold allergy.

Many upmarket gourmet shops will sell you edible gold. It comes in several forms: dust, flakes or even sheets of about four square inches (25 square centimeters). It’s incredibly thin. A shaker for gold flakes is about the size of a small salt cellar, yet it holds only one gram of the thin curled flakes.

Edible gold is real gold, but it is not 100% pure gold. Pure (24 karat) gold is too soft to be usable, so the gold is mixed with a few percent of silver and sold as 22k or 23k gold.

Although you can eat gold (and silver) you can’t digest it. The human body obtains no nutritional value from gold. It just passes through you.

Don’t think that you’re going to get rich by panning the sewers for eaten gold, because the gold is extremely thin. It’s so thin that you can’t pick up the sheets of gold without them falling apart. You need to use a special brush to lift

each sheet and apply it to the food that you’re decorating.

Gold has no taste. If it did, it wouldn’t be used for tooth fillings. Some people might also say that the people who eat gold have no taste, but I would never say a thing like that.

So why do people eat gold? The eating is just the last thing that happens to the gold. What really counts is its appearance on the food. People decorate food with gold to make it sparkle, and to draw attention to themselves. Probably more importantly they decorate food with gold to demonstrate their enormous wealth, to show that they have so much money that they can eat something as valuable as gold.

Alcoholic drinks such as Goldwasser and Goldschläger have gold flakes added to them. The visible effect is impressive, although a bottle contains less than a tenth of a gram of gold. Gold is also sometimes added to coffee or tea.

Because the gold is so thin, it is perhaps not as expensive as you might assume. For less than $50 you can buy a shaker-full of gold flakes, or a booklet of 12 leaves of gold sheet.

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