By Fortune Editors
June 6, 2011

No one knows exactly where gold came from, but one theory posits it was forged in collapsing stars, traveling millions of light-years before becoming part of the earth’s formation. So far we’ve mined 166,600 tons of the metal, more than half of all recoverable gold. Gold doesn’t generate earnings and its price is volatile, but as an inflation hedge it holds appeal. –Tara Moore


Sources: World Gold Council (including the prices for the graph); U.S. Mint; U.S. Department of Treasury; Hayden Planetarium. Gold coin: Getty Images

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