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Because gold was so valuable throughout history (and since its heaviness and softness made it not good for much else until recently), it has been primarily used for decoration. Whether it's for jewelry, gold lamé, gold plating, or even making something entirely out of gold, it's a good way to make something pretty.
Of course this is Truth in Television, but fiction will take it further. The limitations of gold as a material are often ignored. Armor and weapons made of gold will be no heavier or softer than steel or iron. Lamé will move as if it was silk. This can be Artistic License just as often as it's Did Not Do the Research.
And of course buying something like this is a good way to show Conspicuous Consumption. Having loads of things like this is common for a Fiction 500 character. Heck, even if gold is Worthless Yellow Rocks, that still means the writers could have gold put everywhere.
Compare Gold (useful notes), Gem-Encrusted, Pretty in Mink, Fluffy Fashion Feathers, City of Gold, Bling Bling Bang, Bling of War, Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry, Everything's Better with Sparkles.
Anime and Manga
- Heartcatch Pretty Cure has Cure Sunshine and her gold lamé chest ribbon.
- One episode of Pokémon featured a golden Sudowoodo.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Dorothy Catalonia seem to have a thing for gold-plated vehicles: a limousine, a space shuttle and a truck.
- Saint Seiya: The Gold Saints
- Jill Masterton in Goldfinger (the film) dies by having her body completely covered in golden paint (based on a false assumption that merely painting skin can smother people), in one of the most iconic scenes of the James Bond franchise.
- Star Wars: C-3P0 gets his gold plating between episodes 2 and 3, shown in Star Wars: Clone Wars.
- In the climax of To Catch a Thief Grace Kelly's Pimped-Out Dress is all gold lamé.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has the Lannister family, who coat everything with gold - platemail, horse armor, even swords.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The Tower of the Elephant", the tower has a gold door.
- In the Dream of the Rood, the tree out of which Christ's cross was made is alternately sparkling with gold and gems and streaming with blood.
- Martel of The Elenium liberally decorated his armor with gold, thanks to the wealth he acquired as a mercenary. This came back to haunt him when the added weight wore him down faster than Sparhawk in a duel, leading to his death.
- Dorrie the Witch once got a gold cauldron as a reward for capturing a notorious evil witch.
- Inverted in Deep Space Nine, where gold pressed latinum is just to give something to hold the Unobtanium, not that the gold actually made it prettier, as replicators made it Worthless Yellow Rocks.
- Power Rangers Samurai introduces us to The Gold Ranger, with light reflecting off the golden parts of his suit that it becomes all but blinding. Emily's first reaction is "He's so sparkly..."
Mythology and Religion
- The fable of King Midas seemed to be against this trope, but the actual Aesop was actually Be Careful What You Wish For, and being against Greed.
- DuckTales did a variation on that with a magic golden duck.
- The mythical city of El Dorado.
- Eastern Orthodox churches' interiors are designed to look mostly golden (sanctuary, chandelliers, etc), sometimes using actual gilding. Prayers wrtten in Bysanthia are also pretty interesting though: one refers to Virgin Mary as a gilded doorknob. Although it would seem as a failed attempt at insult, it's supposed to be poetic and two metaphors are here: Jesus Christ is the door, and gilding back in their days was supposed to be incredibly beautiful; nowadays, gilding household appliances is just poor taste.
- Barbie's 1994 "Happy Holidays" Dress was of simulated gold lamé trimmed with white fur.
- Several toys get limited edition gold variants, like 70s Bumblebee, Ryubi, Kan-U and Chouhi Gundams and so on.
- Golden armor shows up as items in some Final Fantasy games.
- Some Castlevania games use gold weapons.
- There are gilded sets of armour in Runescape. This is not as extreme an example as sets of armour made out solid gold, though - decorating armour with gold was not common practice, but there is historical precedent for it.
- Subverted in Minecraft: Sure, you can make a sword out of that gold you just mined. It'll be roughly as effective as one made of wood and break about as quickly. On the other hand, using iron...
- Of course, a gold pickaxe can bore through stone at an incredible rate, but only stone. And it still breaks easily.
- Moody dwarves in Dwarf Fortress can make artifact gold armor or weapons (the only other way to get gold weapons requires modding the game files); despite being artifacts, they will perform rather poorly (except for blunt weapons, which will be significantly more effective due to their increased mass).
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time had the Gold Gauntlets, which were the strongest levels of items that let Link lift stuff normally too heavy for him.
- Old-Timey Strong Bad in "That A Ghost" has the line, "I'll be marching around in gold pants in no time!"
- One set of Pimped Out Dresses the Disney Princesses wore were of gold lamé, with a variation of Ariel having her tail and Seashell Bra be gilded, as seen above.
- Many of the things in Richie Rich's house are gold.
- As with Goldie of Goldie Gold and Action Jack.
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Heloise decorates a carriage meant for her and Jimmy with gold. Peep promply steals it.
- Futurama: Bender from Universe B in "The Farnsworth Parabox" decided to be gold plated.
- One animated version of The Nutcracker had the line "I wear gold-plated underwear!" in the Rat King's Villain Song. Two seven-year-olds immediately caught that they would chafe horribly.
- Coronation robes are often gold lamé, whether on its own or with an ermine lining.
- The latter was common for Russian royalty.
- And in medieval and Renaissance Europe, sumptuary laws dictate that only kings (and queens) are allowed to wear cloth of gold--garments made from gold thread.
- Ever seen the Palace of Versailles? Some rooms don't seem to have a square inch without the stuff. And, yes, that includes mattresses.
- When the kings of France went insane of the bling bling, they started out by getting furniture made of solid silver, but little later sanity returned (relatively speaking), and gilded wood became the norm.