No goldfinches were harmed in the making of this blog…..

Gold is a very unusual material. Created by supernovae, and deposited on earth by asteroids, it is a finite resource. Estimates suggest that the total amount of gold mined to date is around 190,000 metric tons: but due to the density of the material (it is denser than lead) this would create a single cube of gold only 21m x 21m x 21m in dimension.

A Supernova

Gold doesn’t tarnish, and it’s extremely ductile and malleable: it has been estimated that a single gram of gold can be drawn into a very fine wire less than a micron thick, which would reach for 66km. Around 30g of gold (that’s a piece a little smaller than a cm cube) can be beaten to make a piece of gold foil which would cover 9 square kilometres.

These properties, and it’s ability to be cold worked in purer forms, has meant it has been used since at least c.6500BC, at first in Bulgaria, to decorate and amaze in a myriad of forms.

Only 560g (half the amount used in the Snettisham Great torc) of gold was used to create the beautiful Mold Gold Cape which has dimensions of 465mm x 280mm x 235mm. And obviously, it is of great interest to us as it is the material used to make the highest quality Iron Age torcs. As previously discussed Iron Age gold is all about the quest for volume: how to create maximum bang for minimum buck.

A tubular torc from Snettisham (Image © Norwich Castle Museum)

But a little known fact about gold is that it occurs in each and every living thing! Thought to be taken up in minute amounts within our food and water, we all, every single one of us, is about 0.00001% gold – although we suspect that Goldie might just have a slightly higher percentage than the rest of us…..!


Even birds and animals contain gold: including goldfinches, goldcrests and goldfish. So you could, theoretically, make a torc from goldfish! But at a mere 0.00001% of about 130g, it would take about 83,000,000 of them to create a Snettisham Great torc. However, compared to 675,500,500 goldfinches and 2,032,500,000 goldcrests then goldfish might be  the more practical solution!


It would also be theoretically possible to make a torc from beer and, for us, this would have to be Golden Torc beer (obviously). Made by our wonderful friends from Boudicca Brewery in Norfolk we believe we would have to drink, sorry filter, 21,680,000 bottles of this divine nectar to get enough gold for a Great torc.

Screenshot 2023-01-06 201915

Even if we stopped drinking at a relatively sober Netherurd terminal quantity of 2,440,000 bottles – and allowing for Roland’s beer drinking skills – we believe that it *might* take a touch more than a weekend in Norfolk to achieve…..

Now, of course, it has to be said that drinking vast quantities of beer or boiling down ridiculous quantities of small birds is not really a very practical method for obtaining gold.  But, there is a far easier way…

You could always melt down a toilet!


The ‘America’ toilet, by artist Maurizio Cattelan, was lent to Blenheim Palace after becoming a flushing success at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Although figures have never been given for the precise weight of this most glorious of thrones, from dimensions, we think it would make around 290 Great torcs.

The only shame being that this particular toilet was stolen, by *ahem* ‘a man and a woman’, in 2019 and has not been seen since. Police believe it was either exported or smelted down to make it easier to sell. We will perhaps never know.

But anyway, wanna buy a Great torc? Only 290 in stock…..and comes with a free pack of toilet roll!


Stay safe folks 🙂

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