Solve Et Coagula
Scholars of antiquity were often students of Alchemy, a controversial science steeped in Mysticism, ridiculed as an occult illusion with the grandiose notion of transmuting base metals into gold. Associated more with Astrology, Tarot Cards and divination, its credibility has suffered in modern times.
According to Wikipedia, many alchemists had profound impact on the scientific advancements of their time including ore testing and refining, metalworking, production of gunpowder, ink, dyes, paints, and cosmetics, to name a few. Certainly more kin to science than crystal ball gazing.
Gold is valuable because it’s a trace element, difficult to encounter, and soft enough to allow its artistic use in jewelry. It also has a nice shiny color. If a solution were found to transform anything into this economic prize, its commonality would detract from its perceived value.
Perhaps a natural evolution of viewing alchemy is also suggested in the intangible metaphysical notions of spiritual qualities expressed in metaphors throughout literature and poetry: the conscious ability to transform primal thoughts and feelings steeped with instinct and accumulated experience into the quest for discovery and perfection made possible by curiosity, the “Philosophers’ Stone“.