Alchemy, the forefather of modern chemistry, was established in medieval times and focused on converting base metals into gold. Other practitioners of this ancient art, spent their time trying to concoct an “elixir of life.” Looking back on these efforts with a 21st Century perspective, it’s easy to scoff or roll your eyes, but these men weren’t crazy.
Thanks to modern chemistry and scientific breakthroughs, creating gold in a laboratory is possible; it just isn’t feasible or easy. Gold is composed of 79 protons. According to Christopher S. Baird, a physics professor at West Texas A & M University, that means any atom containing 79 protons is technically a gold atom. Protons can be added or removed in a laboratory, which means elements like mercury or platinum can be melded to yield gold. However, it isn’t a matter of snapping your fingers.
In order to convert base metals into gold atoms, a three-step process is required:
Ultimately, the process is so costly and time-consuming that any gold created would make no profit whatsoever. So, while creating gold in a laboratory is possible, Mother Nature is far more effective at getting the job done.