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Tungsten - Shield Yourself From Fake Gold

Tungsten is an amazing metal: hard and dense, with the highest melting point of all elements, tungsten is used in many industrial and military applications where high temperatures or radiation are an issue. Alas, with a density very close to that of gold, it has also become the material of choice for many in the business of faking gold coins or bars.

Weight and dimensional conformity used to be reliable indicators of the authenticity of standard gold items. While early forgeries may have been crude and simple, today’s “professionals” have found ways to keep shapes and weights in near perfect balance, making detection increasingly harder.

Pirates used to bite down on gold coins to “authenticate” them, a tradition upheld by some Olympia medalists. Unfortunately, destructive testing is not always an option as the item is losing its commodity or collector’s value, and because dental work is expensive. On top, many objects are protected by plastic blisters, coin slabs and/or holographic seals or codes, which have been the object of attempted forgery, too, in recent months. Criminals are taking advantage of the desire to maintain packaging intact to prevent direct inspection of the item. Even X-Ray analyzers will only penetrate the surface of an object and will not identify tungsten underneath thick gold plating. All while certain websites are openly advertising gold plated tungsten coins made to your “specifications”. Tungsten, therefore, is getting a bad reputation among technology metals – quite undeservedly.

Professional sellers like Kitco will use a combination of markings (micro-tags, holograms, DNA tags etc.) and buyers use multiple tests (dimension / weight ratio, XRF, conductivity etc.) together with plausibility checks to determine if an item is real. As a collector or private investor, how do you protect yourself from falling victim to forgeries, tungsten or otherwise? Here are some suggestions:

  • Buy directly from one of the big brands in the market, and store proof of purchase with the item(s)
  • Decide early if the item you are buying is for collection or investment. Investment gold and silver products are judged only by their metal value; they will maintain their value even without complex packaging. Unpackaged items are best for testing, too.
  • Historic collectors’ items should be graded by a neutral appraiser as part of the purchase.
  • Forgers often spend less time on accuracy than on appearances: a comparison between an item in question with an original (or an online image thereof off the internet) may reveal marking or spelling issues, and other inconsistencies.
  • Most importantly, apply common sense. If a deal sounds to be “too good to be true” then it usually is.

If you are or have been affected by gold forgery recently, if you have stories or images to share, please contact Tech Metals Insider at the email below.

By Bodo Albrecht



Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in precious metal products, commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.
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