Precious metals can be used to treat a variety of diseases. Gold in particular can be converted in a compound, such as gold sodium thiomalate, and used to reduce pain and inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis. However, gold compounds are rarely prescribed – and not just because of gold’s price and rarity.
When gold is introduced to the body parentally (e.g. via injection, infusion, etc.) over a long enough period of time, a skin condition known as chrysiasis develops. Chrysiasis is permanent, but causes no other effects to the body besides changing the color of the skin. When gold compounds are repeatedly administered, gold particles build up in the deep layers of skin. This build up, in addition to sun exposure, causes the skin to become blue-grey or grey-purple.
Argyria is an extremely similar condition that occurs when too much silver builds up in the body. The difference between the two conditions is that argyria produces a color closer to slate-grey or blue grey. Argyria can also onset from oral administration of silver, whereas chrysiasis cannot (which could explain why gold food seems to be much more popular than silver food).
Recently, we had a counterfeit American Gold Eagle (official bullion coin of the United States) come into our storefront. By using our expert assaying techniques, we found that the coin was actually gold-plated tungsten. Since tungsten and gold weigh the same, these types of counterfeits can be difficult to detect.
In this particular case, the scratch test was able to reveal the tungsten core because the gold plating was so thin. But, even if it were plated thicker, it still would have failed our ultrasound test, which uses an ultrasonic pulse to detect changes in the consistency of the metal.
So far, these counterfeit Eagles aren’t widespread. Still, it reminds us of the big gold bar scandal that struck the Diamond District almost two years ago. For those who don’t remember, real PAMP bars were cut open, hollowed out, filled with tungsten slugs, and then carefully resealed and distributed. It was some truly expert-level counterfeiting.
Then, if you go further back, there were those fake palladium bars. And before that was the 18k “gold” chain scam. It just goes to show that skilled
assays are always necessary, and you can’t be too careful when buying precious metals.
Hopefully, these new counterfeit coins don’t become a trend. But just in case, we’ve reported it to the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and are monitoring the situation closely.
If you’ve had any run-ins with counterfeits, please let us know! We’d love to hear your story. Either contact us directly, or leave a post on our Facebook page.
The history of jewelry is long and rich, spanning cultures around the globe. Of those cultures, ancient Egypt is probably most famous for its jewelry-making. While the jewelry crafting skills of ancient Egyptians have long been known, it was recently discovered that they were far more advanced at it than previously thought.
In 1911, archaeologists excavated a tomb containing tube-shaped beads that had an unusually high nickel content. Published studies from this year examined these beads in greater detail, revealing new discoveries. Using x-ray testing, scientists were able to determine that the beads were made of meteoric iron.
Iron from meteorites is usually found as lumps of ore that are difficult to work with. And yet, it was somehow formed into tube-shaped beads. Egyptians were able craft such objects, but only after they discovered blacksmithing. However, these beads were found in a tomb pre-dating the Iron Age by at least 2,000 years. This indicates that ancient Egyptians were developing advanced metal refining techniques long before anyone else.
The reason why ancient Egyptians famously favored gold jewelry so much was not just because it was valuable, but because gold is easy to shape and mold. Perhaps this preference for gold was why their early iron-smithing capabilities didn’t catch on.