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To date, the use of gold for the synthesis of nanowires has proven to be nearly impossible to circumvent, regardless of the potential negative effects on the nanowires physical properties. In this paper, the synthesis of gallium arsenide nanowires without the use of gold as a catalyst is reviewed. The review focuses on gallium-assisted growth and selective area epitaxy, revealing the common and different growth mechanisms and resulting properties. In particular, we show how the excellent material quality results also in excellent optical properties of gold-free GaAs nanowires and related heterostructures. Finally, the perspectives for future applications are discussed.