There are days where I would like a place like this. This could be a good place for a sometime mentor to dwell, and the PCs must come and go occasionally, getting to know the people and perhaps appreciating it.
They may even care if it were to somehow come under threat. Go to Comment
I guess I haven't really thought much about alternative forms of gold, though lots of forms of steel. This makes sense - if you could combine the lustre and eternal nature of gold with useful strength, than you would have something! More difficult to work than gold, so fine work would be rare.