chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade 
of riches; which, in their eye, is never so 
complete as when they appear to possess those 
decisive marks of opulence which nobody can 
possess but themselves. In their eyes, the 
merit of an object, which is in any degree 
either useful or beautiful, is greatly enhanced 
by its scarcity, or by the great labour which 
it requires to collect any considerable quantity 
of it; a labour which nobody can afford to 
pay but themselves. Such objects they are 
willing to purchase at a higher price than 
things much more beautiful and useful, but 
more common. These qualities of utility, 
beauty, and scarcity, are the original foundation 
of the high price of those metals, or of 
the great quantity of other goods for which 
they can everywhere be exchanged. This 
value was antecedent to, and independent of 
their being employed as coin, and was the 
quality which fitted them for that employment. 
That employment, however, by occasioning 
a new demand, and by diminishing 
the quantity which could be employed in any 
other way, may have afterwards contributed 
to keep up or increase their value. 
The demand for the precious stones arises 
altogether from their beauty. They are of no 
use but as ornaments; and the merit of their 
beauty is greatly enhanced by their scarcity
or by the difficulty and expense of getting 
them from the mine. Wages and profit accordingly 
make up, upon most occasions, almost 
the whole of the high price. Rent comes 
in but for a very small share, frequently for no 
share; and the most fertile mines only afford 
any considerable rent. When Tavernier, a 
jeweller, visited the diamond mines of Golconda 
and Visiapour, he was informed that 
the sovereign of the country, for whose benefit 
they were wrought, had ordered all of 
them to be shut up except those which yielded 
the largest and finest stones. The other, 
it seems, were to the proprietor not worth the 
As the prices, both of the precious metals 
and of the precious stones, is regulated all 
over the world by their price at the most fertile 
mine in it, the rent which a mine of either 
can afford to its proprietor is in proportion
not to its absolute, but to what may be called 
its relative fertility, or to its superiority over 
other mines of the same kind. If new mines 
were discovered, as much superior to those of 
Potosi, as they were superior to those of Europe
the value of silver might be so much degraded 
as to render even the mines of Potosi 
not worth the working. Before the discovery 
of the Spanish West Indies, the most fertile 
mines in Europe may have afforded as great 
a rent to their proprietors as the richest mines 
in Peru do at present. Though the quantity 
of silver was much less, it might have exchanged 
for an equal quantity of other goods, and 
the proprietor's share might have enabled him 
to purchase or command an equal quantity 
either of labour or of commodities
The value, both of the product and of the 
rent, the real revenue which they afforded
both to the public and to the proprietor, might 
have been the same. 
The most abundant mines, either of the 
precious metals, or of the precious stones
could add little to the wealth of the world
A produce, of which the value is principally 
derived from its scarcity, is necessarily degraded 
by its abundance. A service of plate, and 
the other frivolous ornaments of dress and 
furniture, could be purchased for a smaller 
quantity of labour, or for a smaller quantity 
of commodities; and in this would consist the 
sole advantage which the world could derive 
from that abundance
It is otherwise in estates above ground
The value, both of their produce and of their 
rent, is in proportion to their absolute, and 
not to their relative fertility. The land which 
produces certain quantity of food, clothes
and lodging, can always feed, clothe, and 
lodge, a certain number of people; and whatever 
may be the proportion of the landlord, it 
will always give him a proportionable command 
of the labour of those people, and of the 
commodities with which that labour can supply 
him. The value of the most barren land 
is not diminished by the neighbourhood of the 
most fertile. On the contrary, it is generally 
increased by it. The great number of people 
maintained by the fertile lands afford a market 
to many parts of the produce of the barren
which they could never have found among 
those whom their own produce could maintain
Whatever increases the fertility of land in 
producing food, increases not only the value 
of the lands upon which the improvement is 
bestowed, but contributes likewise to increase 
that or many other lands, by creating a new 
demand for their produce. That abundance 
of food, of which, in consequence of the improvement 
of land, many people have the disposal 
beyond what they themselves can consume
is the great cause of the demand, both 
for the precious metals and the precious stones
as well as for every other conveniency and ornament 
of dress, lodging, household furniture
and equipage. Food not only constitutes the 
principal part of the riches of the world, but 
it is the abundance of food which gives the 
principal part of their value to many other 
sorts of riches. The poor inhabitants of Cuba 
and St. Domingo, when they were first discovered 
by the Spaniards, used to wear little 
bits of gold as ornaments in their hair and 
other parts of their dress. They seemed to 
value them as we would do any little pebbles 
of somewhat more than ordinary beauty, and 
to consider them as just worth the picking up, 
but not worth the refusing to any body who 
asked them. They gave them to their new