What is the World Cup Made of?

After many nail biting nights and surprising upsets, the 2014 World Cup is finally over. The German team took home the championship trophy – which we definitely had our eye on. What precious metals are in the World Cup trophy? Well, that all depends on which one, since there are three types.

From 1930 (the advent of the World Cup) to 1970, FIFA used the Jules Rimet trophy – named after a former FIFA president. When it was first cast, the trophy was made of gold-plated sterling silver with a marble base. In 1958, the marble base was replaced with one made of lapis lazuli – a gemstone known for its deep blue color. According to a regulation stipulated by Jules Rimet himself, any team that won the World Cup three times could keep the trophy permanently. The Brazilian team earned the honor with their third victory in 1970, requiring FIFA to create a new trophy.

The new trophy, known simply as the “FIFA World Cup Trophy,” is made of about 11 pounds worth of 18kt gold (un-plated) with a base made of malachite – a copper carbonate mineral with a distinct green hue. Contrary to appearances, the trophy is hollow. If it were solid 18kt gold, it would be too heavy to lift.

The German team won the World Cup for the third time this year, but that doesn’t mean they get to keep the trophy. FIFA changed that rule, likely because Brazil’s trophy was stolen in 1983. The thieves were never caught, and the trophy is presumed destroyed. Now, winners of the tournament receive a gold-plated bronze replica of the trophy.

Of the three, the FIFA World Cup Trophy contains the most gold. If it were to suffer the alleged fate of the Rimet trophy and be melted down, it would be worth about $150,000 according to today’s gold prices.

Froth Flotation and Gold Extraction

Most methods of water-based gold extraction are dependent on gold’s lack of buoyancy to work. However, froth flotation uses a different property of gold to separate it from ore.

Froth flotation is a method for separating hydrophobic materials (which will not mix with water) from hydrophilic materials (which readily mix with water). Since its discovery, froth flotation has been a major component for the processing of sulfide-rich ores, including copper, coal, and refractory gold. In gold mining, froth flotation is used to separate gold from gangue by utilizing gold’s hydrophobicity.

First, refractory gold ore is ground as finely as possible – usually so the individual grains are much less that 100 micrometers. The ground up ore is mixed with water to create a slurry, which is mixed with surfactants to increase the gold’s hydrophobicity. This mixture is placed into a tank or flotation cell filled with distilled water. Air bubbles are pumped into the flotation cell and the water is agitated.

Because of the surfactant, the gold is repelled by the water into the air bubbles, which rise to the top – creating a bubbly gold foam. The froth is removed from the top of the cell creating concentrated gold, while the flotation tailings at the bottom of the tank are disposed of. Thanks to froth flotation, miners and refiners are able to extract quality minerals from ore at lower grades than has been previously possible.

How to Avoid Buying Fake Bullion

Unfortunately, the Diamond District has been no stranger to counterfeit activity over the last few years. Sometimes, a standard assay is enough to reveal fake bullion for what it is. But sometimes, if a counterfeiter is especially skilled, even experienced bullion buyers can be fooled. Aside from using common sense, use these tips to avoid buying fake bullion products:

Know the bullion dealer’s reputation – Before you buy, check the seller’s references and make sure they are an authorized dealer. In most cases, an Internet search can get you the information you need. Additionally, make certain that the seller can give a written guarantee of the authenticity of their products. For example, the gold bars we sell here at MGS are sealed, certified, and labeled with a serial number and QR code for authentication purposes.

Ask about their counterfeit proofing methods – Even legitimate bullion sellers can fall prey to counterfeiters. Ask about how they prevent fake bullion products from entering their inventories.

Test diligently – utilize professional assaying services, especially for bulk purchases. If at all possible, have the bullion assayed before your payment clears. That way, you can cancel it if necessary.