Natural Electrum "wires" on quartz, historic specimen from the old Smuggler-Union Mine,
Early 6th century BCE
electrum coin (one-third
denomination), one of the oldest known coins
Cup with mythological scenes, a sphinx frieze and the representation of a king vanquishing his enemies. Electrum, Cypro-Archaic I (8th–7th centuries BCE). From
Electrum is a naturally occurring
silver, with trace amounts of
copper and other metals. It has also been produced artificially, and is often known as green gold. The ancient Greeks called it 'gold' or 'white gold', as opposed to 'refined gold'. Its colour ranges from pale to bright yellow, depending on the proportions of gold and silver.
The gold content of naturally occurring electrum in modern Western
Anatolia ranges from 70% to 90%, in contrast to the 45–55% of gold in electrum used in ancient
Lydian coinage of the same geographical area. This suggests that one reason for the invention of coinage in that area was to increase the profits from
seigniorage by issuing currency with a lower gold content than the commonly circulating metal.
Electrum was used as early as the third millennium BCE in
Old Kingdom of Egypt, sometimes as an exterior coating to the
obelisks. It was also used in the making of ancient
drinking vessels. The first metal
coins ever made were of electrum and date back to the end of the 7th century or the beginning of the 6th century
BCE. For several decades, the
medals awarded with the
Nobel Prize have been made of gold-plated green gold.
The name electrum was also used to denote
German 'silver', mainly for its use in making technical instruments.