Emission in the near ultraviolet from transient arcs between gold electrodes breaking resistive circuits carrying currents in the range 0.8-1.75 amperes was studied. Analysis of the intensities of the AuI lines was carried out in terms of a model involving two distinct zones, a relatively large zone atsim6000°K (the positive column) and a zone at an apparent temperature ofsim23 000°K (identified with a region close to the cathode surface), which is 34 orders of magnitude smaller in volume. There is intense emission from the second positive system of N2. Analysis of the rotational fine structure of the (0, 0) band also yields a temperature ofsim6000°K. Estimation of the electron density (sim3 X 1014cm-3) and the assumption of thermal equilibrium in the positive column allows one to calculate (N+/ N0)Au= 3 X 10-2from Saha's equation. From this it follows that the relative vapor pressure of gold in the positive column issim0.0025 atmosphere, assuming electroneutrality in the plasma. An estimate based on simple gaskinetic considerations of the loss of gold atoms from the plasma column to the surrounding atmosphere and to the anode is within a factor of 4 of the loss observed in practice.