Chem Explorers

Unraveling Gold’s Electron Configuration and Behavior

Gold: Characteristics, Reactivity, and Electron Configuration

Gold is a yellow, soft, and malleable metal that has been used throughout history as a symbol of wealth, prestige, and power. This precious metal has been used in everything from coinage to jewelry and is one of the least reactive elements on Earth.

In this article, we will discuss the characteristics, reactivity, and electron configuration of gold.

Physical Characteristics of Gold

Gold is a chemical element with the atomic number 79 and the symbol Au, derived from the Latin word “aurum,” which means “shining dawn.” Gold is a yellow metal that is the purest in its element in color. It is also one of the most malleable and ductile metals known.

It is so malleable that it can be beaten into a thin sheet of gold leaf, which is only a few atoms thick. Gold is also a dense metal, with a specific gravity of 19.3 g/cm3.

Due to gold’s unique physical properties, it has been used in currency, jewelry, and other decorative items for thousands of years. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used gold extensively for currency and ornaments.

Today, gold is still used in jewelry and in some electronic applications due to its conductive properties.

Reactivity of Gold

Gold is one of the least reactive elements on Earth. It does not react readily with other elements or compounds, and it is highly resistant to corrosion or tarnishing.

Gold is often used in chemical and electronic applications that require a material that will not corrode over time. The reactivity of an element is determined by the number of electrons in its outermost shell.

Gold has 79 electrons, and its electron configuration is [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s1. The 4f and 5d electrons are referred to as the valence electrons, which determine the reactivity of the element.

The valence electron for gold is in the 6s subshell, but since the 5d subshell is only partially filled, the outermost electron is not as exposed to other elements as it would be if the 5d subshell were full. This fact makes gold one of the least reactive metals.

Electron Configuration of Gold

The electron configuration of gold is important to understand as it helps explain why gold is a less reactive element. The electronic configuration notation describes the distribution of electrons in the different atomic orbitals.

The Aufbau Principle and the Exclusion Principle dictate the arrangement of electrons in an atom. The Aufbau Principle states that electrons occupy the lowest energy orbitals first before moving to higher energy levels.

The Exclusion Principle states that no two electrons can occupy the same orbital with the same spin. The notation for gold’s electron configuration is [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s1.

The notation starts with the noble gas xenon, which represents the filled inner core of the atom. The 4f14 electrons represent the filled 4f subshell, and the 5d10 represents the partially filled 5d subshell.

The 6s1 electron is the valence electron for gold, which is the outermost electron that determines gold’s reactivity. The orbital diagram for gold’s electron configuration shows how the electrons are distributed in the atom’s orbitals.

The diagram is a visual representation of the electronic configuration notation. In an orbital diagram, the energy levels and subshells are represented by boxes, with the electrons represented by arrows.

The arrows indicate the electron’s spin, with up arrows indicating a positive spin and down arrows indicating a negative spin.


In summary, gold is a unique element that is highly valued for its physical properties and its lack of reactivity. Its electron configuration is [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s1, and its valence electron is in the 6s subshell.

Gold is used in currency, jewelry, and electronic applications due to its unique set of properties. As we continue to explore the properties and characteristics of different elements, we gain a deeper understanding of the world around us.

Gold is just one of many elements that have played an important role in shaping the history of mankind. Its luster and unique physical properties will continue to make it a valuable commodity for years to come.

Gold’s Electron Configuration and Diagrams

Gold has an elemental symbol of Au and an atomic number of 79, making it a transition metal. As one of the least reactive metals, gold has been valued for centuries as a precious and highly desirable element for its physical properties and scarcity.

This article will focus on gold’s electron configuration, including the abbreviated configuration, unabbreviated configuration, ground state configuration, and excited state configuration, as well as ground state orbital diagrams and the electron configurations for Au+ and Au3+ ions.

Abbreviated Configuration

To represent the electron configuration of an atom, scientists use electron configuration notation. The abbreviation for gold’s electron configuration is [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s1.

The [Xe] represents the noble gas xenon’s electron configuration, which is the closest noble gas with an energy level lower than gold. The number 4f14 represents the number of electrons in a filled inner shell, followed by the 5d10 which is partially filled, and finally, a single electron in the 6s subshell, representing the valence electron.

Unabbreviated Configuration

The unabbreviated electronic configuration for gold includes the energy level and subshell notation, as well as the number of electrons in each orbital. The first energy level has an s orbital, while the second energy level has a combination of s and p orbitals.

The third level has s, p, and d orbitals, and the fourth level can contain s, p, d, or f orbitals. The electronic configuration is thus written as 1s^2 2s^2 2p^6 3s^2 3p^6 3d^10 4s^2 4p^6 4d^10 4f^14 5s^2 5p^6 5d^10 6s^1.

Ground State Configuration

Ground state electron configuration refers to the arrangement of electrons in an atom’s lowest energy state. In the case of gold, the ground state configuration [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s1 shows that the 79 electrons fill up the inner core and partially filled d subshell, with the single valence electron in the 6s subshell.

Excited State Configuration

An excited state electron configuration for an atom is an arrangement of electrons at a higher energy level, which occurs by adding energy to the atom. To excite gold’s electrons from the ground state to the excited state, an electron must absorb enough energy to move from its initial energy level to a higher energy level.

For example, when gold’s valence electron is excited from the ground state 6s subshell to the higher energy level 5d subshell, the excited state configuration is [Xe] 4f^14 5d^10 6s^0.

Ground State Orbital Diagram

An orbital diagram shows the arrangement of electrons across the different orbitals of an atom. An orbital notation leaves space for the electrons to be filled in.

A ground state orbital diagram for gold consists of 79 electrons filled in the order of increasing energy level, from the innermost to the outermost orbitals. The 4f, 5d, and 6s orbitals would each be filled in a specific order, with the valence electron found in the last unfilled orbital.

Au+ Electron Configuration

Au+ is the cation derived from gold, meaning it is gold that lost an electron. The electron configuration of Au+ ion would be written without the valence electron, which would reflect that gold lost one electron from 6s^1 to become a positive cation.

Thus, the electronic configuration of Au+ is [Xe] 4f^14 5d^10 with a 6s^0, representing the loss of the single electron in the 6s subshell. Au3+ Electron Configuration

Au3+ represents an extremely rare and unstable cation derived from gold, where gold loses three electrons.

As a result, the electron configuration of Au3+ would lack the valence electron and the six 6s^1 and 5d^10 electrons, reflecting the loss of three electrons from gold. Therefore, the electronic configuration of Au3+ ions is [Xe] 4f^14 with a 5d^8.

Due to the loss of three electrons, the ion is unstable and does not exist in large quantities in nature.


To sum up, gold’s electron configuration is an essential property that helps us understand its chemical behavior, particularly when it concerns the transfer or sharing of electrons with other elements. The abbreviated configuration, unabbreviated configuration, ground state configuration, excited state configuration, and ground state orbital diagrams are all essential concepts to understanding gold’s electronic configuration fully.

By understanding these concepts, we gain insights into gold’s reactivity, its potential for chemical bonding, and the electronic configurations of gold ions. In conclusion, gold’s electron configuration is an important characteristic of this precious metal that helps us understand its behavior in chemical processes.

We have discussed the abbreviated and unabbreviated configurations, the ground state, excited state, and cation configurations, as well as the ground state orbital diagram. Through this discussion, we can appreciate gold’s unique properties, such as its resistance to corrosion, ductility, and malleability.

Understanding gold’s electron configuration helps explain its place in our economy, industry, and infrastructure.


Q: What is the electron configuration of gold?

A: Gold’s electron configuration is [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s1, where [Xe] represents the noble gas configuration from xenon, the 4f and 5d orbitals are partially filled, and the outermost electron is in the 6s subshell. Q: Why is gold valued so highly in society?

A: Gold is valued for its physical properties, scarcity, and symbolism. Gold is highly malleable, ductile, and resistant to corrosion, making it ideal for currency, jewelry, and other decorative items.

Q: What is the difference between ground state and excited state electron configurations? A: The ground state refers to an atom’s lowest energy level configuration, whereas the excited state refers to an atom’s higher energy configuration, which is achieved when electrons absorb energy and move to higher energy levels.

Q: Why are electron configurations important? A: Electron configurations describe the arrangement of electrons in an atom or ion, providing insight into an element’s chemical behavior, reactivity, and its potential for chemical bonding.

Q: What happens to gold’s electron configuration when it becomes an ion? A: When gold becomes an ion, it loses or gains electrons, changing its electron configuration.

For example, the electron configuration of Au+ is [Xe] 4f14 5d10, and the electron configuration for Au3+ is [Xe] 4f14 with a 5d8, reflecting the ion’s loss of three electrons.

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