St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the US are steeped in Irish folklore. Every party store has decorations illustrated with lucky four-leaf clovers and leprechauns guarding pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. The leprechauns are just mythical faerie folks, of course, we know the rainbow is real, but how about that pot of gold?
According to yourirish.com, “It is said that every Leprechaun has a pot of gold, hidden deep in the Irish countryside. To protect the leprechaun’s pot of gold the Irish fairies gave them magical powers to use if ever captured by a human or an animal.”
If you are a pawn shop, jeweler, or cash-for-gold operation, you better beware of any ‘pots of gold’ that appear in your shop. Like the non-existent gold protected by the leprechauns of Irish folklore, the gold that is brought into your shop by humans may indeed be nonexistent.
Past news stories describe scams involving jewelry made with non-magnetic metals that mimic gold, fakes plated with enough gold so as to appear to be all gold, or gold-plated or copper counterfeits stamped 14K or 18K. The fakes are getting better and better in an effort to fool the shop owners into handing over hard-earned cash for the bogus items.
One shop owner was fooled by fake gold bead necklaces. The beads looked real, passed some basic verification checks, and the owner gave the customer green cash for the shiny gold. Unfortunately, when later checked again, he found that not all the beads on the strand were actually gold. He was not the only shop owner who lost thousands of dollars. Other shops along the US west coast lost money on the same type of fake beads.
Gold coins are also highly counterfeited. Coin collectors and dealers need to utilize various methods to analyze their coins, including analytical and non-analytical methods, and ascertain their precious metal content. The mint year, any surface alterations, special marks, and visible damages will often provide information regarding the general condition of the coin, but that doesn’t mean it is authentic or valuable. Even silver coins are being faked. One pawnbroker warned that he “got burned” on two fake silver coins, which amounted to a loss of $4,000. A skilled and experienced pawnbroker, he was still fooled because “All looked good, they had sealed Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) holders as well as holograms, and they weighed properly.” Unfortunately when he took the coin to a refiner who used an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the coins were found to be made of lead and nickel – no silver.
X-ray fluorescence (XRF) instrumentation provides a fast, accurate, and most importantly, nondestructive alternative for assessing the metal composition of gold and other precious metals, including jewelry and coins, and are currently used by jewelers, manufacturers, and numismatic professionals.
It’s no fairy tale. There may not be “small, mischievous sprites” who are trying to fool you into giving up your cash for their pot of gold, but there are many people who are hoping you don’t have instruments to verify the precious metals content of their wares. Before you buy, you need to count on something more than magical powers and four-leaf clovers to ensure you’re purchasing real gold. After all, unlike the folklore surrounding the Irish leprechaun that has survived hundreds of years, you don’t want your story of being fooled by fake gold to be passed down from each generation.