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Worth Its Weight in Gold


The Shwe Dagon Pagoda was erected in the Burmese capital of Rangoon. in 1871. Gilded and jeweled, its top is a eight-spoked umbrella symbolizing the eightfold path of Buddhism.

The Pagoda's conical spire is 326 feet high, rising above an octagonal base and a bell shaped dome. The entire umbrella/dome is covered with 8,688 thin sheets of gold, each with an area of about 1 square foot. It also includes 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, being topped with a diamond bud that is a 76 carat diamond.

All of the gold was (and is still for repairs) donated by the Myanmar people. The donation tradition was started in the 15th century by the Mon Queen Shin Sawbu, who "gave her weight in gold."


Your "Fermi" Task: Estimate the value of the gold on the Shwe Dagon Pagoda.

Note: In the mid-1980s, the value of one golden sheet was estimated to be worth more than $5000.

Source: Adapted from Reader's Digest Book of Facts, 1987, p. 182.